• 5 stages of mastering workflow:
    • collection
    • processing
    • organizing
    • reviewing
    • doing
  • inputs, processing/thinking, and outputs (actions and action lists)
  • To be your most productive self, you must be able to think clearly.
  • To think clearly, you must have completely downloaded from your short-term memory or RAM all the “open loops” — unfulfilled commitments you’ve made to yourself.
  • This frees your mind to do naturally what it does best — think about things rather than of things.
  • Once you has everything off your mind and written down, in paper or electronically, you have to decide, “What’s the next action?” This is THE critical question.
  • Once this is decided, the action must be completed or tracked in a trusted system, such as a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).
  • Two-minute rule: Any next action that can be completed in two minutes or less should be completed immediately. Touch most items once then clear them forever from “psychic RAM.”
  • Allen outlines a process for getting RAM cleared in the first place and then for keeping it clear on a daily basis, as new things come into one’s “in” box.
  • The “What’s the next action?” question must be asked on the front-end, when the item from the “in” box is first reviewed.
  • Getting Things Done is part tools and techniques, part psychology. Allen says that mastering your time enables you to live in the present moment. This may be the true gift of this book.

Part 1 – The Art of Getting Things Done

Chapter 1 – A New Practice for a New Reality

  • Objectives:
    • 1: Capture all one needs to accomplish somewhere outside the brain
    • 2: discipline oneself to make decisions about these items as they are added to one’s workload.
  • A person is the most productive when the mind is clear, free of “open loops” — the things people commit to do which remain undone and become a drag on the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is a focusing tool, not a storage place.
  • Write down the outcomes you wish to achieve.
    • For every outcome, determine the “next physical action” required to move the situation forward.
    • This next physical action must be organized in a system one reviews regularly.
    • Doing these things is the equivalent of what Allen calls “horizontal” focus.

Chapter 2 — Getting Control of Your Life: The Five Stages of Mastering Workflow

  • Five stages of mastering workflow: to collect, process, organize, review and do.
  • In the Collection stage, the idea is to gather all the items that remain to be completed. Collection tools include the physical in-basket, paper-based and electronic note-taking devices, voice-recording devices and email.
  • There are three “collection success factors”:
    • Every open loop must be in your collection system and out of your head.
    • You must have as few collection buckets as you can get by with.
    • You must empty them regularly.
  • In the Process stage, the bucket is emptied. Allen describes this as perhaps the most critical improvement for almost all the people he’s worked with. He outlines this process in great detail, complete with a flowchart.
    • It asks:
      • What is it? Is it actionable?
      • If not, trash it, put it in a tickler file or put it in a reference file.
      • If so, what’s the next action? The next action is defined as the next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion.
      • Will next action take less than 2 minutes?
        • If yes, do it.
        • If no, delegate it or defer it.
        • If it will take longer than 2 minutes, consider it a project (defined as requiring more than one action step) and put it in your project plans which will be reviewed for actions.
  • In the Organize stage, Allen describes eight categories of reminders and materials:
    • trash
    • incubation tools
    • reference storage
    • list of projects
    • storage or files for project plans and materials
    • a calendar
    • a list of reminders of next actions
    • a list of reminders of things you’re waiting for
  • A review of all one’s lists, preferably weekly, is critical for success.

Chapter 3 – Getting Projects Creatively Under Way: The Five Phases of Project Planning

  • “Vertical” focus: the thought process behind successful project planning.
  • The brain goes through five steps to accomplish most any task and that this Natural Planning Model is also the most effective for project planning. These steps are:
    • Defining purpose.
      • Asks “why?” Answering this question provides the following benefits:
        • it defines success,
        • creates decision-making criteria,
        • aligns resources,
        • motivates, clarifies focus and expands options.
    • Defining principles create the boundaries of the plan and define the criteria for excellence of behaviour.
    • Outcome visioning
      • A vision provides a picture of the final result. Allen discusses the Reticular Activating System within the brain and how it acts like a search engine. In defining the desired outcome, this filter in the brain brings to one’s attention those things that match the vision. In addition, Allen states that you won’t see how to do it until you see yourself doing it, and his advice is to view the project from beyond the completion date, envision “WILD SUCCESS”, and capture features, aspects, qualities you imagine in place.
    • Brainstorming — Brainstorming identifies how one gets from here to there through the generation of lots of ideas.
      • Write down these ideas to help generate many new ones that might not have occurred had the brain not been emptied by writing down the original ideas.
      • Writing ideas down also provides an anchor to keep one focused on the topic at hand. This idea of writing to spur thinking has been labeled as “distributed cognition”.
      • Keys to effective brainstorming are:
        • don’t judge, challenge, evaluate, or criticise;
        • go for quantity, not quality;
        • put analysis and organization in the background.
    • Organizing — Allen describes the key steps to include:
      • identify the significant pieces;
      • sort by components,
      • sequences and/or priorities;
      • detail to the required degree.
  • Identifying next actions — Allen states that a project is sufficiently planned when every Next Action has been decided on every front that can actually be moved on without some other components having to be completed first.

