Getting Things Done

Do you have to-do lists that seem like they are a mile long? Do you have sticky notes or papers scattered everywhere you look? Or maybe your email inbox is piled high and you’re not sure what’s lurking in there? You need a stress-free solution!

“Getting Things Done” is a book written by David Allen (on our First United recommended reading list this year). In this book, David Allen introduces a system of “Getting Things Done” that will change how you engage with work and life.

The “CCORE” concept of this system, listed below, can be used to improve your productivity at work, at home, as an individual, as a team, etc.


When you think of something you need to do, make a commitment, or have an idea that you want to remember, capture it! Don’t force your brain to hold on to too much information or it’s inevitable that something will be forgotten. David Allen suggests that the fewer places you have to capture your ideas, the better. Don’t rely on sticky notes all over your desk, your house, your car, etc. Choose the fewest possible places or methods which work best for you. For some people it’s a notebook, for others it could be sending yourself an email or using the notes app in your phone, etc. Just don’t capture in too many places or you’re back to being overwhelmed.


After you have captured your thoughts, make sure you clarify the meaning of each item you wrote down. This means you decide what the very next physical, visible action is to move this item to completion. For instance, instead of writing “doctor” on your list, say something like, “Call Dr. Green on Wednesday to schedule yearly physical (918) 555-1212” Being specific will keep you from spending too much time trying to remember what you meant by your note later on.


Once you have captured your ideas and clarified what they mean, organize your list into categories. This way, you won’t waste time on things you can’t take care of in that moment. The “Getting Things Done” system suggests these categories as a starting point:
  • @Work Computer (things that can only be done while sitting at your work computer)
  • @Home (things that only need your focus when you are at home)
  • Errands 
  • Calls
  • Anywhere (things you can do from anywhere)

There are also other lists like a “Mushy Brain/No Energy” list, a “someday/maybe” list, a “read and review” list, etc. These will help store the other items that don’t quit fit in your “to-do” categories.

Reflect & Engage

After you have captured, clarified, and organized your lists, take a moment to pause and reflect. This is also a good time to renegotiate items that can be delegated or items that aren’t pressing. During your reflection, go through the past, present, and future week to make sure nothing was missed. Now, you are ready to engage.

Engaging means it’s time to decide what to do next! The GTD system suggests you look at next actions based on context (location, resources, etc.), time available, energy level, and priority.

Are you sitting at your work computer? Start on those items first! Do you only have 10 minutes to spare before your next meeting? Go ahead and call to setup that doctor’s appointment since you are limited on time. Once you have determined your next steps, you are ready to work your way down the list.

If you are ready to stress less, take control, make progress, and get results, I encourage you to check out “Getting Things Done.” Like David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

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