Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

by David Allen
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Getting Things Done 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 229 reviews.
David_Beck More than 1 year ago
GTD 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.

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 (i.e., for any project we need to clarify what is to be achieved and what specific actions are needed to achieve it). 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.

Allen contends that our mental "reminder system" is inefficient and seldom reminds us of what we need to do at the time and place that we can do it. Consequently, the "next actions" act as an external support which ensures that we are presented with the right reminders at the right time.

The core principles of GTD are:


The notion of stress-free productivity starts with off-loading what needs to get done from one's head, capturing everything that is necessary to track, remember, or take action on, into what Allen calls a bucket: a physical inbox, an email inbox, a tape recorder, a notebook, a PDA, a desktop, etc. The idea is to get everything out of one's head and into a collection device, ready for processing. All buckets should be emptied (processed) at least once per week.


When processing a bucket, a strict workflow is required. If it takes under two minutes to do something, it should be done immediately. The two-minute rule is a guideline, encompassing roughly the time it would take to formally defer the action.


Allen describes a suggested set of lists which can be used to keep track of items awaiting attention, including a calendar which is important for keeping track of appointments and commitments; however, Allen specifically recommends that the calendar be reserved for the hard landscape: things which absolutely have to be done by a particular deadline, or meetings and appointments which are fixed in time and place. To-do items should be reserved for the next action lists.


The lists of actions and reminders will be of little use if not reviewed at least daily, or whenever possible. Given the time, energy and resources available at a particular moment, one must decide the most important task to be done immediately, and do it. If one is inclined to procrastinate, one may end up always doing the easy tasks and avoiding the difficult ones. To solve this, one can decide to do the actions of the list one by one, following their order, just like processing an inbox.


Any organizational system is no good if excessive time is spent organizing tasks instead of actually doing them. Allen's contention is that if one can make it simple, easy, and fun to take the necessary actions, one will be less inclined to procrastinate or become overwhelmed with too many 'open loops'.

Phew! It's a lot, but it's a lot of useful information and a foolproof system once you get it all down.

