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The David Allen Time Management Approach – a Different View

The David Allen Time Management approach is a challenge to conventional views of time management.

Though his excellent book: Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress Free Productivity, is not explicitly about time management, it takes a radical view of the way we use our time.

In his “whole life” approach to getting organised, Allen provides essential ideas and a proven approach to organising and getting things done. In fact, the David Allen time management approach suggests that we don’t really need more time management. What we really need is thought management.

No Time To Get Work Done?

According to the David Allen time management approach, the problem is a feeling that we have too much to do, and not enough time to do it.

“Why do people complain that there’s no time to get their work done? Because there is more work to do than the work they think they have to do.”

So think about how many things are on your mind. Many people are stressed by the weight of unfinished tasks, either consciously expressed or looming in their subconscious.

From the mundane to the serious, these tasks are typically poorly defined and unresolved. The mental clutter of these task lists makes it difficult for us to properly manage them, to prioritise, to meet deadlines, or to complete them at all.

As long as our minds are crowded with clutter, it’s almost impossible to manage our thoughts, and therefore our tasks, properly.

The essence of Allen’s approach is twofold.

The David Allen Time Management Approach

Firstly, it requires us to re-frame our thinking, replacing notions of time management with the more effective thought management.

Secondly, we need to implement action management by:

  • clearing our minds
  • clarifying our realistic commitments
  • using effective task management systems.

The David Allen approach is to actually challenge the whole concept of time management.

Thought and Action Management

For David Allen, time management is a misnomer. It’s not time management we should be attempting. What really counts are thought management and how we manage our actions. Time management starts with getting our thoughts out of our heads and down onto paper. This helps us in two ways. Firstly, it helps us see exactly what we are trying to cope with. Then secondly, this can be used as a springboard to help us start taking action.

David Allen’s website has an excellent range of gtd action tools and resources. But before you go, have a look at this video clip of David Allen in action. Seven minutes and twelve seconds may seem a long clip, but it’s definitely time well spent!


If you’re too busy for the David Allen Time management approach…

Is your time management at work being adversely affected by busyness? Too busy for the David Allen time management approach? Well, perhaps we can help. Start by reading our article: 10 Tips on Time Management: How to Eradicate “Busyness”.

Or, go to our guide Managing Time and Priority, especially written to help you combat busyness. The guide expands on the tips in this article and includes some excellent tools to help you take back your time. It will help you to:

  • Assess your time priorities and manage your actions.
  • Develop coping strategies to avoid the limitations of “busyness”.
  • Manage the impact of other people’s demands on your time.
  • Develop approaches to “getting things done”. Apply practical tools to managing priorities and time, to get the right things done.
  • Help others to manage their time.


  • Tool 1: Commitments summary
  • Tool 2: Time log
  • Tool 3:Time analysis
  • Tool 4: Time planning with task filters
  • Tool 5: Task priorities

Where to go from here:


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