I’m an unabashed fan of David Allen and his Getting Things Done (GTD) movement, which began with the launch of his book over twenty years ago.

For the record, I am in NO WAY affiliated with them and don’t get any compensation from them of any kind. I love the book and methodology because it works.

Their website (gettingthingsdone.com) states, “Getting Things Done is a personal productivity methodology that redefines how you approach your life and work.”

As a conservative estimate, I’ve read the book over 12 times.  

And I love it so much that I constantly refer clients and students to it through training and coaching.

There are two significant parts to the GTD, but most people focus (at their loss) only on the first part: The Fundamentals.

There are five steps to start setting up GTD in your personal and professional life.


David and his team advise you to immediately capture “any and everything” in a trusted collection tool. By trusted, they mean something that you can and will use daily. This could be a notebook, your phone’s reminder application, Post-its, or more.

I have two trusted systems: my OmniFocus application (available only on Mac and iOS) and my Bullet Journal (which I will review later). Anything I need to do goes immediately into my OmniFocus inbox or my Bullet Journal. And I do mean IMMEDIATELY often I have to excuse myself momentarily from a conversation to stop and capture an item.


Determine if the item you captured is actionable. If so, and if it takes two minutes or less to do, David advises you to do it immediately. If there is no immediacy to the item, you should determine if it’s “trash, reference, or something to put on hold.”

The 3 D’s to this step are known as “Delegate, Defer, Delete.”  

Delegate: Give/Assign to the person responsible for completing the item.  

Defer: Set a reminder to review the item and process it in the future.

Delete – believe it or not, not everything you capture will be genius. I often look back at things I’ve captured and find they are no longer relevant to me.


Once you’ve successfully captured what has your attention and clarified its importance, now is the time to put all these items where they belong. As a project manager, I find this step hugely important. But most people randomly assign the items they’ve captured into projects and work on them when possible.  

A trusted organizational system should be easy to use, access, and effective. 

I diligently use tags in my digital systems. I have tags for all the people I work with and all family members. I have tags for programs, tech devices, emails, future ideas, contact relationships, meeting agendas, and more.


A massive element within the GTD methodology is the built-in reminder to look back through your system. GTD reminds you to use this time to update progress within projects, edit items and deliverables, and (most importantly) “regain control and focus.”


Most people love GTD because it allows them to focus on the right things at the right time and with the right energy.

I’ve deliberately incorporated this step into my work week and intentionally spend 3 hours each Friday free of meetings and solely dedicated to reviewing all my tasks and projects (AND SYSTEMS).

Don’t forget information flows at us through dozens of communication pathways daily.  

I get messages on LinkedIn, Emails, text messages, Signal messages, calendar invites, MS Teams, Notion, Basecamp, and more DAILY.

However, I mentioned two aspects of GTD that I love. Most people gloss over the second, which can damage their sanity.

I’m speaking of The Horizon Levels David Allen brings into the book.  


These are the things you need to get done TODAY. Urgent items that you must do.


GTD defines a project as “a series of next actions that produce something in the real world.”  


Things we do out of COMMITMENTS we make.


Your ideas for where you want to be.

LEVEL 5: Purpose and Core Value.

These are your DREAMS and BIG PICTURE items (think: retirement, getting out of debt, owning a business, etc).

These 5 Horizon Levels are simple and straightforward, yet people always mess them up.

Here are some examples:

If you are an executive in an organization and spend all your time working on small items, you are living in Horizon Level 1 out of comfort. I’d challenge you to be at Horizon Level 3, but comfort and complacency keep you in Horizon Level 1.  

If you are in charge of setting the VISION for the organization (LEVEL 4) and spend all your time on Levels 1 and 2, do you think you are earning your paycheck?

GTD is a fantastic tool for keeping you on track and allowing you to work in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environments.

If you find yourself working on the wrong thing at the wrong time, I recommend you check it out.