Getting Things Done by David Allen Book Review (GTD) Post header image

My latest read is a productivity book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. It was originally published in 2001, but was reprinted in 2015 as a new edition to reflect the digital world we live in. While this book isn’t as “shiny” or “fun” as some of my recent self improvement reads, the strategies it holds are valuable.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with or endorsed by the publisher or author, and am receiving no compensation for writing this article.

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done (or the GTD method, as David Allen calls it) outlines a process to get all the nagging thoughts out of your head and into your “external brain” (a collection of lists, your calendar, and your reference material). This allows you to think clearly to focus on the task at hand. The process made a lot of sense to my programmer/software brain, and honestly, I was already using a lot of the strategies it talked about to stay organized. If you work in a technical field or in the corporate world, it will probably feel familiar to you.

Get Things Done by Collecting “In”

The meat of the book happens in chapters 4-7. You designate a spot (physical or virtual) to place the “stuff” that enters your life and attention. Call that place “in.” The “stuff” can be anything from an email, to a package, to a thought that adds value to your life. It all gets collected in “in.”

Get “In” to Empty

After everything is in “in,” you process “in” to make it empty. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything in “in” is resolved, just that you have determined the next action that needs to be taken for it, and that action has been added to one of your lists. As you process “in,”:

  • Discard trash
  • Store general reference material that doesn’t have an action attached to it in a centralized location
  • Store project support material that doesn’t have an action attached to it where it is easily accessible
  • Complete any action that will take you less than 2 minutes (the “two minute rule”)
  • Create a “Projects” list for anything that has more than one action attached to it
  • Create a “Next Actions” list to track your tasks
  • Create a “Waiting For” list for items you are tracking, but the action belongs to someone else
  • Create a “Someday Maybe” list for dreams or long term goals you won’t be pursuing now

“In” should get emptied every couple of days.

The Weekly Review

Dedicate a time weekly to go over your lists and make sure they are up to date. This is the key to making the process work. Your brain has to trust that items you put into the system will be circled back to, or it will keep nagging you that you haven’t taken care of them when you are trying to focus on other tasks.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

Getting Things Done systemized a lot of the habits I was already doing to help me be more effective and productive. If you have a hard time keeping track of things, or feel like things are slipping through the cracks, there are some great tactics in this book that might benefit you. Happy reading!