Methodology of “Getting Things Done”

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We have with us David Allen – father of GTD “Getting Things Done” and Productivity Expert. He has thirty years experience in consulting, training, and coaching in U.S. and global organizations; author of three books – Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity (2001); Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life (2003); and Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life (2008). He is sharing his thoughts on how to get things done and art of stress free productivity.

Q- You are said to have done 35 types of professions by the time you were 35 years old. What was the driving force behind such a variation?

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do “when I grew up,” for many years. I was interested in liberal arts, studied history in college; then I went on a personal exploration journey into many different avenues of self-development, such as martial arts and a variety of spiritual and self-help endeavors. But, to pay the rent, I needed jobs; and I wound up helping friends with their business ventures. That finally turned into my own consulting, coaching, and training practice, which I have now been doing for the last 36 years.

Q-Your methodology – “Getting Things Done” has positively influenced people and organizations, what is the underlying principle of this methodology?

There are several, but the main ones are:

  • Your head is for having ideas, not for holding them. In other words, build and maintain an “external brain” to hold all your significant reminders of commitments and creative thinking. You need mental and emotional space to be present in the moment, to be optimally creative, strategic, innovative, and ready for change and surprise.
  • Whatever has your attention needs specific thinking and decision-making in order to put it onto “cruise control” and to be appropriately engaged with it.
  • You need a trusted system to maintain a current inventory of your commitments and intentions, reflected upon regularly.

Your head is for having ideas, not for holding them. In other words, build and maintain an “external brain” to hold all your significant reminders of commitments and creative thinking. You need mental and emotional space to be present in the moment, to be optimally creative, strategic, innovative, and ready for change and surprise.

Q-What is the addition in the revised edition of 2015? How have you connected this methodology to the digital age?

The new edition addresses a much broader audience, which has grown because of need for so many more people to manage themselves in a world that can easily get crazy and out of hand, more than ever. The GTD methodology hasn’t changed (nor will it, no matter what changes go on in the world), but being able to navigate the digital world effectively creates a lot more demand for the GTD best practices. The new edition also has some subtle changes in the vocabulary and descriptions of the components, as I have understood and experienced more of the subtleties of the GTD applications, over the years. In addition I have added new research from the field of cognition that validates the GTD methods, to optimize our cognitive functions.

Q-You have defined 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life, what would be the top 7 principles for today’s fiercely competitive and volatile world?

I can’t answer that. Each one could potentially be the most important, given the specifics of a person and/or a situation. Generally, it’s already answered in #2 above.

Q-According to you, what are the three most common habits or traits which prevent people from being productive?

  • Keeping stuff in their heads instead of a trusted system
  • Avoiding making desired-outcome and next-action decisions about things that have their attention
  • Not spending quality reflection time, maintaining and updating the inventory of commitments and interests

Q-Are you currently working on any research or methodology which is expected to be launched soon? Please give us some insight.

Two things are in the works:

  1. The “GTD for Teens” book, which will be published next year. It is written primarily for caring adults as a manual to give kids to have a way to navigate the grown-up world they’re graduating into, and staying focused amidst all the potential distractions they now have to endure.
  2. Finalizing the last module of our 3-tiered global GTD training curriculum. It’s “Focus and Direction” which addresses the bigger-picture stuff of our lives, and integrating all that into our day-to-day activities. It’s also expanding on the power of imagery, and the need for a lifelong, flexible, systematic process which optimizes anyone’s ability to integrate, recalibrate, and refocus, given surprises and changes coming toward us in increasing speed.
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