Getting Things Done
is a book about personal productivity and time management. It was written by David Allen
and first published in 2001 by Penguin Press
Getting Things Done is subtitled The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and outlines a personal productivity system focused on managing the tasks and projects by getting them out of your head and into a trusted system which allows the user to review their tasks on a regular basis. Getting Things Done (or "GTD" as it is often referred) is the result of years of consulting and work by organizational consultant David Allen. Allen through his self named company trains participants at seminars in how to begin using GTD to achieve a heightened efficiency with low stress.
The basic notion of GTD is that the majority of us hold many things in our minds reducing the overall capacity for thought and creativity because our minds are having to spend so much time remembering the the things we are not doing but that we feel need to be done. GTD uses the analogy of our mind as a computer with our short-term memory being the RAM of our minds computer. Once we have two or three things that we are trusting our minds to remember we need to do, we have greatly reduced our mind's ability to function and we have introduced stress into our lives because we have things in our lives that we have not yet accomplish but feel like we should be doing. Getting Things Done focuses on putting those items that we know we need to accomplished into a trusted system that we know will be reviewed and worked through and thereby getting them out of our heads.
The GTD methodology basically has five components:
- Collection: Gathering all of the undone things both physically and mentally into a central location, like an inbox. This process is an on-going one that requires constant collection of new input for future processing. GTDers are encouraged to provide themselves with a way to collect their input in all locations. This may be as low-tech as a pencil and paper or as high-tech as a PDA.
- Processing: Going through the collected information and determining whether the item actionable or not. If it is not, the person should either delete it, archive it for later reference, or set it aside for later action. If the item is actionable, the item should be acted upon if it will take a short time to do (Allen suggests a 2 minute cut off), delegated if you are not the appropriate person to do the action, or act upon it as soon as possible. The key to processing is determining what the next physical action is.
- Organizing: The organizing of next actions helps a person to efficiently work through their tasks. GTD encourages users to place their tasks in lists based upon context to facilitate ease of use. Contexts include things like the tool needed to accomplish them (@phone, @computer, @email), the situation (errands, @home) or even such things as your energy level. GTD also encourages you to keep lists of projects related to these tasks, though there is a heavy emphasis that projects are not actions, but responsibilities or commitments that will usually require multiple actions to accomplish.
- Review: The GTD system expects that users will review the tasks at hand to prioritize them as to what is most important to do based upon the outstanding actions. GTD also encourages you to do a weekly review of all outstanding projects as well as any projects you have set aside for future review to be sure that you are not missing anything that requires your attention.
- Do: Finally, GTD focuses on getting the actual actions accomplished in a very simple and straight forward manner. If the other steps have been followed, then the person should be able to work with relative confidence that they have everything accounted for and thereby are doing the thing that most requires their attention now with nothing hanging in the wings that should add to their stress level.
GTD has been adopted by the tech community as it seems to appeal to this culture. Adherents to the system are often referred to as "The Cult of GTD" for their focus on the process. Websites like 43folders.com and lifehacker.com both have been heavily influenced by GTD.