An Introduction to Getting Things Done® Methodology

Getting Things Done® or GTD®, is a series of principles introduced by David Allen for managing the day to day tasks and projects. This methodology was named after his book – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, published in 2002.

The main idea of this methodology is to record the set of task in “external memory” rather than to keep them in our mind. Thus, our brain can be more concentrate to perform finishing task instead of remembering, respond to the new inputs better, and more organized. The “external memory” is a single trusted system i.e. from simply our notebook to our sophisticated personal digital assistant, which is then reviewed regularly to avoid any miss follow up.

Basically, when everything in your head becomes a specific action item that you know you will complete in a particular time and place, who will perform the task or how to finish the task, and you review all your action lists regularly, you get things done.

Now, I am going to oversimplified the process.

  • Collect your thoughts out of your head

Put every single little things that cross your mind in a “single trusted external memory”. Stay close with your notebook (avoid to use sheet of paper), or your laptop, or your smartphone, and write it! In this stage, it is not so necessary to make them in order.

I usually use mind mapping technique to collect all information and to-do list into one single place, including the time, place, person, and the how. If you do it on papers, make sure you will not lose it.

  • Process all your collecting thoughts into series of action items

You need to convert your thoughts into actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps. Breakdown your collecting thought into action points, and write them in verb words. For example, your collecting thought is writing a report. Then you have to breakdown into series of action points using verb words : download the raw data, process the raw data in excel, create the graph, put the graph in powerpoint slide.

Here, you will start to decide what will you do with your collecting thoughts. Immediate action? Storing for later reference? Or just throw it to thrash bin. Stay focus to prioritize the urgency and the importance. If your thought can be done with one single action, it is a to do list, if not then it is a project.

  • Organize your action items by context

A context is either a place you need to be, or something you need to have with you to be able to do that action. A context can be : office, home, computer, call, errands, waiting for, someday/maybe, and so on. The point is to get your action items onto lists that make it clear what should be done when and where.

  • Review your list of projects, inbox, and action lists in regular basis

Review plays the important part. Without reviewing your project list, action list, and your inbox, you won’t be able to trust them, and your mind will worry about them again. At least review them once a week. When you do reviewing, you can add more items to support your objective. In other hand, you also can throw away the things that not necessary in accordance to your objective.

  • Do it

Without doing the necessary things, it is almost impossible to get things done. Once you have done all above steps then it is time to take the action. You may do in a parallel for actions in the same context and ignored the rest for time being. When we talks “do in parallel”, it comes down to how much time you have, how much energy you have, and how important the things are.

Getting Things Done Chart
Getting Things Done Chart


Simple, huh? 🙂

But wait, at the end, it will back to our habit and our perception about prioritizing the task within timeline. We need to practice this skill day to day to make it as our automatic habit. And believe me, you will find a lot of your own practical techniques that can support this methodology.

A note for me : to add the real sample for each process.

Having thoughts, ideas, or even objection regarding this method? Then let’s discuss it.

* all images in this post are taken from the internet for education purpose only. Apologize if I have taken the images without any permittion


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