Another book that I strongly recommend because it has helped me immensely when it comes to managing myself and keeping on track is: "The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone who has decent organization skills should not buy this book. The whole book reiterates itself over and over and over and over and.... you get the picture. Let me summarize the book. Have a file cabinet and use it. Have a basket and put everything you have to do in it. Get everything off your mind by writing it down. Finally, go to your office supply store and load up on office supplies and organization products. After the first 75 pages, it becomes very redundant.
carbonbiker More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. It came highly recommended by a friend who is an astronaut and has a very challenging work schedule. I've nearly finished reading it - for the first time, and I think I'll read it again and take better notes. But the editing in the ebook version is HORRIBLE. The editor may not realize you need spaces between ALL the words, not just some of them. There are sentences where you have to delete or add a word for it to make sense. I'm sure this isn't how the book was written, but the publisher needs to issue us an update. I'd give it five stars for content, but 1 star for editing - so I'm splitting the difference and calling it a three.
Staseek More than 1 year ago
What's the reason for me to have NOOK if paperback is $9.52 and ebook is $13?
nickerbocker4181 More than 1 year ago
Since reading this book about six months ago I've implemented the GTD system. Immediately when reading, I sensed the deep wisdom and soundness latent in the pages. I have a utilitarian and pragmatic personality (INTJ) so naturally I have great affinity for material of this sort. I especially value the flexibility of this workflow system. It can be applied with paper and folders, PDA's, Outlook, Excel, and other applications as well. Each individual can customize the general framework to suite his or her own needs and taste. I found the material theoretically sound, useful, and easy to incorporate into my life. I don't feel stressed despite engaging in many responsibilities. I've discovered from using this material in my life so far that it frees my mind to think more on the things of others and reach out to more people in my life. It has also helped me to realize what I'm truly capable of doing in a given period of time. I also don't let "small" details seep through the cracks in life (such as paying a credit card bill on time, or remembering to buy a card for my friends birthday.) I also am intrigued by how GTD seems to dovetail nicely with a spiritual side of life. I highly recommend this book! It has helped me live my life with greater richness and fulness.
Kim50 More than 1 year ago
He speaks against making to-do lists! this time mgmt book is the only one I've ever re-read, and put to use so thoroughly. The big difference between this and every other similar title is the peace of mind I now have that I never felt before. His methods get it all out of my head so I close my eyes at night trusting my system so I can sleep. His martial arts analogy is apt and has made me more able to catch and make full use of every twist in my day. I AM NO LONGER UP TO MY A** IN ALLIGATORS. Thank you Mr. Allen.
Payne26 More than 1 year ago
Yes, file it under "Stuff You Already Know," but with a footnote: "That Most of Us Need to be Told Anyway." I've been using the system for about 6 months now and am genuinely surprised that the promised improvements in efficiency and the freedom to think clearly about big-picture issues are real. I originally borrowed this book from a colleague who had recommended it, but decided to splash out on my own copy once I became a devotee.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you don't have time for one more thing in your life, read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. While that advice may seem counterproductive, and a little crazy, (where will you find time to read it?) this book will assuredly give you some realistic advice about getting all those projects completed while staying sane. This first thing that's apparent about this book is the author's enthusiasm. He presents workable solutions with this contagious 'can-do' attitude. He uses a basic premise that everything we do¿whether it's an assignment or work-related task¿has a specific place and time. Once that's understood, it's easier to put those activities into the right slot in our lives. This provides a sense of freedom even though deadlines are mounting. Time is no longer the enemy it's merely the container. By having all these tasks in their proper places, it's almost like opening a filing cabinet, working on a specific project, then replacing the file and closing the drawer. There is a start and finish time and everything gets done. That terrible overwhelming feeling vanishes. Another interesting aspect the author develops is how to achieve those wonderful moments when we are so in tune with our work, that it's really effortless. His strategies for managing time actually open up the unconscious mind by freeing it of negative stress. In other words, when our work is properly scheduled, we are cut loose of time constraints and are able to grab hold of maximum creativity and productivity. Even though there are still deadlines to meet, we would have already dealt with them before starting the project. Time is put in its proper place as well. While author David Allen's advice is really on the mark, at times his system gets a little complicated. He coins some fancy terms and sub-terms that make these principles seem complex. But the gist of his ideas is presented on a one-page flowchart that makes the price of this book worthwhile. This single page is a terrific review of the key concepts. Although some of his ideas may seem like good old- fashioned common sense, the author takes these thoughts and puts them within a system that operates in the contemporary workplace. Readers should be prepared to actually try out these ideas and not just read the book and put it on a shelf. Have a notebook handy to start organizing your thoughts and begin prioritizing your actions based on the advice presented. One of the best pieces of advice, and one that can be immediately put into action, is the Two-Minute Rule. This states that if you need to do something and you can do it in two minutes or less, do it now, and therefore free up your mind and time. Ultimately, by completing these smaller, quicker tasks, you will gain an enormous amount of time and freedom of thought for those larger assignments. It works! These pages have the power to unlock you from the chains of time that limit your actions and thinking. When you are finished reading this book, you will have learned some genuine principles that can be put into your life right now. The investment of time you put into reading this book will increase your productivity level and decrease your stress.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was optimistic about the title, so the marketing works. I suppose I was looking for a magic bullet. Since I was already doing what is in the book, I found no new answers there. I may be slanted in my view, but the book seems to assume its target audience are people who are not already performing the steps are outlined in the text. Whereas, I would expect people who find this book by title are already trying various methods and not succeeding, and are the people who look for book that may provide new direction. In my view, the book shoots down traditional methods, and then offers the same traditional methods without even repackaging. It just did not work for me. Scan the book before buying, I had not. It may be right for others, but had little to offer me.
