Konubinix' opinionated web of thoughts

Getting Things Done


David Allen

The final objective is to have a clear mind so that you can focus 100% on what you are doing right now.

To do this, you have to may quiet the little voices in your head that say:

  • I need to do X, Y or Z…


  • Why I am doing this anyway?


  • Should I do something else?


  • Is it my role to do this?

GTD is a method (and not only a suggested implementation) trying to help us being 100% focused on what we are doing. To do so, it

  • explains the limitation of our brain to keep track of our commitments, hence the need to build a second brain, which is a trusted system that does it for us,
  • presents the properties of such a system,
    • easily available and pleasant to use, otherwise, our brain will resist using it. By itself, this property shows that there is no one size fits all system but each person should build per own system,
    • allowing to capture what comes to our mind, so that our brain stops thinking about it and we have a clear mind,
    • allowing to present us what are our options, so that we can assess whether we feel confident not doing what we are not doing,
      • but making sure it does not show us the options we don’t have right now, using contexts, time and energy.
    • it allows us to get a cognitive reload of all our commitments so that we can make an educated decision,
  • provides a framework to thing the commitment so that we can be appropriately engaged
  • takes into account the fact our tendency to fall of the wagon and then provides a mean to get back on it : the weekly review,
  • provides an onboarding process, based on a mind sweep,

It is clearly stated that gtd won’t solve the problem for you. It simply provides a framework so that you can solve your problem.

The method does not make things easy, but gives a way to show you your commitments so that you can more easily make intuitive judgements about what you are doing and should be doing.

horizons of focus

Getting Things Done

  • HOF 0 and 1 are about actions
  • HOF 2 is about roles
  • HOF 3 to 5 are about how I define myself

there are 6 very definable horizons of our commitments

very different content in this different horizons

https://gettingthingsdone.libsyn.com/ep-53-an-overview-of-gtd (around 28 minute 30 second)

We all have implicitly this kinds of commitment.

I don’t tell people they should put things at horizon 3, but I say if you got them, then you need to identify them, because they are pulling they are pushing you anyway so you need to make those conscious so that you don’t break agreements with yourself.

You don’t have to have a vision, unless of course you do.


ground: calendar/actions

This is the ground floor – the huge volume of actions and information you currently have to do and to organize, including emails, calls, memos, errands, stuff to read, stuff to file, things to talk to staff about, etc. If you got no further input in your life, this would likely take you 300-500 hours to finish. Just getting a complete and current inventory of the next actions required at this level is quite a feat. — https://gettingthingsdone.com/2011/01/the-6-horizons-of-focus/

horizon 1: projects

This is the inventory of your projects – all the things that you have commitments to finish, that take more than one action step to complete.  These “open loops” are what create most of your actions. These projects include anything from “look into having a birthday party for Susan” to “buy Acme Brick Co.” Most people have between 30 and 100 of these. If you were to fully and accurately define this list, it would undoubtedly generate many more and different actions than you currently have identified.


horizon 2: Areas of focus and accountability

Horizon 2: Areas of focus and accountability

What’s your job? Driving the creation of a lot of your projects are the four to seven major areas of responsibility that you at least implicitly are going to be held accountable to have done well, at the end of some time period, by yourself if not by someone else (e.g. boss.) With a clear and current evaluation of what those areas or responsibility are, and what you are (and are not) doing about them, there are likely new projects to be created, and old ones to be eliminated.

horizon 3: one-to two-year goals and objectives

Where is your job going? What will the role you’re in right now be looking like 12-18 months from now, based on your goals and on the directions of the changes at that level? We’ve met very few people who are doing only what they were hired to do.  These days, job descriptions are moving targets. You may be personally changing what you’re doing, given personal goals; and the job itself may need to look different, given the shifting nature of the work at the departmental or divisional level. Getting this level clear always creates some new projects and actions.


horizon 4: Three-to-five-year vision

The goals and direction of the larger entity within which you operate heavily influence your job and your professional direction. Where is your company going to be, one to three years from now? How will that be affecting the scope and scale of your job, your department, and your division? What external factors (like technology) are influencing the changes? How is the definition and relationship with your customers going to be changing, etc.? Thinking at this level invariably surfaces some projects that need to be defined, and new action steps to move them forward.


horizon 5: Purpose and principles

What is the work you are here to do on the planet, with your life? This is the ultimate bigger picture discussion. Is this the job you want? Is this the lifestyle you want? Are you operating within the context of your real values, etc.? From an organizational perspective, this is the Purpose and Vision discussion. Why does it exist? No matter how organized you may get, if you are not spending enough time with your family, your health, your spiritual life, etc., you will still have “incompletes” to deal with, make decisions about, and have projects and actions about, to get completely clear.


there is magic in the mundane

A quote from David Allen (gtd) to say how sometimes doing mundane things help the brain process the projects in the background and having quick wins provides you a boost of energy that increase your motivation about the other projects.

