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Getting Things Done is a time management method, described in a book of the same title by productivity consultant David Allen. It is often referred to as GTD. The GTD method rests on the idea of moving planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking them into actionable work items.
This allows one to focus attention on taking action on tasks, instead of recalling them. First published in 2001, a revised edition of the book was released in 2015 to reflect the changes in information technology during the preceding decade and incorporate recent scientific research supporting the system’s claims regarding how the mind functions. Allen first demonstrates stress reduction from the method with the following exercise, centered on something that has entered your life that has an unclear outcome or where the next action is not defined. Allen calls these sources of stress “open loops,” “incompletes,” or “stuff.
Pick an “incomplete”: What most annoys, distracts, or interests you? Write down a description of the successful outcome in one sentence. What is your definition of “done”? Notice how you feel after the exercise compared to before it.
He claims stress can be reduced and productivity increased by putting reminders about everything you are not working on into a trusted system external to your mind. In this way, you can work on the task at hand without distraction from the “incompletes. As “stuff” enters your life, it is captured in these tools and processed with the following workflow.
The GTD workflow consists of five stages: capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. Don’t use your inbox as a “to do” list.
Don’t put clarified items back into the inbox. Emptying your inbox doesn’t mean finishing everything. It just means applying the “capture, clarify, organize” steps to all your “stuff.