Getting Things Done Summary | By David Allen | Free PDF Download |

              Imagine that you are walking back from work… excited that another successful day has gone by… when all of sudden you realize you never called mike… he is your best friend and today is his birthday… but you were so busy the whole day that you never had a chance to call.. “no problem” you think to yourself – “as soon as I get home I’ll wish him happy birthday” but when you get home, a pile of unopened mail greets you by the door, unwashed dishes are calling your name and you get distracted by other exciting house chores… The next morning, feeling like a horrible friend, you wonder “how can something so important slip my mind”

              The reason is simple – your brain is for having ideas, NOT for holding them. With a never-ending stream of demands for your attention, both at home and at work, things are bound to slip through the cracks. Only when your mind is clear and your thoughts are organized can you achieve effective results. This is where Getting Things Done, or GTD for short, comes into play. It is a framework designed to help you keep track of tasks, ideas and projects. The Getting Things Done system is made of 5 simple steps – capture, process, organize, review and engage.


           Everything begins with “capturing” all ideas, tasks, projects, to-do items and other random bits of information that come your way every single day. These are things like emails, letters, calls and action items that come from talking to other people or they can be ideas and tasks that are born in your own creativity and imagination. Wherever that information comes from, you need to capture it, or externalize it so you don’t have to keep it in your brain. Now that you have all this information captured, it is time to make sense of it so you can actually move forward with your goals, instead of wanting to pull your hair out from the information overload.

Step number 2 in GTD is Processing

           For every item that you capture ask yourself the following question – is it actionable? The possible answers are two – YES or NO.

           If the item is actionable, like an email from a colleague asking you about an update for the project you are working together on, ask yourself a followup question – would it take 2 minutes or less to complete? If the answer is “yes”, go ahead and do It. If the answer is “no”, you need to put this action off for later by adding them to an action items list (more on that in step 3). If it will take you 30 seconds to reply to your colleague’s email, it makes sense to take care of it on the spot and move on. If you need to have a 20-minute conversation on the topic, it is best to schedule it. If the item you are processing is “not actionable” – like a confirmation of a payment you made for your monthly internet bill – you have 2 choices – discard it or keep it as reference in case you need that info down the road. Repeat the same process for every piece of information


           You’ve processed the information, things are already looking up for you, now you need to organize it. This is where the magic happens. You have an action list from all the actionable items that you did not already do in the previous Step.

Now you need to organize and prioritize them based on the following 3 criteria: – by project, by time and by context

Actions related to a particular project, such as building a deck for your next presentation, or organizing the halloween party for your kids, can be grouped together.

Actions that have some sort of a deadline,

or a time specific (like Mike’s birthday) should go on your calendar so you can take care of them when the time is right.

You can also group actions by context, such as phone calls you need to make or groceries that you need to pick up.

Of course you can also mix and match and put things in more than one category – like that video you need to create on Friday, the 17th. This is where you need to tweak and personalize GTD to fit your needs.

         You know best how to group and prioritize your items. One thing to always keep top of mind though is this question – what is the next action? If you sit down to call Mike for his birthday, but don’t have his number, you are to being very efficient. The next action should’ve been “find Mike’s number”, not “call Mike”. Asking yourself that question will help you sequence things better.

           Now, you’ve organized your action items, the sun is shining brighter and the world is a happier place. But what about the non-actionable items? That’s easy. They can either be kept for reference – like that manual for your TV that you don’t need until your kid turns on the Spanish closed captioning and you need to figure out how to reverse it. Or they can be deferred for later – like that idea for a business that you would like to keep and revisit in 6 months when you have more time – add it to a “someday maybe” list and create an action item to review this list in 6 months.


High five!

All the random information is now organized and you are ready to take over the world.

The next step is Review.

            With so many demands for your attention, things are bound to go out of place. This is where the review comes into play. Every week, review your items and make any adjustments if needed. Is everything where it is supposed to be? Is there a pile of information somewhere that you need to process? A weekly review is essential to keeping everything running smoothly.

