“Getting Things Done”: Conclusion

In the previous post I talked about how you might be able to use spreadsheet software, without too many frills or complex formulae, to get started using the GTD methodology. Now it’s time to summarize the big “takeaway” points of GTD so you can take the system and adapt it to your needs.

The Principles

  • If you know what you need to do, you can feel good about doing nothing.
  • You cannot do a project; you can only do actions.
  • If it takes less than about two minutes, do it now.
  • You cannot do every action you might want to do, in every context you might be in.
  • The brain is amazing at creating, planning, imagining, and processing, but it’s terrible at storing and recalling.

Where Stuff Can Land (All the options)

  1. Trash
  2. Reference material/supplies
  3. Someday/Maybe” list
  4. Next Actions” lists (by context)
  5. Calendar
  6. “Waiting For” list
  7. Project list/plans

All “stuff” must end up in one of those seven destinations. There is no other option. Even decorative things or fun things like toys, conceptually, become projects (“hang the Picasso where it belongs”) or reference materials/supplies (“put the Wii in a place where it’s safe and neatly stored and convenient when we want to play”).

Remember, there are three valid reasons an action can be blocked, unable to be executed, and each corresponds to one of the last three destinations above:

  • If you can’t do it until someone else takes action, it goes on the “Waiting For” list.
  • If you can’t do it until some specific date/time, it goes on the Calendar.
  • If you can’t do it because there are other steps in a project that must be done first, it goes in the appropriate Project Plan until everything blocking it is done.

When none of those situations applies, it should be on the Next Actions list for the appropriate context(s).

That’s all, folks!

I really do recommend the “Bible” of the whole work, Getting Things Done by David Allen. (I have it in both Kindle and audiobook format; he actually has a fairly pleasant reassuring voice, but you can hear that for yourself in a TEDx talk and other videos.)

But immodestly, I think this series will get you at least a little bit started on the system and thinking about how you can get stuff out of your brain and into things like paper and apps, which are better at the boring work of storage, and free your brain to do much cooler thinking.