This is actually a small rewrite of a blog post I did a few years ago, but as I didn't move this post to my new setup before now, and people still ask me questions about the subject, I wanted to refurbish, and republish the post.

I've been on the GTD (Getting Things Done) wagon for a couple of years, and as part of it, a lot of people ask the obvious question: What is it, and what's the point ?

Let's start at the beginning: Getting Things Done is a way of improving productivity. It's a way of organizing your life, it's a way of optimizing your day-to-day life and it's a way to combat stress. This might sound like just yet another scheme to steal money, but it's not really. The only thing you have to invest in, is the book, and from there on, the implementation of GTD in you life depends on what you make of it. Some people implement it using pen and paper, some have advanced software solutions for handling GTD, but the approach is entirely up to you.

GTD has had quite a lot of success during the last couple of years, and is in general very popular among especially developers, as it has a very structured approach to personal/project-management, and life in general.

The concepts of GTD

The primary concept of GTD, handles the way we perceive tasks. Usually, a lot of people have things written down on post-its, taking the tasks one by one in no particular order. Usually this means a lot of clutter, or "stuff" as it's called in GTD.

GTD puts focus on a couple of things to remove stuff, both from our desks and our consciousness, by splitting every project into atomic "bits" representing every single, physical action required for the project to be completed.

The Inbox

The inbox is the source of organizing. Everything goes inhere, just like a mail inbox. The inbox is where you write everything down, ideas, notes, todos, projects etc. The inbox is sorted regularly, taking care of smaller tasks right away, while larger projects are split into single, physical actions described later in this post.

An important note about the inbox, is that a large part of GTD is having the discipline to clean this up, or review it. This is for a lot of people handled on a daily basis, and a more advanced weekly or monthly basis. This is also the largest weak spot of GTD, as it requires a steady discipline to maintain the order of organizing everything regularly, and avoid having a large inbox.

Actions

Actions are the atomic bits and pieces of GTD. Actions define every physical action you have to take to complete the project at hand. Actions make up projects, and inorder to finish a project, one must complete every action within. This might look like this:

  • Call Susan regarding budget for next year
  • Implement integration service for Client X
  • E-mail John from IT about server specs. for new production environment

Contexts

Contexts are defined by the surroundings you are currently in. This is a way of organizing actions that can only be fixed while being "at the computer", "at the office" or "on the phone". Context are used to group all actions, based on location or the tools at hand, and provides you with a simple list of "Things you're able to do right now". This means a context might hold 10 actions for 4 different projects, meaning you'll be able to focus on what's actually achievable from your current location, with the current tools at hand.

More reading

As this is only a very brief introduction into the world of GTD, I would recommend reading more about GTD, and some general concepts of increasing productivity without adding stress. Here's a few of my favourite books and sites about GTD.

David Allen - Getting Things Done 43 Folders What is GTD ? OmniFocus - The app I use for my GTD flow