            Every month, take some time to review your short-term goals. Are your action items moving towards your goals, or are you just keeping yourself Busy? Are you saving for that car, are you learning the Spanish you want or are you in reaction Mode? Schedule these regular reviews and reflection periods so you can ensure the train is heading down the right tracks.

The last part step in GTD is called “engage”. 

             This is where you actually roll up the sleeves and get cracking. Your calendar should contain all the tasks that you need to do today. Your project list will tell you what you need to do to move a project forward.

              Your contexts will help you batch things together. As you go about your day, crossing all of those items, next information is bound to come your way. Now you know what to do with it – capture it, decide if it is actionable, if the answer is yes and you can get it done in 2 minutes or less, do it, if not add it to the appropriate action list. If the information is not actionable, it gets stored or ends up in the trash. Nothing to it. You are now as cool, calm and collected as a buddhist zen master deep in meditation. Now, Mike will never have to spend another birthday without wishes from his best friend.

It has happened to me many times and I am sure it must happen to you as well. When you are asked to go out to the market or any shop to bring household goods.

             So with all your energy and excitement you go out to buy all the products and goods which your family asked you to bring and after purchasing all the goods you return to your home. And you feel happy about completing your task. But suddenly you realise you have forgotten to take one thing. Family asked you to go again to buy that one thing and you feel irritated because of it. Now if this thing of forgetting something has happened to you many times. Then like me, to avoid  such problems you may prepare a list of all things which you are asked to purchase so that you don’t forget right? Well if you had prepared a list because of this reason or for any other reason. Then it’s a clear indication that you accept, our brain is not capable of remembering a lot of things together and because of a lot of things together our brain doesn’t perform nicely, which is true to some extent. 

       Example, in a computer if all the programs are open one after the other and if all function and work together using memory. Then this thing will slow down the performance of a computer and if other programs start opening as well without closing the previous one then this thing can crash or hang the computer as well. Similarly, when in our brain different work and ideas come, exactly like those programs, which we can’t shut down because of some reasons. 

                That idea and work gets stored in our brain and we think that we forget things, but that’s not true. Our subconscious brain is very amazing at storing things for years. And when times comes, suddenly remind us which is good at some extent but the thing which isn’t good is, So many things get store in our brain without getting processed, because of which our stress level increases and our performance gets slow meaning we become lazy and unproductive this becomes big issue for us, and doesn’t allow us to become successful. Author David Ellen, who has been training many big industry people for more than 30 years. In order to increase their Productivity so that they can complete their work nicely and easily. In this book, He is explaining to us. That we shouldn’t make our brain like that computer which can get crashed at any moment instead we should make our brain like a peaceful silent water which can handle any situation without changing itself.


          If you through small stone into pond, because of which some water will leap, Some ripples will form and again water will be normal same like before, silent peaceful and if you through big stone into the pond, as per the size more water will leap,big ripples will form and again water will be same as before, no change. Meaning output will be as much as input,more input more output, less input less output than Normal. Now this amazing quality of water, we must learn for our brain as well.

       Meaning, normally we get a lot of ideas and work in a day. Some small, some big, and we give attention to some work more than it requires and waste our precious time, Whereas we should be like water. We should give output to the work as per its necessity and need and to learn this technique of water the author has made a system of 5 steps which is known as GTD,Getting things done. Today I will explain those GTD Steps to you all, So that by using it you can even finish your work nicely without getting stressed, so let’s begin.

The 5 steps are

                1) Capture

                2) Process or Clarify

                3) Organize

                4) Review

                5) Engage

Now we will understand these 5 steps in detail. . . . . . . .

Let’s start with No.1) Capture

       The very First thing you need to do is, whatever idea works or anything which comes to your  mind, write it down Immediately,Transfer that idea or work to an external memory, so that your brain doesn’t get stressed. External Memory could be anything. A book, journal, folder in your phone or any list in your computer or in any computer program any trusted place where you can write down your idea and can save it and can look into it whenever required.

       You can call this external memory your inbox or basket. But you need to write all the ideas and work whenever it comes your way or in your mind whether it is small or big, it doesn’t matter,Just write it down. The reason to form any external memory is to make your brain stress free. So that we can live in the moment and give our best performance and can work without distraction because of which our productivity will increase. Even your ideas which come to your mind write it down in an inbox or basket. Don’t think about the idea whether it is good or bad because by doing this you will remove bad ideas from your brain and form a place to bring new ideas to your brain.

No.2) Process ( Clarify)

            Now most of the people prepare a list, even though they put all their work into it. But the problem is they don’t follow further steps, Because of which they don’t become Productive and they Don’t get Result as well in order to get result, the most important thing is, We must clarify all things written in the list. 

           Because unless those things don’t get clarified, it will stick in our mind and preparing a list will be of no use. Hence to follow this step Properly we must work as per the flow diagram which the author has explained to us. Very First we will take one work from that list and we will analyse what exactly it is and what outcome we want from it. Then we will think whether that work is actionable, or should I take action to finish this work. And if not then it will go to 1 option amongst three. 1st either go to Trash, 2nd Go to someday maybe list or 3rd it will go to the Reference. About these Three options i will Explain in the Next step,so don’t worry and if that work is actionable. Then see whether you can finish that work in 2 minutes or not. If you can finish it in 2 minutes, Then immediately finish it, but if not complete it in 2 minutes and if it will take more time , then we can do two things with it either Delegate or Defer. About which i will explain in the next point, after doing these things you will be very clear about your work.

No.3) Organise

           After Clarifying Everything, what we will do now is,we will Organise every work properly and put every work into a different list. After using The same flow Diagram.

           Example; The first idea or work which isn’t Actionable, we will organise that in three ways as i said earlier. First which isn’t Actionable nor important will put that work on Trash. Meaning we will delete that work from our mind because remembering it will be a waste of time. Second, If you want To do That work, but have no time to do it on an immediate purpose then you will put that work on some day maybe list and third is any idea or information which can be required to you in future  purpose you will put that to reference Folder.

          Example; If I get any information Related to video, which I can use in future I keep that to the Reference Folder. These all were Non Actionable work. Now things which you can do by taking actions,You can organise it in 4 ways. So first Is Project List,Under Project List all those work will come for which you have to take 2 or more than 2 steps to finish

           Example; For creating this video, all that work will be put under the project list because while making it I have to take different steps to finish it. Like reading books, listening, making a script by summarising it, then animation audio etc. Hence it is a work of so many steps hence i will put it under project list. Hence any work which requires more than two steps put that into the project list. Now second, there is some work which you can Delegate meaning ask others to do it for you. So put that into the waiting list And third there is some work which is time specific, like you have to finish it on a specific day or time like Monday around some specific time so put that work on a calendar and fourth,There are kinds of work which you need to finish as soon as possible. Put that work on the Next action list. In this list, Project list actions will also be added, which will help you move ahead with your project  work. By doing this, you can organise all your list work.

No,4) Review

               This is also a very important step because what happens is people make a list, and also organise it. But after some time they forget, hence it is very important for us to always review and check this system. You can review it as per your convenience. You can review it once a week or once a day, or once a month. But the author says we must check and review this system at least once in a  week otherwise our system can get disturbed easily and we will come back to our old ways which isn’t good.

And No.5) Engage

              Last and the most Important step Engage, Engage means to actually do and finish work. Means Implementation, Starting 4 points will relax  your brain and will help you to do your work without confusion after which it is you who need to complete every work with Productivity. At first try to complete work which is written in the Calendar folder and then go to next action work. 

             These were the 5 steps to complete any work, Which you must follow. We unconsciously do some of the things amongst it. But the author wants us to do it on a compulsory basis, and make it our compulsory habit and follow it on an extreme basis which can be really helpful for us. Now to end, I have shared this knowledge. From the book How to get things done by David Ellen. This book helps us to understand how we can increase our productivity.

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