The Getting Things Done (GTD) Method (David Allen)

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Munadil Shafat
Student (MBA), Bangladesh

The Getting Things Done (GTD) Method (David Allen)

For those of us who are struggling to tackle the flow of everyday to-dos and get the control of life's overwhelm, the Getting Things Done (GTD®) method can be useful. David Allen, the inventor of this time management methodology described GTD as "a total work-life management system that transforms overwhelm into an integrated system of stress-free productivity". In order to start implementing GTD, you have to follow a 5-step process which is briefly described below:
  1. CAPTURE: Capturing what David Allen calls the "open loops" is the first and foremost important step in GTD Method. By "open loop" he meant anything that is spinning around your head for some time and needs something to be done from your part in order to close the loop. In everyday situation, all our to-do list items are open loops but also our passions, dreams or any information that is not a task in itself but can be an important one in the future. Capturing all these scattered pieces and placing them in your "IN" box is the first things done in GTD.
  2. CLARIFY: In the second step, take each item from your "IN" box and clarify the meaning of each item based on:
    • Whether the items are actionable or not?
    • If actionable, what's the next action? Who's responsible for the action?
    • Can it be completed within 2 minutes or not?
  3. ORGANIZE: Based on the information from Step 2, now you have to organize actionable and not-actionable items in predefined lists. GTD Principles says don't list an item if it requires less than 2 minutes to complete; such item should be done right away. For the other items there are 5 lists as below:

    1. Next actions – If the item is an actionable list, what is the immediate next step for the task to complete.
    2. Waiting for – If the item is actionable by others before you, delegate it and keep a list for them to track in the future.
    3. Projects – If the item requires more than one action to complete, they should be in Project list.
    4. Someday/Maybe – If the item is not actionable right now or you aren't sure about the action right now, but you may need it in the future.
    5. Reference – If the not actionable item has only reference value.

    One thing to note is however that if any task/item needs to be done in a particular date or time, only then it should be in placed in a calendar outside of the list.
  4. REFLECT: The #1 mistake people make when applying GTD is they don't review it regularly. Therefore, things get piled up and the system breaks. Thus GTD recommends to review the items in various lists and calendars at least once a week. As time changes, items in your GTD system should also reflect changes. Do whatever is required to update the list in your weekly review.
  5. ENGAGE: The final step, as you can guess, is getting the things "done". You already have put a great effort to take the open loops out of your head and have set up a trusted system to place each of them. Now you have a clarity, a direction and more control over your life chores. You will probably notice the power of "a mind like water" in you work days and as your days progress, you will find your head filled with a lot more ideas than ever. Don't make the mistake to save them in your trusted GTD system because "Your brain is for having ideas, not holding them" (David Allen).
Have you ever tried the GTD method? What is your opinion? Did it work for you? I would be happy to hear any thoughts and experiences!
"GTD in 15 minutes – A Pragmatic Guide to Getting Things Done", Hamberg.
Brad Bonham, "How to Get Started with Getting Things Done (GTD®) Immediately".
"GTD 101: The Beginner's Guide To Getting Things Done", Asian Efficiency


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