Getting Things Done | Employing Schedule For High Achievement in A Limited Time

by Shamsul
crux of David Allen’s book
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Getting Things Done | Employing Schedule For High Achievement in A Limited Time

Getting Things Done 

What It’s All About 

Presented here is the crux of David Allen’s book ‘Getting Things Done.’ The book explains in detail how an individual, through practicing specific strategies, can manage to accomplish a plethora of tasks in a given amount of time in a relaxed, tension-free manner. It also explains how the energy can be obtained to achieve a seemingly impossible work routine through employing a work schedule that allows top accomplishments in a limited time, with much less effort than earlier. 

I have divided the book into four major sections, which is a lot of work to do in a short time, but then I have been reading the book, and so in a stress-free manner, I extracted the teachings under four main sections. The first explains how an individual can manage the ever-increasing workflow; the second discusses how to get control over various factors that affect implementing a new time management system. The third section explains how to start practicing the stress-free productivity system, while lastly, the tactics of how the technique can be mastered are discussed.  


Managing Workflow | Getting Things Done


Managing Workflow is the very first step towards introducing a new system in life that allows us to achieve more in a given period while reducing significant stress levels that are presently a part of our daily lives. To do so, the first step would be to analyze and understand the problem at hand. 

What induces stress regularly in our lives is the fact that new demands and pressures arise from every walk of life, and since days are still limited to 24 hours a day, managing all of it is a daunting task. Our lives and work are constantly changing. Office work has no boundaries; personal relationships expect much more; personal life wishes and objectives change regularly; etc., the available options and opportunities are overwhelming. 

Another fact is that applying traditional methods or systems to manage all these things constantly proves to be insufficient in accommodating the complexity, speed, and control required for efforts to bear fruitful results. And if matters were not still worse, the regular distractions make matters even worse.


Remember, most of the distractions that keep us away from achieving our goals effectively are created by us for ourselves. One major reason why we fail to achieve more with less effort is the stress we take upon ourselves, which limits rather than diminishes our ability to focus on the problem at hand. To tackle these situations and to manage situations in life or at work, Allen proposes that every individual requires his or her mind to be in a water-like state.

It is like throwing a pebble in a pond; it creates ripples in it based on the mass and force of the object thrown in before returning to its calm state. Similarly, it is important to react accordingly to any problem at hand and leave it off your mind once its proportionate importance is given to it. 

The key is to overwhelm but not get overwhelmed.

Be forced to change, but avoid getting frustrated in the process.

As Allen defines, “the ability to generate power is directly proportionate to your ability to relax.”


Managing Workflow | Getting Things Done


After analyzing the problem and knowing what to do about it, the next step towards stress-free productivity is to stick to your defined principles, which are your commitments to yourself. 

One major reason people face stress is not being able to adhere to their obligations and not managing them properly. By controlling the open loops of your life, you can experience more relaxation, better focus, and enhanced productive energy, allowing you to achieve more than otherwise. 

A prerequisite at this point is to clear your mind from all other thoughts and pressures. Know your commitments and direct all present actions towards their accomplishment. Stay organized towards your plan, keep reminders, and regularly review your actions.


Executing your activities is the last and most crucial act toward managing workflow and reducing stress levels. Train yourself to be more responsive, fast, proactive, and effectively focused on your problems. This will allow you to practice more control over situations and actions with lesser effort. This facilitates decision-making processes and enables you to operate in a standard procedure where every step will get its due focus and time. 

Remember you cannot manage time; five minutes will be five minutes; you cannot transform them into six.

You cannot even manage priorities; you have them.

You can also not manage information overload. Otherwise, libraries would have been walking death sentences.

The only thing you can manage is your actions!


Getting Control | Getting Things Done


The capture feature of control is all about initially assigning whether a task lies under the ‘should,’ ‘need to,’ or ‘ought to’ category, and based on the final result, kick everything not immediately important out of your mind and focus only on what is needed to be done RIGHT NOW! 

Prioritizing tasks is the first step towards filling in loops that delay your efficiency and cause stress. After you prioritize a task or action, it gets easy to clarify which one requires immediate attention and which can be left for later, narrowing down the list of actions in your mind that require immediate attention. 

Remember, without prioritizing, every task remains in your head, causing stress and lowering your capability to focus on the prime tasks that demand instant action. So get all the less important tasks out of your head, and handle only what is needed to be handled immediately.

Use tools such as digital note-taking devices or pads and papers to categorize tasks according to priority so that you can return later to the less immediate tasks, and make sure to regularly attend to all of them so that they do not pile up.  

