Getting Things Done Overview: Review of David Allen’s Book

Several books discuss how to be more productive. David Allen offers a guide helping you do a task-by-task checkup in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. A productivity expert, Allen helps people save time while getting more done in shorter amounts of time. In this getting things done overview, I will discuss the key points of the author’s well-known method.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

In Allen’s book, he goes over the Getting Things Done (GTD) method. The method consists of a system of external lists to have on hand, with actions to accomplish tasks. 

It’s a systematic approach to keeping your mind clear and staying on top of things. Also, it allows you to free up your brain while keeping projects going forward. 

Along with organizing your workspace for maximum success, the steps listed in the GTD method include:

1.) Capturing your thoughts

2.) Clarifying each item

3.) Organizing your outcome into a structure of lists

4.) Reflecting on what’s important & reviewing the items

5.) Engaging in tasks & prioritizing.

How David Allen Gets Things Done (Youtube)

Capture your thoughts

The first step of the GTD method involves capturing your ideas. Whenever something comes up in your mind, your immediate action should be to jot it down. Whether that’s on a sticky note, notebook, or a tablet, get that thought out and write it down. 

These thoughts should go into what Allen calls an “in-pile” list. This list is a separate place to jot down tasks or reminders that’ll be easy to remember later.

For example, if a thought pops up while writing an email, make sure to write it down quickly. After that, go back to finish your email. 

Another example could be while you’re doing basic chores. If an exciting concept comes up while you’re cleaning, stop what you’re doing and get that thought down on paper. It’s that simple- write it down and resume what you were doing before.

Getting Things Done overview: Writing down ideas as you go can help make things easier. it helps you stay organized as well.

Clarify Each Item

The next step of the GTD method is to clarify each item you wrote down earlier. Each week, review and empty all external items to stay organized. 

When going through each piece. Ask yourself the following:

1.)Is it an actionable step? Do I need to do something about it?

A.) If the answer is no, trash it or revisit it later.

B.) If the answer is yes, take action.

  • A quick task- do it immediately (i.e., make a brief phone call).
  • A complex task: Ask yourself, are you the right person for it?

2.) If not an actionable step, delegate or outsource to someone else if possible.

If it’s your responsibility, then defer it. The next steps will show you how to postpone these types of tasks.

Organize your outcomes into lists

When organizing your listed tasks, empty your collection tools and put the right things in place. Allen suggests breaking it down this way- overwriting traditional to-do lists. 

Writing out a regular to-do list sometimes includes vague tasks, which may lead people not to take real action on those tasks. Your duties should be listed in the following categories: 

If the item is actionable

A.) Project:
Complex tasks that require more than one step
B.) Waiting For:
Functions that can be delegated to someone else; one model could be to follow-up with a contractor on new tiles for a bathroom renovation.
C.) Next Actions:
Where all of your to-dos are listed out; these are the tasks you plan on doing now.
Examples include writing a book or rearranging a living room.One example model could be to follow up with a contractor on new tiles for a bathroom renovation.Examples include finishing up a report, following up with a client, or meeting with a colleague
List Categories (Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity)

If you cannot do the jobs at the moment, put them in your calendar to complete later that day. Examples include calling a friend, emailing a client, or purchasing an inventory order online.

If an item is not actionable

A.) Maybe/Someday: Tasks that are reserved for later, but don’t want to forget aboutB.) Reference Material: Information that may become useful later, usually store for future reference
Example: Setting time to learn a foreign language or enrolling in classes for an upcoming semester.Example: Pulling a take-out menu from your favorite restaurant into your filing cabinet.
List Categories (Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity)

Reflect: Constantly review

It is one thing to write down your tasks, followed by actionable steps. However, it is equally important to review them again. 

To hold yourself accountable, check your calendar each day. If you know you’re going to be in meetings for an entire day, plan. 

Also, check off any other next actions you have not worked on yet. If you know you’re going to have a quiet day at the office, use that free time to work on those next action tasks. 

Getting Things Done Overview: Arranging our tasks in lists can be very helpful. Lists can help us stay track of our goals.

Along with checking your tasks daily, you want to do a comprehensive weekly review of your scheduled tasks. After going through the first steps, set aside a few hours each week to do a weekly report. It’s good to do this so you can keep track of what you accomplished. 

Also, reflect on your shortcomings, and what you can do to improve the next time around. Typically, the best time to do the review would be around the end of the week (Friday), right before heading into the weekend.

Engage in tasks

In the final step of the GTD method, you then choose what to do at each moment, depending on your current circumstances. This part is where work gets done, and there are four types of criteria to ask yourself:

1.) What can you do in the current context?

  • Example: If you have no phone, then you can’t make any phone calls.
  • Look over the next action list you made earlier.

2.) What do you have time for?

  • Example: If you only have ten minutes before a meeting starts, not the best time to start a budget review that may take a couple of hours.

3.) What do you have the energy for?

  • Example: If you spent an entire afternoon reviewing your work budget, you might feel tired. But there is time to do shorter tasks, such as booking a flight for an upcoming business trip.

4.) Which task has the highest priority?

  • To answer this question, you need to understand your values and goals.
Getting Things Done Overview: Writing out a list and engaging in tasks are two important components. That can help with getting more things done.

Final Words

Getting Things Done is one of the best books on productivity and time management. The five-step GTD method laid is a useful tool for getting more done in less time. 

One other thing to keep in mind is keeping written tasks with you at all times. You’ll be likely to stay productive ahead of the game, even when last-minute ideas come up unexpectedly. 

