I am a GTD devotee. I am often trying to preach GTD to others, but I wanted to break GTD down into a reasonable elevator pitch to try to explain to others what it is and what the benefits are.

What is GTD?

GTD is short for getting things done, which is a book by renowned author David Allen. But what is GTD? As said in one of the GTD podcasts, the best way to think of GTD is in the subtitle: “the art of stress free productivity”.

One of the big pillars of GTD is this: your mind does not have a mind.

Our minds are excellent at planning our next holiday, our next day, our next meal, and our next five minutes.

But there are things our minds do quite badly. There are two really good artefacts of this: calendars and shopping lists.

Our minds are terrible at reminding us of what we need to buy while we’re at the supermarket, which is why normally you’ll take a list. Also our minds are terrible at remembering dental appointments, meetings, so you keep a calendar to remind you.

A simple way to think of GTD is as a system of calendars and shopping lists for everything that’s meaningful to you.

What does GTD allow me to do?

I like GTD for its ability to create placeholders for all the things I am not doing, which means that I can stop stressing about trying to remember them all. In turn, this allows me to focus on what I am doing.

GTD allows me to relax knowing that there is nothing that needs to be doing while I have a break.

GTD allows me to focus on a task in the knowledge that there are no emergencies about to arise.

To quote the Next Action Partners podcast, I have more interests than one lifetime will abide. GTD is what allows me to keep track of things, while minimalism reminds me to remove things that really don’t add value to my life.

So how does it work?

GTD has 5 phases traditionally. For an 8 minute video that explains it nicely go here.

Capture: We capture everything on our mind. Phone calls, recipes, meetings, conversations we need to have, bills we need to pay. We must capture everything meaningful to us and put it into an inbox.

Clarify: This is the stage where we process our inbox and identify the very next action that we can perform. Here is an excellent workflow.

Organise: We categorise our actions depending on the context that we’re in. I can’t write an email until I’m connected to the internet, and I can’t make a phone call until I have a phone in my hand. But once I do, I have a list and I’m ready to go.

Reflect: GTD stays away from trying to prioritise your work, but reflecting once a week in the weekly review is allows you to keep your mind clear and keeps your system reliable.

Engage: Get it done. Get into your state of flow. Process your next actions.

Where do I learn more?

If you’re interested in going further, I’d recommend going to David Allen’s Ted Talks which can be found here and here.

There is also a podcast which is free to download and listen to. And there is of course, the book. I’ve also found a free 90 minute video course by David Allen on linkedin learning.


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