A collection of articles on GTD and productivity

1 Underutilized Strategy to Immensely Boost Your Productivity

You've got things to do. Your plate is full. No matter how quickly you eat, the wily waiter - life - adds more while you are not looking.

In the beginning of the century David Allen copyrighted the phrase Getting Things Done and created a wonderful methodology for coping with the things on your plate - GTD®. Over the years the methodology got widely popular and at the time of this writing enjoys the following of millions. Its runaway success is based on the straightforward and practical approach to dealing with "stuff" - big or small - that comes at you. In the fast modern society our to-do plates are so chronically full that we feel good every time we clean them up, however temporary the effect is. That's why GTD became a godsend for many.

We are so busy emptying our plates that oftentimes we don't pay much attention to what's in there that we've got to eat, figuratively speaking. Once we care to cast a closer look we might notice that our a la cart task meal has bits and pieces that do not taste good, are not fresh, and otherwise should not be eaten.

About a decade before Allen, in his fundamental works The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) and First Things First (1994) Stephen Covey highlighted the paramount role of importance. According to Covey and common sense importance is the main differentiator between things that should be done and the ones to be bypassed, omitted, and gotten rid of.

Covey's four quadrants should become your litmus test for whether a task is a worthy candidate for your to-do list or your trash can. Having imposed Covey's matrix onto your task universe you'll be surprised by the share of your day-to-day activities that fall into the infamous fourth quandant. These are the things you should stop doing and the tasks you should ban from your to-do lists.

Start right now. Go over your Someday/Maybe/Ideas lists and delete everything that's not related to one of your life goals. Inspect your email inbox and trash or file all non-actionable messages.  Challenge your physical in-basket and get rid of anything that doesn't absolutely have to be kept. Be daring.

Now you are ready for the productive life. From this moment on be vigilant and check every single piece before it ends up on your to-do plate. If it's a task-burger of Covey's fourth quadrant, refuse it politely but firmly. Your healthier to-do diet will make you more productive, more confident, and more energetic person.

ZTD with ActionComplete: Big Rocks and Most Important Tasks (MITs)

Over the next few weeks we are going to run a series of articles highlighting lesser known features of ActionComplete, describing ActionComplete best practices, and providing tips on implementing certain aspects of GTD and derivative methodologies with ActionComplete.

This article is devoted to procedural and technical aspects of implementing the concepts of Big Rocks and Most Important Tasks crucial to Leo Babauta's Zen To Done (ZTD) methodology.

In a nutshell ZTD is a very useful extension of the original GTD methodology emphasizing the dimension of importance or priority. In a sense it alloys the excellent "operational", or runway-level, qualities of David Allen's GTD teaching with the leadership philosophy laid out by Stephen Covey in First Things First and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  When implemented properly ZTD allows you to be not only efficient (do many things fast) but also effective (do things that matter).

At the core of ZTD are the concepts of Big Rocks and Most Important Tasks.

Big Rocks are tasks that are closely related to your short- or long-term life goals. Oftentimes they are not urgent but they are always crucial for the progress towards a meaningful goal. It goes without saying that "meaningful" is not necessarily the same as "tied to career growth". Most Important Tasks can be described as the scaled down versions of Big Rocks. They usually exist within a relatively short time interval such as a day.

ZTD recommends accomplishing a few Big Rocks a week and a few MITs every day. Your daily MITs might include a Big Rock among the other things. ZTD also advocates a more structured process, as compared to "classic" GTD, with fixed time slots for recurring activities such as weekly and daily planning. It is during the weekly and daily planning when Big Rocks and MITs are identified and scheduled for execution.

This is where ActionComplete comes into play. During a weekly review you identify the most important tasks for the coming week - your Big Rocks - and change their weight to above 60 or 80, which will color the tasks either orange or red. You might want to do that for all aspects of your life as represented by tags in ActionComplete. Similarly during the daily review you identify your MITs for the next day and increase their weight in AC.

During the day, when you are in the "execution" mode, you can apply the weight filter to cut off the tasks with the weight below the agreed-upon threshold and view the important only. At the same time you might want to reset the tag filter to get a context-independent view. The context-independent view might tell you that you need to get in a different context to accomplish an important task for the day. 

What is GTD?

This article was contributed by David Allen & Co and is re-published with permission.

GTD® is the popular shorthand for “Getting Things Done®,” the groundbreaking work-life management system and book by David Allen that transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.

Since piloting a productivity seminar for 1,000 managers at Lockheed in 1983, David has continued to test and refine the techniques and principles we now know as GTD – a powerful method to manage commitments, information, and communication. This pioneering and proven system is the result of those 20 plus years of David’s consulting, private coaching, and organizational programs with over a half million people internationally. GTD has well earned its recognition as the gold standard in personal management and productivity for many of the world’s best and brightest people and companies.

Sophisticated without being confining, the subtle effectiveness of GTD lies in its radically common-sense notion that with a complete and current inventory of all your commitments, organized and reviewed in a systematic way, you can focus clearly, view your world from optimal angles, and make trusted choices about what to do (and not do) at any moment. GTD embodies an easy, step-by-step, and highly efficient method for achieving this relaxed, productive state. It includes:

  • Capturing anything and everything that has your attention
  • Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps
  • Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access them
  • Keeping current and “on your game” with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions)

Implementing GTD alleviates the feeling of overwhelm, instills confidence, and releases a flood of creative energy. It provides structure without constraint, managing details with maximum flexibility. The system rigorously adheres to the core principles of productivity, while allowing tremendous freedom in the “how.” The only “right” way to do GTD is getting meaningful things done with truly the least amount of invested attention and energy. Coaching thousands of people, where they work, about their work, has informed the GTD method with the best practices of how to work (and live), in that most-efficient and productive way.

GTD’s simplicity, flexibility, and immediacy are its attraction. Its ability to enliven, enlighten, and empower is its magic. What, indeed, is GTD? More than meets the eye...

For more David Allen Company tools and educational content, check out our GTD Products section at For our online learning center, visit GTD Connect at

Syndicate content