Getting Things Done: Introduction

Oct 24, 2014
Joe Buhlig
~3 mins

Why do we think we can manage our lives with only our memory? It’s certainly flawed. It doesn’t even remind us of what we need when we need it. It waits until we’re in bed and can’t do anything about it.

We have loads of “stuff” that we try to keep track of in our minds. We have random information about work projects, a bucket list, things we need someone else to complete, batteries to change in the thermostat, water to turn off for the winter, sound to run at church this weekend, and the list goes on and on. And it grows faster than we can knock them out. It’s no wonder we’re all stressed and forget things constantly. The part that drives me crazy is the nagging. Our brains won’t stop thinking about a task until it’s done. Our minds continue to bring it up (with bad timing) over and over again until we do something about it.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

This is the start of a series of posts about GTD. It’s a system developed (or discovered depending on how you look at it) by David Allen in the book by the same name with the great subtitle “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” It’s a framework that solves our problem with “stuff.” There are 5 steps to GTD that I’ll dive into with upcoming posts, but here’s a quick overview:

  1. Capture - When a thought or action comes to mind that you need (or want) to do something with, grab it right then.
  2. Clarify - Go through the “stuff” that you collected in step one and give it meaning.
  3. Organize - Put it in place. Take your defined items and get them into lists for later use.
  4. Reflect - Look over your lists to do any clean up and decide what comes next.
  5. Engage - Do it. Now that you have everything in place, do something about it.

Mind Like Water

The main goal behind GTD is to free up your mind. As David Allen likes to say, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” If you get things out of your head and into your trusted system, you can focus your mind on the task at hand or the person in front of you as opposed to remembering what you need to do next. It’s a way of bringing yourself back to the present because you’re not worrying about all the things you have to do. If you throw a rock into a calm pond, you see a splash and then some ripples start to form. The water reacts to forces around it in that moment and then slowly returns to its original state. GTD is a way to give your mind that ability. Getting things out of your mind and into a trusted system allows you to react to the new things coming at you and then return to your original state.

My personal angle

GTD doesn’t dictate the tools that you use. It’s a framework that you use with whatever tools you choose. I’ll be showing the main points of each step in upcoming articles, but keep in mind that I’m an Apple fan and a digital person. I like to avoid analog. Though I do keep paper around for taking notes and writing down ideas, I promptly transfer it to a computer and throw it away. The system is geek-friendly and yet easily used in an analog form. There are a number of people who work the system using only pen and paper. And it works great for them. You’ll need to choose tools that you are already familiar with and enjoy using.

This is a series about the productivity framework Getting Things Done by David Allen. You can find the entire series at the following links:

  1. Getting Things Done: Introduction
  2. Getting Things Done: Capture
  3. Getting Things Done: Clarify
  4. Getting Things Done: Organize
  5. Getting Things Done: Reflect
  6. Getting Things Done: Engage
  7. Getting Things Done: A Day in the Life