GTD Basics

Getting Things Done (GTD) Quick Links

GTD Basics

Getting Things Done (GTD) is a productivity book and system by author, speaker, and self-proclaimed lazy person David Allen. The basic premise behind GTD is that you capture, review, and keep current all your outstanding projects, tasks, thoughts, etc. so that you never have to think about something more than once. Although many productivity systems and methodologies (7 Habits, Eat the Frog, Pomodoro, Energy Project, etc.) all have some overlapping ideas – and I use parts from many of them – there are two parts of GTD that, in my mind, tend to make this concept stand out from the crowd.


The first is on the emphasis of bottom-up and not top-down. Both when implementing GTD as well as once you’re in maintenance there is a focus on starting with the small things, e.g., Call to schedule an oil change, before trying to figure out the big things, e.g. My life’s purpose is inspiring others by creating thought-provoking outdoor art installations.

The ‘bottom-up’ approach comes from the theory that you’ll never really be able to think clearly about and articulate what you want to be doing 5 years from now if your mind just keeps going back to “I need to get cat food” type thoughts. So if you can capture the small to dos like “Get cat food” and put it in, what David Allen calls, a “trusted” place that you know you’ll see later then your mind doesn’t have to think about getting cat food anymore and can think more about your desire to be a world-renowned artist.

Flexibility And Freedom

The second thing thing I feel distinguishes itself from some of the more holistic/complete productivity systems is that it doesn’t try to mandate what tools you use or how much of the system you use. The books, articles, posts, etc. don’t tell people they NEED to use a certain tool or template – in fact until the end of 2012 there has never even been talk of creating an official GTD app or software let alone having one.

There are many pieces of software and apps that have been created to assist people in doing the GTD method. There are a huge number of other pieces of software and apps that existed already but have hints on how to use their software if you want to try working with a GTD-based mindset. I have friends and colleagues who purchase apps or use a collection of tools (Evernote, Asana, Trello, Google Calendar, Outlook, Etc.) and do the majority of their ‘capturing’ digitally and in the cloud.

I know others who swear by the trusted pen and paper method as it gives them a sense of freedom to track things when and where they want without the distraction of being on a device. In the original Getting Things Done book David Allen even recommends just having a stack of paper and writing down the next actions/projects/etc. on pieces of paper to sort later when you’re first getting set up!

Getting Started
I go into more detail some of the processes and steps to implementing GTD in my mastermind group page, and provide some recommended resources as well in this section, but to get started and learn more about the ‘five steps’ head over to GTD’s Five Steps introductory page here:

Disclaimer: I have no partnership, affiliation, agreement or other relationship with Getting Things Done, David Allen, or The David Allen Company. I am simply a fan of the GTD method and want to share my insights and personal perspective as I attempt to implement more and more GTD methodologies in my life and hopefully inspire some of you to learn more about the Getting Things Done method as well. All rights to the GTD method belong solely to The David Allen Company.