David Allen

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David Allen

David Allen (born December 28, 1945) is a productivity consultant.


Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (2001)[edit]

  • First of all, if it's on your mind, your mind isn't clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you'll come back to regularly and sort through.
    • Chapter 1
  • Most often, the reason something is "on your mind" is that you want it to be different than it currently is, and yet: you haven't clarified exactly what the intended outcomes is; you haven't decided what the very next physical action step is; and/or you haven't put reminders of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust. That's why it's on your mind.
    • Chapter 1
  • Here's how I define "stuff": anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn't belong where it is, but for which you haven't yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step.
    • Chapter 1

Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life (2003)[edit]

  • When you "have to get organized," you're probably not appropriately invested yet in what you need to get organized for.

Official Twitter profile (@gtdguy)[edit]

  • What people call an "Interruption" is simply new input inappropriately managed.
  • Freedom to create a mess is proportional to your ability to know what "no mess" is and how to get there.
  • Does something have your attention because you want it to, or because you're avoiding it?
  • Your attention will continue to be grabbed by anything until you give it the appropriate attention.
  • A big surprise is coming toward you. How clear do you want to be about all your current commitments, when it hits?
  • Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.
  • Valuable thought occurred today to share. Obvious in the moment. Can't retrieve now. Didn't capture. I teach this. Damn.
  • GTD essence: attention cleared of residue & distraction, pointed at the right thing.
  • The coolest things I do usually aren't on my lists, but because of them.
  • There is never enough time to do what you really don't want to do. Time managemet is really value management.
  • Good ideas are infinitely available. We've just limited our availablitly to them. The music's not in the radio.
  • Your mind receives, remembers, & reminds, & sucks at all 3, compared to an objective external system a la GTD.
  • Secret to finding, quickly, the corner pieces, then the outside edges, to the jigsaw puzzle of life: GTD
  • Over-prepare. Then go with the flow.
  • Defaulting to ur psyche as ur system instead of an objective one makes maintaining the system too much trouble.
  • I've never had to go very far to learn everything I have learned. I just had to care about something & pay attention.
  • Get things under control first, then get focused. If your ship is sinking, you don't care where it's pointed.
  • Trying to ignore secondarily meaningful things gives them more meaning than they deserve.
  • Making decisions requires energy, but not deciding about whether to decide requires even more energy.
  • Every thought deserves its own place in the universe. How & where do you capture yours?
  • Eternal #GTD paradox: when you get the principle, the tool doesn't matter. But simultaneosly it matters so much more.
  • Clearing the deck is great, but sailing adventurous waters is the real game. (Just can't do it w/out a clear deck.)
  • Great news about lots of email is how consistently it forces you to get clear what's really meaningful to your work/life.
  • GTD gives freedom to the right, structure to the left (brains, that is!)
  • Organizations' problems can all be traced to someone not telling the right someone what had their attention, when it did.
  • If you figured out why making a list reduces overwhelm & confusion, you'd keep nothing in your head the rest of your life.
  • GTD supplies the reset button for all parts of life & work.
  • If you admit your wildest dream & uncover why you want it, you have a big key to make tomorrow a better day.
  • Simply ask & answer: if we were being wildly successful in fulfilling our purpose, what would it look, sound, & feel like? #SmallBizChat
  • You talk to yourself 50,000 times a day. What's 300 emails? #SmallBizChat
  • If u can't see everything you've committed to, at all levels, you'll be driven by latest and loudest. #SmallBizChat
  • A commitment kept only in your head will be given too much or too little attention.
  • Your system is not your tech - it's the nature of the content & the behavior w/which you engage with it.
  • Resistance to deciding the next action (before we have to) stems from how it exposes the vulnerability of our intelligence.
  • The nature of creative thinking runs counter to the nature of dealing w/its output. Ability & system to do both is freedom. GTD.
  • Being in control isn't forceful manipulation but rather highly cooperative engagement w/ what's really going on.
  • Making decisions when you can vs. when you have to makes for better decisions.
  • Not stopping to really catch up (Weekly Review, GTDers!) means trying to catch up constantly & never getting there.
  • You don't have to like your life to get it off your mind. You DO have to renegotiate your agreements w/yourself about it.
  • Your ability to deal w/surprise is in inverse relation to the amount of your backlog of "stuff".
  • Whether you know what you're doing or not, efficiency & style are your only improvement opportunities.
  • Maximizing is not optimizing. Sustainable engagement wins, in the end.
  • Top need for top professionals: psychic space. Fewer distractions & more contexts for thinking. Not more time.
  • Is what you're about to do more likely to expand or limit your ability to get what you really want? Executive intelligence.
  • How much attention have I given what really deserves my attention today?
