About the book

David Allen shares the breakthrough methods for stress-free performance that he has introduced to tens of thousands of people across the country. Allen’s premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organised can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.  Goodreads

Year published:  2001

Buy book:  Amazon


Quotes from the book


Getting Things Done (David Allen)

1.  First, collect everything  

  • If it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your head, or what I call a collection basket, that you know you’ll come back to regularly and sort through. 
  • Get it all out of your head.
  • The gathering process should cover one’s physical space, such as desk drawers. It also includes a “mind sweep” to uncover anything that may be residing in one’s mental space.
  • Collect all the things that need to be done into your collection baskets. Have as few collection buckets as possible. Empty (process) them regularly. Complete all the gathering before the “processing” and “organizing” begins.

2.  Process (get “in” to empty)  

  • Processing doesn’t mean getting all actions completed; it means deciding what to do with each of the items in the “in” box. When this phase is complete, you will have trashed unneeded items, completed any less-than- two- minute actions, delegated, put reminders in your organizer of actions you must complete, and identified any projects.
  • Process the top item first. Process one item at a time. This focus forces the attention and decision- making needed to get through everything. Never put anything back into “in.”
  • The first time you pick something up from your in-basket, decide what to do about it and where it goes. Never put it back in “in.” 
  • Process does not mean “spend time on.”
  • The in-basket is a processing basket, not a storage bin. 
  • As each item is reviewed, the key question is, “What’s the next action?” If none, the item is trashed, incubated to a “Someday/Maybe” list or put in reference material. If there is an action, make it specific. Then do it (if it takes less than two minutes), delegate it (and add it to the “Waiting For” list) or defer it.

3.  Crucial questions to ask: What is the intended outcome? What is the next action?   

  • Half of the secret to achieving clarity in any situation is asking, “What are we trying to do here?” The other half, and at least as critical, is, “What’s the next action?” 
  • Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined. 
  • Until you know what the next physical action is, there’s still more thinking required before anything can happen. 
  • By asking myself, “What’s the next action on this?” I have generated more creative thinking, tough decision- making, critical conversations, innovative ideas, clarity, and motivation than by using any other specific technique I’m aware of. 
  • You actually can’t have one without the other. Actions are determined and filtered by desired outcomes, and outcomes are achieved by actions. 
  • Without a next action, there remains a potentially infinite gap between current reality and what you need to do. 
  • Understanding is knowing what to do; wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is actually doing it. Tristan Gylberd
  • Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Skill is knowing how to do it. Virtue is doing it. Thomas Jefferson

4.  Organise  

  • Once you have decided on all the actions you need to take, you must keep reminders of them organised in a system you review regularly.
  • Once processing is complete, one needs a way to organize the output. You’ll have a “Projects” list, calendared actions, “Next Actions” lists, a “Waiting For” list, reference material, and a “Someday/Maybe” list. These categories should be kept distinct from each other.
  • “Next Actions” should be organized by context, such as “Calls”, “Errands”, “At Home”, “Read” and “Agendas” (for people)
  • For ideas that are not ready for action, one can keep them on a Someday/Maybe list.
  • The Two-Minute Rule: If something will take less than two minutes, don’t put it on a list. Get it out of the way immediately.  

5.  Review  

  • Do a review of calendar and “next actions” as often as you need to to get them off your mind. 
  • A few seconds a day is usually all you need for review, as long as you’re looking at the right things at the right time.
  • The key to sustaining the system is the Weekly Review. This process includes whatever is needed to empty one’s head. Block out a couple of hours at the same time each week.
  • Most people feel best about their work the week before their vacation, but it’s not because of the vacation itself. What do you do the last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify, and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. I just suggest that you do this weekly instead of yearly. 
  • A weekly review clears your psychic decks so you can go into the weekend ready for refreshment and recreation. 

6.  Use different horizons to help prioritise what’s important  

  • Levels from top to bottom are your Pupose / Principles (Why am I here?), Vision (What would success look, sound and feel like?), Goals (What do I want to achieve?), Areas of Focus (What do I need to maintain?), Projects and Actions.
  • You’re never lacking in opportunities to clarify your priorities at any level. Pay attention to which horizon is calling you. 
  • Areas of Focus could include your different work responsibilities as well as your personal finances, health, family, self-development, fun, spiritual and so on.
  • Trying to manage from the top down when the bottom is out of control may sometimes be the least effective approach. A primary reason for working from the bottom up is that it clears the psychic decks to begin with, allowing your creative attention to focus on more meaningful and elusive visions. 

Any productivity system is useless without follow through and integrity  

  • Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started. 
  • The sense of anxiety and guilt doesn’t come from having too much to do; it’s the automatic result of breaking agreements with yourself. 
  • Give yourself frequent rewards for achievement. Self-bribery is most powerful when the bribe expires. Stever Robbins
  • Out of the strain of the doing into the peace of the done. Julia Louis Woodruff
  • Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. William James

Create checklists  

  • Be open to creating any kind of checklist as the urge strikes you. They can be highly useful to know what you don’t need to be concerned about. 
  • Checklist ideas: travel, weekly review, key life roles and responsibilities, job areas of responsibility, personal value statements


  • Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.