I’ve been using David Allen’s Getting Things Done since 2011, and it helped me to focus on the things that matter to me.
In retrospect, I now understand why it’s still the best productivity method for me (I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD at 41).
But is it still relevant today?
Let’s find out.
What Is GTD – Getting Things Done?
In short, Getting Things Done (abbreviated as GTD) is a personal productivity system that was developed by productivity consultant David Allen and published in 2001 in the book with the same name.
So how does Getting Things Done work at a fundamental level?
To break it down to its essentials, it’s basically just a way of compartmentalizing your time and tasks so that you can work on them one at a time.
I’m going to go into more detail in the sections below, but GTD is all about creating an external record for tasks, instead of keeping them all in your mind where they can get lost or feel overwhelming.
Getting Things Done was released to widespread acclaim and many people swear by it as a good way of organizing their life and increasing their productivity.
It gained in popularity until the start of 2007, and then slowly faded away.
The Basics Of Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done may seem like a complicated and expansive system (the book has around 300 pages!).
But it can be broken down into a few simple steps.
Here they are:
Getting Things Done – A Step By Step Guide
1. Collect Tasks
This first step involves creating a list of all the tasks you’ll have to achieve – this is your inbox.
You can do this virtually, or with a list.
This does mean EVERY task, however, including ones you may have been putting off, and tasks you’ll need to accomplish in the near future.
That’s the only way to empty your mind, and organize your life.
2. Clarify Your Tasks
Next up you’ll need to take a look over all your tasks in your inbox and process them. In GTD, this is typically split up into three distinct questions. Let’s take a look at them below.
- What type of task is this?
- Can I take action to solve it?
- What is the next action I can take?
By answering these questions, you can begin to understand more about the task at hand. By categorizing the task you’re considering, you can more easily understand how to properly accomplish it. This is an important step and one that differs from many other productivity strategies.
Next up you’re going to need to organize.
You can do this in many different ways, but the idea is to make the tasks seem easier through organization.
This could be through
- adding appointments to a calendar (if they need to happen on a specific day)
- creating projects or project lists
- defining your “next actions”, which will allow you to take steps towards your goals.
From here, you’ll want to frequently reflect on your tasks and appointments. The idea is to have a continuous, external record of all of your actions and tasks that you can reflect on and work on as and when you need to. By engaging in this constant reflection, you can come up with strategies to best manage your time and become more efficient.
Finally, you’re going to need to engage depending on four criteria: Context, time, energy, and priority. If you’re able to rank your tasks by these criteria, you’ll be able to work out what are the most important tasks and get them done quickly.
Oddly enough, I’ve found reviews to be the most important part of GTD.
I gain so much clarity by going through what I’ve done and identify where my time was best spent (and not so much well-spent) and any open loops that need further organization or work.
While weekly review are essential to keep a high-level view of your projects, I find the most value in my daily reviews I perform at the start of each day.
They give me a lot of clarity to where my day needs to go.
Is Getting Things Done Still Relevant Today?
Although it’s fallen out of vogue since 2007, Getting Things Done is still a strategy used by some people – including me, every working day.
Getting Things Done is still relevant today because:
- we still have way to many things in our minds to be confident in our ability to remember everything(spoiler alert: we don’t)
- we are still in the information overload culture, bombarded with data and distractions – probably even more so than when the book was first published in 2001
- we still struggle to find the time to do all the things we want to do (we won’t), and having a system with a clear process can definitely help us stay on top of things
That’s probably why the book has even been revised a few times too.
The 2015 edition of GTD has been updated to include more information, editing outdated sections and now takes into account the modern internet and how you can use technology to your advantage.
Who is Getting Things Done Good For?
If you forget things (welcome to the club!), or try to accomplish anything but find it hard to do so, I think you should give GTD a try.
The GTD system has seen much success since its 2001 release into the world, with many supporters around the world testifying to its efficacy.
However, GTD works best if you have defined goals that you want to achieve.
By having defined goals and breaking them down into smaller tasks, you’ll be able to use GTD to maximum effect.
By the way, that’s why the Pomodoro Technique is such a powerful tool to use in conjunction with GTD.
In conclusion, Getting Things Done is an expansive that is particularly suited to people with many projects and tasks to complete.
If you’re looking for something that will allow you to really analyze your own productivity, then this can be a great choice.
While you absolutely don’t have to read David Allen’s book, it’s full of examples that might help you get your system on track.
Best of luck with your future productivity, no matter what it is you’re trying to achieve!