Part 2 – Practicing Stress-Free Productivity

Chapter 4 – Getting Started: Setting Up the Time, Space and Tools

  • Sett aside two whole days, back to back, to get started.
  • To set up a space, one needs a minimum of a writing surface and room for an in-basket.
  • A work space is needed for work and home for everyone, including students, homemakers and retirees.
  • Don’t skimp on the home work space and don’t share work space with someone else.
  • Allen is not a proponent of the “hoteling” concept that many companies have employed in recent years.
  • The basic processing tools include:
    • paper-holding trays,
    • plain paper,
    • post-its,
    • clips,
    • stapler,
    • a labeler all to oneself,
    • letter size file folders (don’t bother with color-coding),
    • a calendar,
    • wastebasket/recycling bins, and possibly
    • an organizer to “manage your triggers externally” (such as papers, planners or a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)).
  • A good general-reference filing system is key to the success of a personal management system. If it takes one more than a minute to get something out of the in-basket, decide it needs no action but should be kept for future reference, and filed, one has a significant improvement opportunity.
  • Key filing success factors include:
    • keep files at hand’s reach,
    • use one A to Z alphabetical filing system,
    • have lots of fresh folders,
    • keep the drawers less than three-quarters full,
    • label folders with an Auto Labeler,
    • buy high-quality file cabinets,
    • get rid of hanging files if you can, and
    • purge your files at least once a year.

Chapter 5 – Collection: Corralling Your “Stuff”

  • It usually takes between one and six hours to gather everything that needs to be gathered into one’s “in” basket.
  • It’s important to complete all the gathering before the “processing” and “organizing” begins.
  • Although one will be tempted to start the processing while gathering, it’s important not to do so.
    • You get a sense of just how much stuff there is.
    • You identify the “end of the tunnel”.
    • You can’t process as effectively with the distraction of knowing there is still more stuff to gather.
  • The gathering process should cover one’s physical space, such as desk drawers, countertops, and cabinets. It also includes a “mind sweep” to uncover anything that may be residing in one’s mental space, what Allen calls “psychic RAM”.
  • You may feel anxious as all this stuff is made conscious. Focus on quantity.
  • Once the collection phase is complete, move on to the next step, since leaving items in the “in” box for too long will cause things to creep back into one’s psyche.

Chapter 6 – Processing: Getting “In” to Empty

  • Processing doesn’t mean getting all actions completed; it means deciding what to do with each of the items in the “in” box.
  • When this phase is complete, one will have:
    • trashed unneeded items,
    • completed any less-than-two-minute actions,
    • delegated,
    • put reminders in one’s organizer of actions one must complete, and
    • identified any projects.
  • Allen provides guidelines for effective processing:
    • Process the top item first. Resist the urge to pull out the most urgent, fun or interesting item first.
    • Process one item at a time. This focus forces the attention and decision-making needed to get through everything.
    • Never put anything back into “in.”
  • As each item is reviewed, the key question is, “what’s the next action?” If none, the item is trashed, incubated to a “Someday/Maybe” list or “tickler” file, or put in reference material. If there is an action, make it specific. Then do it (if it takes less than two minutes), delegate it (and add it to the “Waiting For” list) or defer it.

Chapter 7 — Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets

  • Once processing is complete, one needs a way to organize the output.
  • 7 primary places to keep output and tips and tricks on making these places work. These areas include:
    • A “Projects” list,
    • project support material,
    • calendared actions and information,
    • “Next Actions” lists,
    • a “Waiting For” list,
    • reference material, and a
    • “Someday/Maybe” list.
  • These categories should be kept distinct from each other. These lists are all that you need to stay organised. Don’t  try to prioritize among these lists. Prioritization is more of an intuitive process that occurs as you review your lists.
  • Actions that should go on the calendar are ones that must be done on a specific day or time. They may also include triggers for activating projects, events one might want to participate in and decision catalysts.
  • “Next Actions” should be organized by context, such as “Calls”, “Errands”, and “At Home.”
  • The “Waiting For” list should be reviewed often enough to determine if one needs to take any action. Items in one’s “Read and Review” pile and emails that require action are reminders themselves, and Allen recommends pulling emails requiring action to a separate folder in one’s email system.
  • The “Projects” list provides a single place to review all projects for needed actions. One may subdivide projects by categories such as Personal/Professional, and one also may identify sub projects.
  • There is no perfect way to track projects; one just needs to know what projects they have and how to find any associated reminders. Allen discusses Project Support Materials and warns against using them as a reminder. He also shares ideas for organizing ad hoc project thinking, where ideas are triggered and one needs to capture the ideas.
  • It is as important to organize nonactionable data — which includes reference material and “Someday/Maybes” — as it is to manage action and project reminders. Reference systems include general-reference filing, large-category filing, rolodexes and contact managers, and libraries and archives. Most people have 200 to 400 paper-based general-reference files and 30 to 100 email reference folders.
  • For ideas that are not ready for action, one can keep them on a Someday/Maybe list, trigger them on one’s calendar or put them in a “tickler” system. Allen states that it is important not to call the “Hold and Review” pile one’s Someday/Maybe list.

