The Essentials of GTD

Note: GTDĀ® refers to the book or approach called Getting Things Done developed by David Allen.


In an interesting post at Matthew Cornell’s blog, he makes the point that GTD is difficult to reduce to a lighter version, because it is packed so tightly. In other words, the system cannot be made lighter than it is, because of the bases it is designed to cover. I shared a comment that I thought that the focus needed to shift from trying to adopt a single person’s system, to instead empowering and teaching users to create their own systems. In this context, GTD is useful as a guide, but not as a new dogma.He responded, pointing me to an interesting post that he wrote on the topic of the essential habits of GTD. Here are the habits as outlined by Matt.

For each one, read “The habit of ____”:

    • 100%_CAPTURE
    • APPROPRIATE_PLACEMENT
    • CONTROLLED_COLLECTION
    • DECOMPOSITION
    • EFFECTIVE_PROCESSING
    • FRONT_END_DECISIONS
    • INVENTORY_BASED_CHOICE
    • KEEPING_THINGS_CLEAR
    • NEXT_ACTIONS
    • OUTCOME_FOCUS
    • REGULAR_REVIEW
    • SITUATIONAL_AWARENESS

These are quite interesting, although I wasn’t satisfied that they all meet the criteria of being habits. Many of these are very hard to learn and almost impossible to observe.

Which ones?

Well, I do think that 100% Capture, Controlled_Collection, Next_actions and Regular_Review are possibly habits. The others seem to be non-observable opinions, results or judgments that are left up to the user to decide, They don’t seem to form the basis of habits.

In other words, a user could easily fool themselves to think that they are already doing most of these action, making it difficult to turn them into habits.

However, I think that Matt is on the right track in trying to distill GTD into its essential components.