4 Key Takeaways From Getting Things Done

Productivity consultant David Allen presents his work-life management system to help anyone maximize their accomplishments while minimizing their stress. His simple but effective “Get Things Done” method helps anyone feel more relaxed by creating an external to-do list then breaking those items into smaller action steps. The benefits of this method are more clarity, focus, and achievement.

My key Takeaways from “Getting Things Done" by David Allen:

Takeaway #1 The GTD System

GTD stands for Getting Things Done. It's a system for stress-free productivity that doesn't allow for overwhelm when you have a to do list as long as your arm. At its simplest, the 5 step GTD system teaches you how to do more whilst staying focused across both your personal and professional life.

Takeaway #2 Taking The Weight Off Your Mind

Do you try to juggle multiple tasks each and every day but get sidetracked by more tasks coming in, your brain chock full of information for your 'to do list' yet it not uncommon for you to forget something? The problem is that you're relying on your brain to remember everything. Take a weight off your mind literally by setting up your cockpit or control centre and making notes of everything.

Takeaway #3 Setting Up Your Cockpit

You need to create workspaces at home and at work for the GTD system to work, commuters benefiting from a mobile setup that goes with them. Your workspace (aka your cockpit!) needs to be solely for your use and large enough for you to write whilst holding a physical in-tray and out-tray, a diary, and stationery supplies such as post-it notes and folders. This physical space may also contain your PC or laptop where you'll have a digital version of your filing system.

Takeaway #4 The 5 Step GTD System

1. Record all of your ideas, important information, and to-do list items in a notebook or digitally. Everything you need and want to do, everything you need to remember, and everything that requires a decision, planning, or an action gets recorded. This might include writing a speech, a business idea, a gift you need to buy, a reminder to make a dentist appointment, vacation ideas, books you want to read and so on.

2. Get clear by going through your lists/notes once a week and clarifying what each item is, the desired end result, and whether it's actionable. Some tasks may take several actions to complete making it a task that you keep working at ie 'organise birthday party' but other times the action steps will be one time ie 'phone dentist'. If the action step can be done instantly and will take less than 2 minutes, get it done now! If the action will take more than 2 minutes, and you cannot delegate it, defer it (step 3). Any non actionable tasks you come across should mean that it's something that is no longer needed (cross it out or trash it), no action is needed right now (defer it), or it's important information that you may need later (file it).

3. Organize the action steps into 3 lists - A 'projects list', a 'delegation list', and a 'next action list' for all non date/time specific items (all appointments and date/time specific tasks go straight into your diary).You can separate these long lists further by creating a 'to phone' list, a 'to buy' list' and even a 'to watch/read' list and a 'for the future' list etc.

4. Prioritize the list daily or weekly to action the most important tasks first as well as the most feasible first. It's not just about completing your immediate to do list - you should also be looking at tasks that take you closer to both your short and long term life goals.

5. Select a top action item and do it! Make sure your to do list is always on you so you can start ticking things off based on importance, time available, and energy levels.

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My Favorite Quotes from Getting Things Done

"If you don't pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves"

"You can do anything, but not everything."

"Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them"

"Much of the stress that people feel doesn't come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they've started."

"Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax."

"Most people feel best about their work the week before their vacation, but it's not because of the vacation itself. What do you do the last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify, and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. I just suggest that you do this weekly instead of yearly."

"Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you"

"You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction."

― David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

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