Chapter 8 – Reviewing: Keeping Your System Functional

  • To keep the system working, it is key that one continues to trust the system. Trust is maintained by keeping the system up-to-date. One needs to decide what to look at and when.
  • The most frequent review will probably be of one’s daily calendar and daily tickler folder. After these, the next actions lists should be reviewed.
  • The key to sustaining the system is the Weekly Review. This process includes whatever is needed to empty one’s head and includes going through the five phases of workflow management. Allen recommends blocking out a couple of hours early every Friday afternoon.

Chapter 9 – Doing: Making the Best Action Choices

  • Allen gives three models for deciding what to do at a point in time, beyond his simple answer to trust one’s intuition.
  • The Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment uses the criteria of context, time available, energy available, and priority to make decisions.
  • The Threefold Model for Evaluating Daily Work presents Allen’s idea that during a workday, one engages in one of three activities:
    • doing predefined work,
    • doing work as it shows up, or
    • defining one’s work.
  • Allen asserts that the sacrifice of not doing the work you have defined on your lists, because something else came up, can be tolerated only if one knows what he’s not doing. People may blame their stress and lowered effectiveness on surprises when it’s really their lack of defining their work. He calls one’s ability to deal with surprise a competitive edge.
  • The Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work is presented in terms of altitude:
    • 50,000 + feet: Life
    • 40,000 feet: Three- to five-year visions
    • 30,000 feet: One-to two-year goals
    • 20,000 feet: Areas of responsibility
    • 10,000 feet: Current projects
    • Runway: Current actions
  • Each of these levels should enhance and align with the levels above it. Priorities are driven from the top. However, without a sense of control over current projects and actions, trying to manage oneself from the top down can create frustration. Start at the bottom level. First ensure all action lists are complete, then work up the model.

Chapter 10 – Getting Projects Under Control

  • Allen digs into the “vertical” project level again. He indicates that formal planning tools and techniques might be overrated and favors creative, proactive thinking.
  • He suggests projects that may need more planning are first, those that still have one’s attention even after defining next actions, and second, those for which ideas just show up. The first require a revisit to the Natural Planning Model. The second require tools and structures to capture those random ideas.
  • These may include a good writing instrument, paper, easels and whiteboards, and the computer. The very act of writing ideas down facilitates a constructive thinking process like nothing else.

Part 3 – The Power of the Key Principles

Chapter 11 – The Power of the Collection Habit

  • In this chapter, Allen gets into the psychological aspects of his methodology, which in essence explain why his process works so well.
  • He also discusses the benefits he has observed his clients realize over the years, including an increased level of trust with others and with oneself. He states that people feel badly about their unprocessed “in” boxes because the incomplete items in them represent broken agreements with themselves.
  • To remedy this, he advises three choices:
    • don’t make the agreement,
    • complete the agreement or
    • renegotiate the agreement.
  • He states that anything held only in “psychic RAM” (not conscious) will carry equal weight and many small things will create more mental stress than they deserve. He says that one should use the mind to think about things, rather than of things. He considers his methodology real knowledge work, at a more sophisticated level.

Chapter 12 – The Power of the Next-Action Decision

  • Allen proposes that twenty minutes before the end of a meeting, one should ask, “So what’s the next action here?” to increase clarity. This is radical common sense, yet it is easy to avoid this more relevant level of thinking.
  • He points out the dark side of a “collaborative culture” where people are too polite to hold others accountable, but says it is impolite to allow people to walk away from discussions unclear. Asking this question is key for knowledge workers to increase their productivity through “operational responsiveness.”
  • Finally, this question presupposes there is the possibility of change and that one can do something to make it happen, which is empowering.

Chapter 13 – The Power of Outcome Focusing

  • Allen says even the slightest increase in the use of natural planning can bring significant improvement
  • He lauds the ability to envision success when how to achieve it is still unclear.
  • Being able to generate lots of ideas, both good and bad, is a critical piece of creative intelligence.
  • Honing and organizing ideas is a necessary mental discipline.
  • Finally, choosing and taking next actions are the essence of productivity. Effectively applying these techniques is described as perhaps the major component of professional competence for the new millennium.


slideshare – 26 time management hacks I wish I had known at 20

complex change: vision/skills/incentives/resources/action plan

  • #GTD Scheduling. Cal Newport.
  • #procrastination #GTD
  • #GTD
  • #GTD
  • /


  • #GTD
  • #GTD
  • #GTD
  • (wait but why 2.0) #GTD
  • (wait but why 2.0) #GTD
  • #gtd
  • ADHD:
    • Modafinil




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