Whether you’re stuck during the rush-hour commute or sitting at an airport due to a delayed flight, these inconveniences can be the best times to work on those tasks. 

Your Turn: Are you up to getting things done?

If you can stick to the GTD method, you may find yourself more productive, more relaxed, and less stressed in your daily activities. 

Will you start getting things done today? Feel free to leave your thoughts by leaving a comment below. I look forward to reading them, and I’ll gladly respond promptly.

If you got value from this article, please bookmark this website to visit later for new posts every week.

Spread the word to others. Sharing is caring!

For the latest videos that come out every week, subscribe to the YouTube channel. Also, be sure to check out our new space on 
Twitter X!


Twitter (X)
No Time Killers- Self Image 2019
Eric is the owner and chief editor of 

He takes great pride in helping people manage their time and grow their businesses. 

Eric is a firm believer in financial and time freedom, as he believes in financial independence and taking ownership of your time. 

“Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” 

In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He enjoys going for long walks outdoors while doing in-home workout videos every week. 

You can also connect with Eric via LinkedIn.

Self Photo 2019: Here's a picture at a building in downtown Chicago.

4 thoughts on “Getting Things Done Overview: Review of David Allen’s Book”

  1. Hi Eric, In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen shares the discovery of stress-free performance. David Allen’s conclusion is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax.

    David Allen introduced a time management and productivity system that helps us complete tasks and meet commitments in a stress-free and efficient manner using a comprehensive system of lists and calendars.

    The basic idea of the Getting Things Done method is to put down all our tasks in writing to ensure that we won’t forget anything.

    In my opinion, we should organize all our lists and our lists must be kept in one easy-to-access location. We can do this with a binder with tab dividers, a good old-fashioned notebook, and a traditional planner. Thanks for sharing an overview of this useful book. Much appreciated.

    • Hi Bushra,

      Getting Things Done (GTD) is sure a masterpiece to not be overlooked. The things that Allen outlines are a guide to help us be the most productive individuals we can be.

      Your overview of GTD is precise- I could not have said it any better myself. It sounds like you’ve read Allen’s book before, and incorporate the outline into action. So I’m impressed with your understanding of GTD- it’s nice to know people like this topic.

      Keeping our lists organized is the best approach to staying on top of our priorities. I continue to do it for the most part, and it’s helped me tremendously. I imagine you will do the same, and it’s something our readers can look into as well.

      Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. Your insights are valuable to our readers, and I even learned something new from your takeaways. They’re much appreciated!

  2. Speaking from someone who has what can be best described as inattentive time management skills (lol), I found the review helpful. I do need to learn to get things done in a more efficient manner. From your review, this books like a good place to start. Once I do get started on a project, however, things tend to come together pretty quickly. I didn’t see much mention of ways to manage large scale projects that can stretch out into days (or longer), or suggest how to deal with things that are pretty much continuous, like maintaining a web site. I’m curious as to whether the book gets into things like this. I come from an environment where tasks can be huge and deadlines short (professional internet programming). There are always things drawing your attention away from the main task. It’s not always clear how to manage these things. Everyone seems to be wanting a piece of your time, usually right now. There are always issues that you can’t really plan for, such as employees needing help. Then there’s time that you basically have to throw away, like mandatory and utterly useless meetings.

    In these sort of environments, it’s pretty much sink or swim. Some advice to help with these sort of situations would be very helpful.

    Which brings up the issue of stress and how to manage that. Stress can, at times, be a real deal breaker. Does the book talk about this?

    I liked the video, especially the part where Allen shows his extra batteries. I do a lot of walking and often come up with some of my better ideas while doing so. So, I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping a small notepad with me. Pretty much everything on the internet requires passwords these days, so I also keep a list of my not terribly sensitive passwords in the notebook as well – I’ve gotten into the habit of putting the notepad in my pocket every morning so I always have it with me, even at work where I sometimes have to pull up a website I haven’t visited in a while and so don’t remember the password. However, like a dead battery, the simplest thing can sometimes leave you dead in the water. If you are out and about and have an inspiration to write down, if you’ve forgotten to bring a pen, you’re pretty much belly up.

    The video shows quite a bit of files and filing. Even in the digital age, there always seem to be mounds of paper that need to be organized. If you don’t pay attention, this can get out of hand very quickly.

    All in all, pretty interesting. Next time I’m at the library I’ll see if I can find a copy of the book. My only criticism would be that the review feels a little “thin” when taking into consideration some of the things I’ve discussed above.

    • Hi Terry,

      Getting things done does not always click on every one. There are a lot of people who struggle with time management skills, and I think have an interest in improving on them.

      When it comes to stress, I do not recall if there was a specific portion of the book that mentioned that. It’s more of a productivity (business-related) type of topic, rather than a health or science-related one. So I’m not sure about that part, so it’s something to think about.

      I did like Allen’s video of how he gets things done. It’s quite remarkable when you think about it, and simple as well. Allen makes it simple- it’s what you do (taking action) that matters the most.

      It’s good that you keep a small notepad/notebook on hand. I tend to carry one around in case I’m thinking of ideas on the go. So I recommend anyone keep one on hand in case something pops up in your mind.

      You explained in great depth about this topic. So I greatly appreciate your thoughts and feedback. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. It’s valuable for our readers as well.

      In the meantime, check out the book whenever you get a chance. I think you’ll like some of the points that Allen discusses in the book. It sure is worth reading for sure.


Leave a Comment