5 steps of gtd

  1. capture what has your attention, what is not on cruise control
  2. decide specifically what those things mean
  3. organise the results of that in appropriate places
  4. you need to take a step back and review and reflect on the whole gestalt of your inventory
  5. you then engage meaningfully

https://gettingthingsdone.libsyn.com/ep-53-an-overview-of-gtd (around minute 25)

When you walk into your kitchen and your kitchen is out of control. So what’s the first thing you do?

  • You start gathering everything probably not where it belongs, right? It’s the food on the table, it’s the dirty cups that got here or whatever. You gather them all together and ask where they go. What is this mean?
  • Is this food, it should go in the fridge. And then you decide what it means. That is a dirty cup? No it’s a clean cup.
  • Then you put dirty cups where dirty cups go and clean cups where clean cups go.
  • you step back and look at the whole gestalt and say
  • now that the time to cook

Sounds dumb and silly, but this is the five stages you go through.


I’ll give you the secret. It’s pretty simple.

  • get anything that’s potentially meaningful for you out of your head and around your environment collected into one place
  • sooner or later decide what exactly those things mean to you in terms of outcome and action
  • organize the results in appropriate categories so you can step back and reflect or review your multiple horizons of commitment at any point in time
  • and trust your heart or intuitive judgement calls about what you do at any point in time

That’s the whole game


  1. capture things that catch our attention,
    1. mitigated by the two minutes rule,
  2. clarify what they mean (horizons of focus),
    1. you have to define what done means and what doing looks like,
  3. organize the results (gtd contexts),
  4. reflect on it frequently (power of habit) so that you get the gestalt of what you have to do,
  5. engage with stuffs in your lists (the rest goes to the maybe list or is simply trashed)

To my mind, clearly separating those steps should help remove yak shaving and procrastination


linked to the weekly review,


— gtd book


— gtd book

capture every single thing what has your attention so that you can see what really has your attention

capture every single thing what has your attention

In gtd, first step of the gtd in 5 stages.

Starting with a mind sweep.

misconceptions about gtd

planning will magically happen with gtd

The book makes it clear that planning techniques are out of the scope of the technique. The purpose of the technique is for you to feel confident not doing what you are not doing. Thank to the gtd, you can realize that you don’t feel confident not doing a planning and can look for planning techniques, that’s all.

gtd should help me with procrastination

The whole purpose of gtd is to help you realize what you are not doing, so that you can feel confident not doing what you are not doing.

If you feel confident not doing what you are not doing and afterwards have regrets that you did not do that, you should look for techniques to handle procrastination. But as far as I can tell, the book never claimed to help with that.

gtd has a heavy process,

gtd focuses on the how, not on the why,

gtd is not another list based organization method

The method is very open about what your system should look like, as long as it follows some principles. I did not see anywhere a necessity of using lists.

I think that people believe that because most of the routines of gtd are about processing subsets of your actions. And the most obvious way to process a set of element is to look at them one by one (hence making a list out of them).

But, be intellectually honest, what productivity system would not ask you to process the actions? I don’t think sensible to believe that the system will be productive by itself and your brain is required at some point to process the elements. And because our brain can do only one think at a time, in all systems of all methods, I expect to see formation of lists to feed your brain.

Also, remember that gtd won’t solve the problem for you. It simply provides a framework so that you can solve your problem.

what gtd gives me

gtd helps getting full awareness of your commitments

I think that part of the gtd is about being fully aware of your commitments and values so that you make sure that you don’t do what you are not supposed to do.

This is fully compliant with my values. I guess this is why I like doing gtd so much.


Someday/Maybe. For anything on that list, you have made no commitment to do it. The only commitment is to review the list regularly to see if you want to delete or activate any item.


The main thing to observe is whether your system gets stuff off your mind.


This is not a question of bells going off or little notification boxes. The question is “How would you like this to enter your conscious awareness?”


If you can’t do the NA right now (if context/energy/time is OK) then it’s not a NA.

If you can’t do the NA because other NA’s are more important right now, then that’s a choice you have made.

The reason we use GTD to keep things out of our heads is so that we can use our heads to make these kinds of decisions


Notes linking here