One of the books on our recommended reading list is David Allen’s Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. The basic premise of the book is to get everything out of your head, off your mind and into a trusted system you know you will use. Older time and resource management systems can be inefficient in today’s fast-paced, multi-tasking world.

Our minds are powerful instruments – constantly reminding us of things to do, unfinished projects, seemingly endless “open loops” of information.  Our stress levels are increased when we don’t have a method of emptying these thoughts and collecting them in a system that we individually trust and know we will use. When we have a trusted method to collect and hold the thoughts, to-dos, and the “stuff” that comes up in our lives and business, we can respond efficiently and return quickly to a calm state. Clearing the mind and being flexible are essential.


Basic requirements for managing commitments

  • If it’s on your mind, then your mind isn’t clear. Anything that you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system that is OUTSIDE your mind.
  • You must clarify what your commitment is and decide what you have to do to make progress towards fulfilling it.
  • Once you’ve decided the action to take, you must keep reminders of them in an organized system you can review regularly.

Why Things are on Your Mind

  • You haven’t clarified exactly what the intended outcome is.
  • You haven’t decided what the very next physical step is and/or
  • You haven’t put reminders of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust.

Two key questions to ask for all of your projects:

  1. What is the successful outcome? What has to happen so this can be checked off as completed? If it takes more than one step it’s a project.
  2. What is the next action? If this was the only thing you had to get done, what is the very next physical thing you would have to do?

Five Phases of the Workflow Process

GTD_Flow Chart


Click here  or on the image above to download the GTD flow chart

Capture everything you need to remember, track or act on in a container or bucket – a physical inbox, to do list, a mobile app, a voice recorder, email inbox. You must empty the buckets regularly. Keep the collection buckets to a minimum.

Deal with one item at a time. Never put anything back into “in”.

If the item requires action:

  • Do it (if it takes less than two minutes) OR
  • Delegate it, OR
  • Defer it

If the item does not require action:

  • File it for reference, OR
  • Throw it away, OR
  • Incubate it for possible action later

Organize and keep track of items awaiting action.

  • Next actions – every project always has a next action to move it forward
  • Projects – every “open loop” that has more than one action needed to accomplish it
  • Waiting for – Items you have delegated to someone else
  • Someday/maybe – Things you want to do at some point in the future

Review – as often as needed to keep your head empty

  • Loose papers
  • Process your notes
  • Calendar items
  • Projects, Next Action lists, Waiting for lists, Someday/maybe lists
  • Empty your head

Do – in the moment, guided by intuition, supported by the four previous phases, influenced by the reality of current situation

  • context
  • time available
  • energy available
  • priority

Critical Success Factor: The Weekly Review
The weekly Review is a way to keep yourself updated, and at the same time give you a feeling of being in control of all your “stuff”.

  1. Gather and process all your “stuff”
  2. Review your system
  3. Update your lists
  4. Get clean, clear, current and complete

Basic Categories for Your Buckets

  • A “Projects” list
  • Projected Support Material
  • Calendared actions and information
  • “Next Actions” lists
  • A “Waiting For” list
  • Reference Material
  • A “Someday/Maybe” list

Here are some GTD templates you may find useful to get you started with this system: