Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done (GTD) is an organizational method created by David Allen, described in a book of the same name.
The Getting Things Done method rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.
In traditional time management, priorities usually play a central role. In contrast, Allen’s approach uses two key elements — control and perspective. He proposes a workflow process to gain control over all the tasks and commitments that one needs or wants to get done, and “6 different levels of focus” to provide them with useful perspective.
The author advocates a weekly review focused on different levels, and suggests that the perspective gained from these reviews should drive one’s priorities, which can in turn determine the priority of the individual tasks and commitments gathered during the workflow process. During a weekly review, the user determines the context for the tasks and puts them on the appropriate lists. An example of grouping together similar tasks would be making a list of outstanding telephone calls, or errands to perform while downtown. Context lists can be defined by the set of tools available or by the presence of individuals or groups for whom one has items to discuss or present.
GTD is based on making it easy to store, track and retrieve all information related to the things that need to get done. Allen suggests that many of the mental blocks we encounter are caused by insufficient ‘front-end’ planning. It is most practical, according to Allen, to do this thinking in advance, generating a series of actions which we can later undertake without any further planning. The human brain’s “reminder system” is inefficient and seldom reminds us of what we need to do at the time and place when we can do it. Consequently, the “next actions” stored by context in the “trusted system” act as an external support which ensures that we are presented with the right reminders at the right time. Since GTD relies on external memories, it can be seen as an application of the scientific theories of distributed cognition or the extended mind.