Can You Implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done?

I like reading and thinking about time management and productivity. I’ve read this book and although it seems a bit complicated, it offers many practical tips that we can implement in our daily work lives.

David Allen GTDGetting Things Done by David Allen is perhaps one of the most comprehensive time management system available. He has written a 267-page book detailing all the processes you need to implement with the Getting Things Done system.

We are beset with so many things in our daily work lives. Just take a look at your own workplace, the demands imposed by your boss, the number of emails you have to answer, in short, you are harried from all corners by the so many time management woes!

David Allen began his book by describing what “Stuff” is. Not surprisingly, we do have lots of stuff in our personal and professional lives! If you do not manage stuff, you will inundated by so many impossible demands and you will live a clutter-full life!

At the heart of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system is five core activities and phases:

  1. Collect
  2. Process
  3. Organize
  4. Review
  5. Do

Here’s a graphical representation of the GTD System, thanks to MyUninstalledLife



Let’s go through the different phases one by one:

1. Collect

Most professionals I know keep a planner or an organizer–it could be an old-fashioned notebook, a desk calendar, a computer-based calendar, a pocket calendar in the smartphone or all of the above!

The main task of the Collection phase is to get it out of your head. If you have an idea, a message left to you by your boss, by your customers or someone else, you need to capture it and write it down. You could rely on your memory alone but then, after several bumps, twists and turns in your day, you may forget all about those things.

You can have several collection “buckets” for your stuff. Make sure though that you have a master bucket. This way, you can minimize the risk of missing out some things.

2. Process

After you have collected a lot of stuff, you need to process them. You need to evaluate each stuff that comes in. Is there any action you need to do with these items? If no action is needed from one piece of item, you can probably cross it off your list, put the letter in the trash bin or discard it. If the action can be done in two minutes, then just do it right away. Otherwise, you need to decide which next action is needed. To do that, you need to move on to the next phase.

3. Organize

After processing the stuff that came in your collection buckets, you need to organize them, depending on the next action steps you need to take. You can categorize the stuff you have into Projects, Waiting list, Someday/Maybe, Calendar, or References. Projects are tasks that will require several actions from your end before you can declare it done. The Waiting List is where you put tasks that require you to wait for someone or something before you can complete it. The Someday/Maybe list, on the other hand, can be a long term goal, a desire, or a wish that you can fulfill in the indefinite future. You will also need to update your Calendar to keep track of your time-sensitive appointments. References are materials that you can use in the future for your projects and any other tasks.

4. Review.

The GTD Time management system requires periodic reviews to make it work. You need to review the whole process daily, especially your collection buckets, the actionable items, as well as the other steps in this system. At first, this may be difficult to implement. You may feel that it’s a little too complicated for your busy work life. But as you get the hang of it, you can easily implement it.

5. Do

Before you actually forget it, DO things! Make sure to follow through each action item until it is done. While a lot of people advocate multi-tasking, the GTD system could potentially help you do away with multitasking and you can focus on your tasks until you can proclaim them DONE!

A lot of people also criticize David Allen’s GTD because it seems complicated and a bit difficult to follow.

If you want to learn more about Getting Things Done, I suggest you buy the book. As an alternative, you can also read the following blog articles.

Beginner’s Guide to GTD by Zenhabits
Getting Started with Getting Things Done by 43Folders
A Guide to Getting Things Done by
An Introduction to GTD System by LifeDev
9 Reasons why Getting Things Done Sucks by OrganizeIt
Review: Getting Things Done by the Simple Dollar

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