1 Simple Graph is the Secret to Success in Getting Things Done

If you think you don’t have the time to read books, then you should read “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, and you will have the time for everything. This book changes lives and sets people free, just like they were children again.

But my goal for this post is not to convince you to buy it (I hope you already have it), but only to show you the graph that I’ve created after reading the book. The graph is a kind of GTD in a nutshell (the book is about 300 pages so it’s good to have a cheat sheet of some kind).

I hope it helps you to get familiar with the idea of GTD the same way it helped me, so there you go…

Getting Things Done Graph

How to use it?

On top of the page you can see “things“. These are all the things that cross your path during the day… phone calls, emails, text messages, secret stock signals sent by your friend, things overheard at the church… in one word – everything.

What’s important is that all these things should land in your inbox and wait there until you decide to do something with them.

Regarding each thing present in your inbox you should answer what is it, and whether it needs any kind of action on your part anytime soon or not.

If your answer is “no”, then you have some options to choose. One of them is to simply trash the thing. The other is to put it into “someday-maybe lists” (if you suspect you may need to take some action on it later). The next one is to put it into your calendar (if you want to go back to it at some specific date). And the last one is to put it into your reference file – the place where you keep all of your valuable materials that may come in handy during work. To give you an example, the thing that would be perfect to put into your reference file, would be an email from a friend in which he describes the basics of HTML. You don’t have to do anything with such an email, but it’s better to save it somewhere because it might come in handy someday.

If the thing requires taking some action then you have to answer one question: is the thing put in the way that it describes precisely the nearest possible action you can do?

An example. If your car broke down and you have to get it fixed, then a thing said like “get the car to a garage” is not the nearest possible action. Such an action would be to “call the mechanic and make an appointment”, or even “search for the nearest garage in my neighborhood”.

If your thing is not the nearest possible action then you need to put it into your projects file, and define the nearest possible action for it.

If your thing is the nearest possible action then the next question for you is: “can I do it in less than 2 minutes?” If your answer is “yes” then you simply need to do it now, and if it’s “no” then you have two options.

The first one. Delegate it to someone else, if it’s not a task for you personally. After you delegate it, put it into your “waiting-for list”.

The second one. Defer it. You can defer things either to a calendar (if it needs to be done on some specific date, like a doctor’s appointment for example) or to your ASAP list (if the thing needs to be done as soon as possible but there’s no specific date tied with it).

That’s pretty much it about the graph. Even though the whole process of planning may seem a bit complicated when you first encounter it, it becomes a habit very quickly and it turns out to be extremely effective.

What’s next?

This is just the first step – planning your work. The next step is the work itself, which needs to take place in a specific manner as well, if you want it to be effective. So, if you’d like to know more tune in for the next posts in this series. They’re arriving soon.

I invite you to leave a comment. Especially if you have better graphical skills than me and you’d like to propose your own interpretation of the GTD graph (or maybe you see it differently). That’d be great!

Also, feel free to check out my new productivity improvement hub page. It’s where I share my most important pieces of advice on how to build your productivity and make it stay that way.

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Here’s a list of articles you may also enjoy:

  • Getting started with “Getting Things Done” – This article was originally posted during the first week of 43 Folders’s existence, and, pound for pound, it remains our most popular page on the site.
  • The Getting Things Done (GTD) FAQ – I get a lot of email about Getting Things Done (GTD), mostly from people just starting out who have various questions about implementation, starting out, or sticking to the system.
  • 10 big ideas from GTD | GTD Times – Josh Kaufman wrote a succinct review of Getting Things Done on his blog. David saw it and commented to Josh, I’ve run across few people who have “grocked” GTD conceptually as well as you have. With Josh’s permission, we’re sharing his …