What is GTD?

GTD is an abbreviation for “Getting Things Done”, a powerful and popular personal and professional productivity system made popular by the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.

The goal of GTD is to help practitioners transform what can be an overwhelming amount of information, inputs and commitments into a system that is, not only organized and manageable, but that eventually leads to a state of control and focus that inspires creativity and larger thinking.  It has earned a reputation as the “gold standard” in personal productivity.  And, over time, a subculture of GTD practitioners has emerged.  People who practice GTD tend to be pretty passionate about the lifestyle and are usually eager to share information about it.

What’s Different About GTD?
As opposed to other productivity systems that might have you start by creating mission statements and working “down” to the definition of projects and tasks, GTD starts from the day-to-day and works “up” to the higher horizons.  As psychologist, Abraham Maslow, theorized, until a person’s basic survival needs have been met, it’s not really effective to attempt to do anything else. It’s hard to think about your purpose in life when you’re staring at 2,000+ emails in your Inbox.

GTD and Technology
How does technology affect GTD? GTD is a system that has emerged over the last 30 years and is a methodology that continues to be technology-agnostic. And while technology has provided new TOOLS for GTD practitioners to USE, it has not changed the core principles of GTD at all. But, technology HAS led to an incredible increase in volume of new inputs into people’s systems – making a systematic approach like GTD all the more necessary.

What GTD is Not

For all the wonderful things the Getting Things Done (GTD) system IS, there are several things that it is NOT:

“Professional” Project Management
GTD is NOT a project management program in the professional sense of the term (as in PMP, critical path, Gantt charts, etc.) Although, many professional project managers do find value in implementing GTD in addition to professional project management tools.

Collaboration
GTD is NOT a collaborative / team tool. It is meant to be a highly customizable system tailored to INDIVIDUAL preferences. It is meant for an individual to be able to incorporate their professional AND personal commitments and, as such, is not something that should be shared among groups. It does not depend on buy-in from ANYBODY else in order for your to be successful with it. However, when more than one person in an organization adopts the methodology simultaneously, the organization can enjoy overall benefits that are greater than the sum of its parts.

Time Travel
GTD is NOT a time machine. While you may find yourself doing MORE because you are doing things in a more efficient way, GTD cannot guarantee that you will be able to do EVERYTHING that you want to do. If you are overcommitted, then you are overcommitted. GTD won’t change that. However, having a full inventory of all of your commitments will give you the clarity that you need to make choices about items and renegotiate agreements when needed. When new inputs come in, you will be able to determine with a great amount of confidence whether or not you have the bandwidth to take on new commitments. It makes saying “No” or “Not right now” much easier.

Decision-Making
GTD will not tell you exactly what you need to do every minute of every day. Most people have 150+ next actions available to them at any given time. While GTD will not tell you EXACTLY which of these items you should be doing next, GTD will provide YOU with a decision-making framework that will help you make TRUSTED CHOICES about which of the items available to you would be the best use of your time – given your context, resources, time and energy available.


GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of David Allen & Co.

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