My thoughts on ”Getting Things Done”

I just finished re-reading David Allen’s book ”Getting Things Done” (GTD). This time I thought would be a good time to share my thoughts on the methods described in the book.

The reason I think this time is more suitable than the last time I read the book is because I have been using most of the methods described for several months by now. I first read the book about five months ago and decided to give the system a go.

Book cover

Who is this system for

If you recognize any of the following, and wish to change it, you might benefit from learning and applying GTD:

  • You keep everything you need to remember to do in your head, resulting in that you often forget to do them.
  • You often remember things you need to do at times and places where you can’t do them.
  • You often come up with good ideas, but you don’t take any notes, resulting in that you often forget about them.
  • You have hundreds of e-mails in your inbox. Many are still unread, some are kept for reference for things you might want to check sometime again in the future, some works as reminders of things you might need to do some time and others you should probably take action on as soon as possible.
  • At work and at home you have piles of stuff laying around. They might contain notes from meetings, bills that you need to pay, magazines you want to read, form you need to fill in and hand in, and so on.
  • Your drawers are filled with random stuff and it’s hard to find the things you need when you need them.
  • You often don’t have any pre-defined plan for what to do but rather work on things that feels most urgent because someone throws it in your lap.
  • You have a hard time prioritizing your work because you don’t have a good overview on all the things you have to work on.

For me personally I had been trying to come up with a good system to handle all things I needed to do and all e-mails I recieved for a long time before I started reading about GTD for the first time, so I thought I had most of my stuff in pretty good order. What I have realized now is that it could be a lot better!

Changes I made after the first read-through

After I finished reading GTD the first time around I made quite a lot of changes. Here are the most important:

  • I bought a desk and office supplies and set up a workplace at home
  • I bought a physical inbox that I can put bills, forms, etc in that I need to handle somehow
  • I created lists where I started writing down all my projects
  • I started thinking about next actions needed to drive my projects forward
  • I went through all my e-mails and totally emptied my inboxes
  • I started following up all my projects and lists on a weekly basis
  • I set up a calendar where I can put reminders on things I need to follow up on in the future
  • I created an archive where I can store stuff I want to keep as reference

For the last months I have been using this system as much as possible, trying to make it a routine and something that I use without having to think about it.

Has it made any difference?

Yes! Looking back and reflecting on how things are now compared to before I started applying GTD I can honestly say that I will keep using the system. The most positive effect so far is that I no longer feel stressed over that there might be something that I have forgotten to do. Now I feel comfortable that I have a system where I can put things so that I do not need to keep everything in my head.

Having easy accessible, location based, lists has also helped me a lot when deciding what to do when I am at different places. And of course, having an empty e-mail inbox is a nice feeling. The lesson I learned here is that you should not use your inbox for anything else than a temporary holding place for incoming stuff that needs to be decided on how to handle. As soon as you handle it, it is removed from the inbox, and never put back.

So, Is GTD for you? There is no way for me to know, but I do recommend giving it a try. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t like it and return to doing things as before.