Zadig13 More than 1 year ago
Excellent system & tools. Yes the concepts are simple, yes you probably could have thought of each of them on your own. But you didn't and neither did I because we are too busy. This simple approach has been very helpful in managing workload and sanity. The challenge is the discipline to keep up with the system. If you are struggling to keep up with tasks, projects, emails, personal goals etc. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GTD, with a few small personal modifications changed thee way I live, plain and simple. I work, play, and live right out of my system now and nothing falls through the cracks. The lessons on how to deal with tasks, writing everything down, and reviewing and following up regularly are what propelled me from Systems Administrator to Technical Manager at my company.
Brien_Convery More than 1 year ago
The IBM Competitive Edge Book Club, open to all Sales, Marketing, and Communication professionals at IBM, voted and selected "Getting Things Done" as the Q4 2011 book selection. Overall feedback from the members was very good. In the feedback from the members, we ask them the question - "What will you do differently in your job since your study of this book?" Some of the replies directly from the members included: - "It has given me renewed enthusiasm to re-establish my use of GTD concepts." - "Apply and revisit GTD best practices consistently." - "Evaluating my time management techniquest to be more effective in 2012!" - "Better organize my in-box and track my activities/goals via the electronic calendar." - "Remind myself of what is the outcome of each action." I would like to personally thank David for being apart of the IBM Competitive Edge Book Club experience and for "Getting Us Organized" for 2012! Best Regards, Brien Convery IBM Business Operations Leader and Competitive Edge Book Club Leader
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have studied various organizational and time management methods for 20 years. I have found nothing that compares to the liberty and effectiveness of this method. I've been using this method for over 1-1/2 years now. I also highly recommend David Allen's book, Ready For Anything. It has many tips, thought-provoking ideas, and methods to reduce stress and accomplish more with your work time as well as your own time. I highly recommend both books and their audios. I use the audio CDs when I am not able to take the time to read, but have the time to listen. I have made their audio CDs into audio MP3s, and I have put them on my iPod for use whenever and wherever. I find that an occasional review of these tips and methods helps put me back on track when I have let some portion of the method slip. When I started using these methods, I found that I first had to implement a portion of his method, and when I had that working, then I added in another portion. If you do not review and upkeep the steps he suggests, you will not see the same amount of good results as you do when you use his methods. David Allen's website offers free tips and gives a location to sign up for free emails with productivity tips. I have recommended and have purchased these books for others, as well as myself.
Sahaj More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, and I am more organized and productive for having read it! David Allen writes in a very easy to follow and personable style, and turns what could have been a very dry subject into an engaging discourse on improving productivity in all areas of your life. Although his book is geared to those in business, he makes it very accessible for those of us in other fields, and gives many examples of how to integrate this system into our personal lives,too. I loved the 5 Stages of Mastering Workflow, and also his explanation of why "to do" lists are just not working for so many of us. If you need a better system for managing your business and your life, this book can help you get there!
invest_in_movies More than 1 year ago
I am involved in so many activities and my desk was an utter mess. But this book really helped me get a grip on my clutter and set up a system that really works. The book is an easy read and the author has a really friendly tone. Would I recommend this to my friends? Yes! I already have.
EJones More than 1 year ago
David Allen's "GTD" (Getting Things Done) system is excellent. It's a process that you go through over a period of time. You won't be able to implement the whole system "in one sitting" - but this book definitely helps in several ways: - You can implement specific tips (i.e. one of his tips on setting up internet folders is awesome) - You can implement specific practices (i.e. examples of lists, agendas) - You can try to implement the entire system (would recommend doing in phases) Given the amount of info most professionals have to contend with today, this book is an awesome manual of how to stay on top of things - both personnaly and professionally.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book¿s title is a winner. Allen¿s premise is excellent: ¿Our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts organized can we achieve effective results and unleash our creative potential.¿ Allen has spent more than 20 years as a business trainer and coach in the field of productivity. He likens the brain to the random access memory (RAM) of the computer. The more tasks it works on simultaneously, the slower and less productive it becomes. In the book, he describes the productivity system that he has developed to remove brain clutter. His system does not put much emphasis on prioritizing. Nor does it give much weight to a lack of time being a restraining factor. Instead, he focuses on the issues of ¿lack of clarity and definition.¿ Allen concentrates on mastering the flow of work so that your brain will not become cluttered with non-essential subjects. By doing so, he wants his readers to escape lower level thinking and concentrate on a higher level of thinking. Allen states that ¿physical organization must be better than mental organization for that to happen.¿ One caveat of that line of thinking is to have multiple lists or folders or online software whereby you can list categories of tasks ¿according to locations and functions.¿ The thrust of his presentation is found in Chapter 8, ¿Processing: Getting ¿In¿ to Empty.¿ His method involves putting all tasks in an ¿In¿ basket, and then examining each one individually. If the task can be accomplished within two minutes, it is to be done immediately. If not, it should flow into one of three categories which are self-explanatory: 1) Trash 2) Incubate 3)Reference. Allen¿s definition of a project, the ultimate productivity goal, is rather novel---an ¿outcome requiring more than one step.¿ Also, his use of the calendar for an entry is rather interesting. His viewpoint of a calendar entry is that it should be done that day or not all. It is not to be moved under any circumstances. The book is liberally sprinkled with quotations on productivity to leaven his rather boring, flat, and meandering presentations in each chapter. The book concentrates on paper flow, and does not address practical issues, such as handling phone calls, appointments, work overload, distractions, and other productivity issues.