Getting Things DONE summary
This webpage summarizes the book
"Getting Things DONE" by David Allen.
He runs a consulting company called "The David Allen Company"
whose website is here.
- Document all the tasks you need to accomplish
in a system other than your memory.
Include tasks to be worked now and in the future.
Include both work and personal tasks.
- Consult your lists often so you'll make
wise decisions about the next task on which to work.
- Stress is reduced because you won't have to worry
that you forgot about some important task.
- You will make better choices about where to focus
your attention at the current time, taking into account
Five Stages of Managing Workflow
- collect inputs
- process inputs
- organize results
- review options for next actions
- do a next action
- notes written on scrap paper, napkins, etc.
- calendars containing written notes
- flyers about upcoming events
- just about anything you've accumulated
on your desk, in a closet, in piles on the floor,
or stashed in your car
Here are the steps to follow when processing each of the collected inputs.
- Determine whether some action needs to be taken?
- If it does require action then
- Determine the next action that is required.
This must be a real activity.
For example, instead of "car tires",
an action could be "call to schedule tire change" or
"investigate tire prices online".
- Select one of the following options.
- Do it
if it can be completed in two minutes or less.
- Delegate it
if you are not the right person to do it
and it can be delegated to someone else.
Consider adding it to your "Waiting For" list
to track its completion.
- Defer it
by documenting it as something to be done later.
If it requires multiple actions, create a project
for tracking the actions and document them.
A project is just a task that requires
more than one action to complete.
Document the required action(s) in one of these repositories:
(for non-paper-based, date/time-specific reminders)
- 43 Folders
(for paper-based, date-specific reminders)
- "Next Actions" list
(for non-date/time-specific reminders)
- If it doesn't require action then
select one of the following options.
- Throw it in the trash.
- Incubate it by adding it to your someday/maybe list.
- Store it in your reference filing system.
The reference filing system is typically a single,
alphabetized collection of folders that hold any material
you may want to refer to later.
This includes support materials for specific projects.
If a single topic or project requires a large number of folders,
they might be stored in a separate, alphabetized collection of folders.
Information related to projects and tasks (actions)
can be stored in the following locations.
- project list
- "next actions" list categorized by project and
for date or time specific actions that must be performed
and information about specific days
- 43 folders
for paper-based reminders of date-specific actions
- reference files
- "waiting for" list list to track actions
you are waiting for others to complete
- "someday/maybe" list
Examples of things that might be included in this list include:
- projects you'd like to begin
- vacation destinations you'd like to visit
- books you'd like to read
- DVDs you'd like to rent
- CDs you'd like to buy
- email folders
Create an email folder named "@ACTION" and use it to
hold emails that describe action you must complete.
Create an email folder named "@WAITING FOR" and use it to
hold emails that describe actions for which you are waiting for
others to complete.
- read/review stack
The lists mentioned above can be on paper or in an electronic form.
An advantage of paper lists is that you view them and add to them
without being at your computer. An advantages of electronic lists
are that they are easily searched. Another is that the items in them
can be indexed in multiple ways, for example, by project and by context.
A context describes a basic requirement
that must be met in order to do an action. It can be
- a location (such as home or office) where you need to be
- a specific tool (such as a phone or computer)
that must be available
- a person (such as your boss) that must be present
This is a name for a technique of using ordinary folders
to store paper-based reminders of things to be done
on a specific date or during a specific month.
It requires using 43 folders,
one of each of the 31 days in the longest month
and one for each of the 12 months.
The folders are labeled with day numbers and month names.
They are stored in a particular order.
For example, on the morning of April 16th,
the folders would be in the following order:
16, 17, 18, ..., 31, May, 1, 2, 3, ..., 15,
June, July, August, September, October, November, December,
January, February, March, April.
Every morning you look in the front folder to see if it contains
reminders about things you need to do today.
After processing the contents of the folder
it is moved to its proper position after all the numbered folders
behind the folder for the next month.
If it is the first day of the month then the folder for the new month
is examined. Its contents can be processed immediately or
moved to one of the numbered day folders behind it.
After processing the contents of the month folder
it is moved to back of the set of 43 folders.
When you have a paper-based reminder for something to be done in the
next 28 to 31 days, it is placed in one of the numbered day folders.
When it doesn't need to be addressed for longer than that,
it is placed in one of the month folders.
Examples of situations where this is useful include:
- birthday cards to be mailed on a certain day
- bills to be paid on a certain day
- maps to places you need to go on a certain day
- sales or coupons that are good on a certain day
Practices to Adopt
- Always have paper and a writing instrument with you.
Ideas can come at any time. Process these notes as new inputs
ASAP so they aren't lost and are considered when planning
- Always bring something from your "To Read/Review" stack
to meetings. Meetings nearly always start late and the time
spent waiting can be used to catch up on reading.
Determine if anything described in the following locations
needs to be addressed today.
- 43 Folders
- your calendar
- your @ACTION email folder
- flagged items in your next actions list
- At least once per week,
review all incomplete items in your lists and
flag the onces that need to be addressed soon.
- At least once per year review the content of
all the folders in your reference filing system and
throw out items that are no longer relevant.
- Once a week or less, review your "Projects",
"Waiting For" and "Someday/Maybe" lists
to see if anything in them needs to be addressed soon.
This review can generate new items in the "Next Actions" list.
- At least once per week, gather new inputs
and add them to your system.
Deciding What To Do Now
There are three techniques for deciding what task to perform
at any given time.
Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment
- Only consider actions that can be performed in your current context
(defined by your location and the set of resources available).
- Only consider actions that can be completed in the amount of time
you have available. Actions should be defined as small as possible
and not require multiple steps.
- Only consider actions that can be addressed given your current
- Decide between the remaining actions based on their priority
Threefold Model for Evaluating Daily Work
The next thing you do can be one of these.
- Do an action from your "Next Actions" list.
- Do work as it shows up if it is more important than
anything on your "Next Actions" list.
- Define additional work (adding to your lists) based on new
inputs in your in-basket, email, voic-mail and meeting notes.
Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work
There are six perspectives from which to view tasks is order to
assign priorities to them. Consider how completing a given task
will help to achieve the following.
- life goals
- 3-5 year goals
- 1-2 year goals
- areas of responsibility
- current projects
- current actions