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Getting Things Done

How to achieve stress-free productivity!

Getting Things Done

How to achieve stress-free productivity!

In his “whole life” approach to getting organised, David Allen explains his proven approach to “getting things done” (or GTD as its sometimes called).

In fact, the David Allen approach suggests that it’s not really more time management we need. What we actually need is thought management. Allen argues that one of the problems we all suffer from is a feeling of too much to do but not enough time to do it. This is typical David Allen – at once provocative and insightful:

“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.”

Based on this conclusion, Allen’s recommended process is to get things down on paper. He argues persuasively that we need to unclutter our minds of whatever is unresolved by writing down details of any current projects. Only by doing this can we see what we’re committed to, and then take action.

The book is supported by some excellent resources from David Allen’s web site, with some well designed flow-charts to summarise the process.

Again, provocatively, Allen also states that

“There are only two problems in life….

Problem #1 You know what you want, and you don’t know how to get it.

Problem #2 You don’t know what you want.”

The solutions?

To problem #1, you need to make it happen (determine how you get from here to there).

To problem #2, you need to make it up, (decide what outcome you’re after).

“You need to get into the habit of keeping nothing on your mind. And the way to do that …. is not by managing time, managing information, or managing priorities.

Instead, the key to managing all of your “stuff”, is managing your actions. …. The real issue is how to make appropriate choices about what to do, at any point in time. The real solution how we manage actions.”

For David Allen, time management is a misnomer. It’s not time management we should be attempting. It’s thought management and how we manage our actions that really counts.

Getting Things Done is an essential addition to your management resources. The book is brimming with ideas and practical advice. If you only take a few of these ideas away it will have been well worth the purchase.

David Allen’s strong advice is that you follow his process, particularly in getting everything out in the open.


Firstly – before we can make any progress, de-clutter your thoughts. If it’s on the mind it needs to be cleared. Everything needs to be captured on paper and put in to a collection area – an in-tray.

Secondly – you must both clarify your commitments, and objectively analyse your ability to meet these. This ensures you only manage tasks you have a realistic chance of completing.

Thirdly – use an effective action management system for detailed planning, implementation and task control.

As David Allen points out:

“A paradox has emerged in this new millennium: people have enhanced quality of life, but at the same time they are adding to their stress levels by taking on more than they have resources to handle.” “Most of the stress people experience comes from inappropriately managed commitments they make or accept.”

Some Suggestions to Get the Most From This Book.

You might find it useful to read some of our articles alongside Getting Things Done. These use the wisdom of Allen’s work but applied to the context of being a happy manager!

Foe example, we build on the David Allen time management approach by exploring fresh perspectives on how time is used. This article includes an excellent video of David Allen, concisely presenting some of his ideas.

In Elementary Goal Setting: Make it up and Make it Happen, we pose two life-planning questions. These are based on Allen’s provocative statement that “there are only two problems in life”. First, ask yourself: what is it you want from life? Then, ask yourself: how do you achieve it?

You may also want to look at some David Allen quotes in our collection of quotes on time management.

Here’s to getting things done, differently, and with less hassle!

Tools to reduce time wasters

If you want some practical tips and tools to deal with time wasters, go to our guide Managing Time and Priority. The guide expands on the tips in this article and includes some excellent tools to help you eradicate time wasters. It will help you to:

  • Managing Time and PriorityAssess 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

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