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book helped me to overcome email overload. I was overwhelmed with thousands of emails in my inbox and didn't know how I could get a handle on the problem until I read this book. Now all my communications are in the right categories and I am continually up to date. This book is a practical system for day to day efficiency. I definitely recommend Dr Rosalene Glickman's book, Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self in conjunction with this book. Optimal Thinking optimized my thought process and taught me how to resolve thoughts and feelings that reduce my effectiveness. Dr Glickman recommended David Allen's system in an Optimal Thinking seminar I attended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is for all those who are overwhelmed with too many things to do, too little time to do them, and a general sense of unease that something important is being missed. Everyone has experienced times when everything seemed effortless, and progress limitless. David Allen has captured ways for you to achieve that wonderful state of mind and consciousness more often. His key concept is that every task, promise, or assignment has a place and a time. With everything in its proper place and time, you feel in control and replace the time spent on vague worrying with effective, timely action. As a result, the accomplishments grow while the pressure to accomplish decreases. As a result, the book contains many insights into 'how to have more energy, be more relaxed, and get a lot more accomplished with much less effort.' The key psychological insight of this book is that rapid progress occurs when you take large, unformed tasks, and break them down and organize them into smaller, sequential steps for exactly what to do and when. The book provides lots of guidance and examples for how to do this. The book is organized into three sections. The first gives you an overview of the whole process for how to get more done in a relaxed way. The second spells out the details of how to implement that process, in a way that a personal coach might use. The third provides subtle insights that help you appreciate the benefits that follow from using the process. Like all good coaches, Mr. Allen understands that appreciating a subject from several perspectives and getting lots of practice with it are critical steps in learning. The process advocated by this book is described with lots of systems flow charts that will appeal to all of the engineers and left-brained people. The right-brained people will find lots of discussions about emotions, feelings, and stress. So both types of thinkers should do well with this material. The essence of the process is that you write down a note about everything when you take on a new responsibility, make a new commitment, or have a useful thought. All of this ends up in some kind of 'in' box. You then go through your 'in' box and decide what needs to be done next for each item. For simple issues, this includes identifying the action you should take first and when to take it. For tougher issues, you schedule an appropriate time to work the problem in more detail. You organize the results of this thinking, and review your options for what you should be doing weekly. Then you take what you choose to do, and act. Think of this process as the following five steps: (1) collect (2) process (3) organize (4) decide (5) act. For the tougher problems, you start with identifying your purpose and principles so you know why you care how it all turns out. Then you imagine the potential good outcomes that you would like. Following that, you brainstorm with others the best way to get those outcomes. Then you organize the best pathway. Finally, you identify the first actions you need to take. Then you act, as in step 5 above. From this outline, I hope that you can see that this is not rocket science. It is simple common sense,
Guest More than 1 year ago
Work: Anything that exists in your world that you look at and 'wish' was different from current reality. In that case, most of what we see around us could be considered work; in today's world, it seems to be work that necessitates knowledge. How much we know, and how we apply that information is the cutting edge between high productivity and burn-out. Real advice for real ¿knowledge workers.¿ Do you feel overwhelmed by the ¿problem¿ of infinite opportunity? How good could that next project be? How prepared for that meeting could your direct report be? When do you stop working on one project in light of the value-add that would come in beginning another? For those of you with ¿too much to do, and not enough time to do it in,¿ productivity guru (as Fast Company magazine has labeled him) David Allen provides a no-nonsense, fire-tested system that will make sense of your open loops. The Getting Things Done methodology offers a practical yet elegant solution to staying on top of your work, whether it¿s a personal project like landscaping your yard, to that new B2B site that you¿re launching next week. David Allen's approach to managing yourself and your world may well be the best advice you'll ever receive. Included are tips and tricks that lead the readers toward learning, practicing and developing techniques for improving personal productivity and individual satisfaction. The behavior sets you practice will prove useful, and add a ¿sustainable¿ element to your work/life style. Buy this book, read it, and watch your productivity AND energy go up!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When this book was written in 2001 the workplace was very different. While the basics of his method still hold true, the tools he recommends are nearly stone-age. I found myself rejecting item after item in favor of tools and apps available today. Plan on thinking very hard about substituting, for example, Evernote for the separate pieces of paper that the author is so fond of, scanners for most of the paper files and your smartphones voice recorder for most of the notetaking. His overall process, however, is stellar and actually works better with up to date tools than it ever could have using paper and folders. Highly recommended for content, but the amount of work required to make the revisions for today's workplace myself kept me from giving it 5 stars.
gadfly1974 More than 1 year ago
Getting Things Done is a fantastic read. I highly recommend it! The most important lesson I took from this book is that everything belongs on a list. Once you get tasks out of your head and onto paper you can stop worrying about them and start doing them. The author calls this clearing your mental RAM and having a mind like water. Another important skill is creating a single In basket for all tasks. Sure, some things are more important than others. But how can you achieve world peace when you haven’t done the grocery shopping or changed the oil in your car? Finally, it’s important to do what you can when you’re surrounded by the materials you need. It doesn’t do you any good to remember you need tuna packed in water when you’re at the car wash. And if you’re experiencing low energy, do something simple like replying to a couple of quick emails. This book has revolutionized my workflow and brought me a level of peace I didn’t know was possible when balancing so many different roles. I give GTD my highest recommendation!
Lucas Tiberti More than 1 year ago
It's no joke, there are no page numbers in the index. Maybe some one forgot to put it on their to do list.
CJAHein More than 1 year ago
With no page numbers AND no interactivity?
Egle Dumadag More than 1 year ago
What a great book! So greatful to the author to have written it is just what I needed to get organized and focused. Highly recommend it. And it seems that the spacing issue that the other reviewer mentioned had been fixed, it looks good on my end.