  • The less you are driven by what goes on in this material world, the more you will pay attention to its details.
  • You'll be motivated to exercise the #GTD method to the degree you really care about what you're doing.
  • Perfection is graciously dealing with imperfection.
  • Living life in "emergency scan" mode self-perpetuates instead of self-corrects. Deal w/a non-emergency before it is one.
  • If you could stop thinking, letting go of trying control your world w/your mind, where would your attention go?
  • #GTD 2.0 = what to do with your head, once it's clear.
  • "Organization" for most people is simply an incomplete list, or amorphous piles, of still-unclear commitments.
  • What do you want to have true? Pick something between total fantasy & 51% believable, get going, & readjust as you learn.
  • Point of in-box empty: having a complete, current inventory of what matters, so you deal clearly with what's new & what's now.
  • How, and how often, you relate to your system is an essential part of your system.
  • Am working as hard as I can to find out what it's OK I'm NOT going to be dong, this weekend!
  • When "this isn't right" changes to "this isn't optimal" in your vocabulary, you've moved up the food chain.
  • Cool how many layers of my mind there are to clear, each time I do it...& how different my world is then.
  • Only issues in life: u know what u want, but not how to get it; or u don't know what u want. Solution: #GTD
  • An overwhelming amount of potential work to do is cool. Otherwise people would never go to a gym.
  • You've really done your job when what's true? (Challenging question for all of us!)
  • If your backlog of stuff isn't zero'd regularly, you're hostage to your own incessant angst that you should.
  • Productivity requires expansiveness & spontaneity as much as structure & control.
  • If you're already in a mess, you're not free to make one.
  • To be free to be spontaneously & creatively shallow requires depth of character & a disciplined focus.
  • It takes a healthy sense of self to feel OK with nothing happening in your head.
  • Things hold your attention hostage until you give them the appropriate attention.
  • Hold still enough to grapple w/the simple questions, & the complexities become clear.
  • How can you justify keeping a calendar & still keep most of your other commitments w/yourself in your head?
  • It's hard to say no when you're not aware of everything you've said yes to.
  • If u magically had 0 emails, in 10 days you'd be back to what you had. Issue is not volume, but tolerance of backlog.
  • The latest & loudest thing in your psyche is seldom the most important thing that should take up residence there.
  • Being organized simply means that where something is matches what it means to you. No more, no less.
  • Your mind doesn't have one. If it did, it would only remind you of something when you could do something about it.
  • Pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, so you can pay attention to what really has your attention.
  • Outcome/next-action thinking, before you must, prepares you for when you must. And that time will come.
  • The balance you have between drive & patience may be your master key to success.
  • Engaging in complexity is a key to simplicity. Fear of it will haunt your inner recesses.
  • Your tools are only as good as they serve your intention. What do you want to have true? What Do you need to have viewable re: that?
  • When you know you'll get email to zero, you're free to deal with the ones you choose, when you choose. Most productive.
  • Even the smallest knoll to climb, to see a little more than the machine guns firing at me, is salvation.
  • Changing what you want to get done takes a second. Recalibrating & getting the new thing to happen is a martial art.
  • When you know how, any time, to get to the place where it's all sort of funny, you've mastered GTD.
  • Freedom to give full attention to what you want (vs. It being held hostage by unmanaged stuff) is the GTD promise.
  • Rivers of creative flow are log jammed w/ heads holding on to incompletions, old business, & avoided decisions.
  • What would you do w/more space, if you had it? Without a good answer, you'll not have the juice to really do #GTD.
  • Keys to getting things done: know what "done" means & what "doing" looks like.
  • Meetings handled well reduce email. Email handled well reduces meetings.
  • Organizing without first capturing & clarifying what needs organizing is simply rearranging your angst.
  • The greater your confidence w/how to achieve control & focus, as needed, the wilder & crazier you can be.
  • Are you overwhelmed pulling weeds, when you really just need to replant the garden?
  • Collect, process, organize & review what has your attention, so you can stop half-trying to be doing all that, constantly.
  • My daily meta-map lists: events coming up; major projects for me; emerging interests; my accountabilities.
  • The purpose of a purpose? Tunes you to meaningful things you wouldn't be aware of, otherwise.
  • Staying in control daily, weekly, & yearly requires different things for each. Handling one doesn't handle the others.
  • What would your ideal exec ass't let you know - & when - & where? That should inform your best #GTD system.
  • Great question to ask, to relax: What should I consider right now, decide what, and let go?
  • Using your head to manage your life = creativity constipation.
  • The present-ness demanded by a crisis is possible w/out crisis. Understand the keys to appropriate engagement. GTD.
  • If you're appropriately engaged w/your life, you don't need more time. If you're not, more time won't help.
  • What maps do you need to review, to see where you are & what to do next? Core to self-management systems.
  • Appropriate focus on the right stuff gives the freedom to not have to focus on anything, on a regular basis.

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