(Clarify & Organize)

It is practical to know that not every task or action is doable all the time. So once you are done with assigning priority to tasks, it is also essential to consider what a task, either immediate or requiring attention later, is and whether or not it is actionable.

To do this, you must first assess whether a task is doable. In case it is not, immediately discard it or remove it from your to-do list. If it is doable, plan how it will be done and review it again before assessing whether you want to do it immediately. If it is a high priority, Do It; if not, either assign someone else to do it, assign a date to do it, or leave it to get back to whenever you find the time and need.


Getting Control | Getting Things Done


Reflecting indicates doing what you have written down or categorized your tasks into. It is one thing to say you will do something and another to do it. The control system’s reflected part is where you put all your planning into the implementation phase. 

Once you are done with the organization of tasks, it is time to get into action through systematically processing the tasks as per priority, reviewing your activities at least every week, if not possible daily, update your priority settings as per new circumstances if any, and make sure your To-Do List is cleaned off pending tasks regularly, clearing and completing all listed actions. 


The primary aim of devising a management workflow process or system is to develop good choices for managing time most effectively and efficiently. Until now, we have been planning, prioritizing, and getting ourselves ready to follow accordingly. However, one more step to take is choosing the correct method. 


Practicing Stress-Free Productivity | Getting Things Done

Practicing stress-free productivity is about starting with what has been planned. You will require setting up time, space, and tools to carry out work as planned from initial prioritization to implementation. 

(Setting Time)

Set aside some time to review all your tasks, prioritize them, and plan exactly what you will do. It is only possible to follow some steps defined here, but at least attempt to follow as many steps as possible. Dedicate a day or two to implement the process in your life. A weekend or holiday may be a good time, too; ensure minimal disturbance is present and that you are fresh and energetic to do it.

(Setting Space)

Also, it is recommended that you choose a specific physical place for conducting these time management activities, which will be a place from where you control your time and life from the day onwards. This office should be a place you visit daily, either your office or your home, or if you travel a lot, it can also be in the form of a briefcase that is always with you. 

(Getting Tools)

Those committed to making this workflow process work for them will always require specific tools to be available at hand. These will include basic supplies and equipment such as papers, work pads, digital organizers (if needed), a calendar, your PC or mobile device, etc.

(Keeping Things Out Of Mind)

After getting time out of your routine, setting up a workplace, and collecting all essential tools, the only one thing left to do, which is a prerequisite, is to clear your mind out of everything else and just cut yourself out of the rest of the world for the period. Once this is done, you are ready to start implementing the workflow process. 


Achieving Mastery Over Getting Things Done 

The workflow process explained in ‘Getting Things Done’ defines activities or processes that should be practiced lifelong and thus require different levels of mastery as life progresses. It’s like practicing a sport or a game, where you progress as you keep playing or practicing it. It’s all about dealing with the workstream or other life engagements that a person goes through in a lifetime. Not only are these constantly evolving, but a person is also almost always faced with the need to identify and navigate between various interests and commitments. It is always a matter of choice. 

Mastery of workflow management does not mean that some Permanente enlightenment will be achieved or a form of peace will be encountered. It refers to only improving an individual’s capability to overcome life’s challenges by attaining clarity, stability, and focus.  

The three tiers of mastery involve

Mastering the basics 

As explained earlier, the basics include building proficiency with the fundamental components of Getting Things Done. This is not easy to incorporate into daily life and may take some time to establish as a life practice fully. You will need time to adjust to the principles and concepts explained here and accept them as being effective in improving productivity and enhancing focus while declining stress levels. Implementing these principles as a way of life will be challenging initially; however, you will get acquainted once you spend time with them. 

Integrated Life Management

As you get familiar with the principles and concepts of Getting Things Done. You will gradually get ready and prepare to transcend to the next level: implementing these principles in other walks of life, incorporating them weekly and daily. 

This level will offer more experience in dealing with more stress as you practice staying calm and handling any situation. You get better control, and your issues start to transform into opportunities. 

Focus, Direction, and Creativity

The last level of Getting Things Done is utilizing the freed focus you now have and transforming it into new values and commitments in life. At this level, you start using your external mind to create new value and achieve the freedom to do more meaningful things in life. You control your life activities and can now effectively transform practical outputs from available inputs.


Concluding Notes | Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done is a guide to explaining how stress-free focus can be achieved to accomplish more.

It defines how we can manage various actions based on priority with a clear mind yielding more efficiency from the decisions made.

This guide defines the process following which the cumbersome workflow process of life can be streamlined.

It strengthens the mental system by relieving stress and creating a system that allows equal and relevant importance to every action.

Overall, it is a front-end planning system that can be implied in everyday life.


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