Clarity and peace of mind can flow, when you have everything out of your head and in a system - you can trust.

Activity - What's on your mind #jmsinnz (flesh out)

Capture everything that is in your head - those niggling things you know you need to do but haven't got around to yet. . . . .

  • My experience of this in 2010 lasted 2 weeks, but the result was a desk and office that was clear of every distracting piece of paper or thing that was not needed. It was clear of everything except my computer, my phone, and a clipboard with a stack of paper, and a pen.
  • My partner noticed how much more available I was, and I had more attention for my 4 year old when she would come and visit me at my desk - because I was no longer juggling a dozen different things and trying to keep all these balls in the air, afraid I would forget something.



"If you know what you want and where you’re going, efficiency is your only improvement opportunity. Getting there with less effort is the name of the game." ~ David Allen

  • Efficiency = ratio of the useful work performed - compared to total energy expended.


Reduce the number of uncompleted tasks vying for your attention

  • Do some! Action is the antidote for procrastination
  • Scheduling - if now is not the right time to do it, schedule it and know you will review it
  • Someday-Maybe - nice idea, but not now. I'll look at it again later and decide
  • Dismiss some - some just have to go!

The workflow - Collect, Process, Organise, Review, Do



Is it Actionable? NO


Is it Actionable? YES


Does it relate to a Project?


To summarise - here are the 5-Steps

  1. COLLECT - everything. Your to-dos, your ideas, your recurring tasks, everything. Put it in a pen-and-paper notebook, a to-do app, a planner — whatever you prefer to use to get organised. GTD doesn't say to use a specific tool, but whatever you use has to fit into your normal flow. The barrier to using it should be so low that there's never a reason for you to say "I'll add it to my list later". You want to capture everything as soon as it happens so you don't have to think about it again until it's time to do it.
  2. David Allen on Mind Like Water

    There is a light-year of difference between a system that has merely a lot of our stuff objectified, and one that has 100%. Few people have experienced what I’m talking about, because there are few people who have ever gotten to a 100% empty head—absolutely every project, action item, and potential commitment we have made with ourselves and others externalized in an easily reviewable format.

    If you don’t have everything in a system that the system ought to have, you won’t have full trust in that system, and you'll have greatly reduced motivation to keep it up and keep it current. If your system isn’t tracking every computer-related action you need to take in discreet folders or lists, then your mind still has the job of remembering what to do when you open your laptop. You’ll probably leave emails sitting in the inbox or files on the desktop, hoping you’ll remember you need to handle something. There is not full freedom to trust your intuition about which action to take off the list, since your mind still has the job of remembering and formulating all the options. Similarly, if your reference systems are only partially complete, you probably won’t be motivated to get all your reference processed and organized, as soon as it arrives in your life.

    How will you know when your reminders and categories are complete? When will you know how much you have out of your head and into your system? Even if you have 99% out of your head, you still won’t know that it’s 99% because of what may be lurking in the 1%. You will only know how much you have left, when there is nothing left!

    Either your head is the best place to hold all your agreements with yourself, or it’s not. (You can guess which way I vote.) I can’t imagine any intellectual justification for halfway in between. Yet most people still have over half their life in their heads. They won’t totally trust the incomplete system, nor will they totally trust their head. This fosters latest-and-loudest prioritizing, instead of trusted strategic choices.

    A partial system is almost worse than none. In regard to life commitments—99%’s a bitch, 100%’s a breeze.

    If you don’t have everything in a system that the system ought to have, you won’t have full trust in that system, and you'll have greatly reduced motivation to keep it up and keep it current.

  3. PROCESS - Clarify the things you have to do. Don't just write down "Plan holiday", break it down into actionable steps so there's no barrier to just doing the task. If there's anything you can do right away and have time to do, get it done. If there's anything you can delegate, delegate it. See the video below where David Allen explains how to clarify your to-dos so they don't require more time to figure out what you meant than it takes to actually do the thing you wanted to do.
  4. ORGANISE - those actionable items by category and priority. Assign due dates where you can, and set reminders so you follow up on them. Pay special attention to each item's priority as well. You're not actually doing any of the items on your list right now, you're just making sure they're in the right buckets for later and your reminders are set. In short, this is quality time with your to-do list, inbox and calendar.
  5. REVIEW - and reflect on your to-do list. First, look over your to-dos to see what your next action should be. This is where the clarifying step pays off, because you should be able to pick something you have the time and the energy to do right away. If you see something that's so vague that you know you won't be able to just pick up and run with it, break it down. Second, give your to-do list an in-depth review periodically to see where you're making progress, where you need to adjust your priorities, and determine how the system is working for you.
  6. David Allen on altitude

    How’s your altitude aptitude?

    Over the years, it has become more and more helpful in my work to help people understand the ecosystem of GTD (particularly priorities) by framing their thinking and decision-making around my altitude model:

    GROUND: Calendar/Actions - The nitty-gritty this-moment doing level. Call Fred. Buy tires. Draft proposal. Email Susan.

    HORIZON 1: Projects - The things you’re committed to finish that one action won’t finish. Give Barbara a birthday party. Set up my new MacBook. Implement this year’s budget. Hire a new marketing VP.

    HORIZON 2: Areas of Focus and Accountability - Current job responsibilities and status of key aspects of your personal life. What are your roles and responsibilities re: work? What areas of your personal life need to be maintained at some appropriate level? Given a review of all of those, what projects should you have on your list that you don’t have yet? Any projects on your list you should dump?

    HORIZON 3: Goals and Objectives - The typical strategic level. Goals and direction of the organization and your work. Things you want to accomplish personally, in the longer term. Definition of current and new key result areas.

    HORIZON 4: Vision - Career, lifestyle choices. Is this the job you want? Are you in the right game? What does success in the long term look, sound, and feel like? Talents, skills, interests.

    HORIZON 5: Purpose and Principles - Life. Living the one you want? Quality of life issues. Values, balance, style, inner gifts, personal expressions.

    So what about this?

    Well, too often I find people trying to solve a Horizon 4 problem with a Horizon 2 solution. Or trying to solve a Ground-level problem with a Horizon 5 solution. Doesn’t work—and even worse, it creates deep frustration and confusion because they know somehow that the questions that they are posing are good ones.

    Whichever of these levels most has your attention is a fine place to begin, and to reassess its contents for yourself. However, trying to solve an out-of-control inbox (Ground) by agonizing about whether this is the job you should have (Horizon 4) is the Serious Pits. That’s why I usually coach on this scale from the bottom up—if your landing gear doesn't work, it's pretty hard to make real decisions from any other level! Getting control of where you are is a prerequisite for healthy thinking about where you should be.

  7. DO - Engage and get to work. Choose your next action and get to it. Your system is, at this point, set up to make figuring that out easy. Your to-dos are organised by priority and placed in categories. You know what to work on, and when. They're broken into manageable, bite-sized chunks that are easy to start. It's time to get to work.

Want to learn more?