How to take control of your life and to be successful


Getting Things Done – David Allen, Piatkus

Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity – David Allen

In short

Getting Things Done is a methodology to… well, get things done. It helps you to build habit of efficiently going through, filing and processing all incoming requests, data and information, without overloading your brain in the process.

What is the book all about

The “Getting Things Done” book explains David Allen’s time management and productivity method of the same name, GTD in short. The whole book is dedicated for this method, each chapter focusing on different angle.

In my opinion the most import an concept in this methodology is the “INBOX”. Everything, and I mean everything in your life should flow through these real or virtual inboxes. The key is to understand that you never store anything in the inbox. It should be empty at the end of the day.

You will go through these inboxes daily, check what is there and ask a question “Is it actionable” with each item. There are two answers A) YES and B) NO.

In the case of A) YES you will then figure out what is the next action you need to do. If it takes only 2 minutes or less, DO IT. If it takes longer you either DEFER it or DELEGATE it. Deferring means you place it into your NEXT ACTIONS list to wait for the moment you do them or mark it down into your CALENDAR. Delegating means you give the task to someone else and mark down the action to a list of WAITING (for someone to do something).

In the case of B) NO you will file the item either into 1) TRASH, 2) SOMEDAY/MAYBE file that has all the things you might work with one day and 3) REFERENCE file for things that need no actions but you might want to refer one day.

What I love about the book


A picture of my own GTD setup at my workplace

I confess, I am a big geek when it comes to best practices at work. To get most of my days, I want to be as efficient as possible. I have tinkered with different productivity methods to try and make the most out of my time.

The GTD method fits me perfectly. I already kept my inbox empty and filed things at the same instant they would be ready. Getting Things Done added a way for me to track delegated work and to store possible future projects somewhere.

I have set up my own system based on four identical inboxes and four ACTION, MAYBE SOMEDAY, WAITING, and reference folders. Two of these systems are physical ones and two virtual ones for both home and work.

According to the GTD method, there is no reason to think something more than once. When something pops up, you put it into one of your inbox’s and then you can forget about it. You will sleep better when you know everything is under control.

What could be better

The effect of the productivity methods like GTD are always relying on the people using them. It is not easy to change your old ways to completely different ones.

Even though this method is great, it requires a lot of time to set it up. This is where most of the people trying this method will fail. You need to fully set up the GTD system as fast as possible. If you fail to do so, the system will not work.

The author himself suggests dedicating a whole weekend for the setup phase. You need to set up the copy of the systems both at work and at home. Then you will have to collect everything that is laying around either physically or in your head and place them into the inboxes. Lastly you will go through all the inboxes and decide the actions on all of them.

Most of the remaining ones left will fail when they will start using the system and realize that running and maintaining the system requires time in itself. They make a mistake thinking that this is a waste of time and eventually the system will fail due to neglect.

For the selected few who make it past all the issues this method can be a key to huge amount of possibilities and success in life.

Who is responsible of it all – David Allen

David Allen is an experienced productivity consultant and the father of the Getting Things Done method. He is also the founder of the David Allen Company, focused on productivity, action management and executive coaching. If you are interested in learning more about the GTD methodology, their website is a good place to start.

David has also written a followup to Getting Things Done, called Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life. I have not read it yet, but I will have a look at it in the future for sure.

Taking it all together


Another picture of the GTD setup at my workplace

This book has increased my effectivenes times ten while reducing my stress levels over work and other personal matters. I believe this book is best 10 euros I have ever invested into something.

However implementing Getting Things Done methodology requires backbone to completely implement it to your life. You also need to spend additional time into managing the system. When I explained the GTD method to my already very organized girlfriend, her comment was: “Way too complicated”. For someone non-organized GTD system might feel excessive or even time totally wasted.

This book is worth checking out, but remember that you will benefit from it only by fully embracing the system.

The book “Getting Things Done” is available for example from and

  • Karla Nieminen

    Thanks for the summary! I am sure there are lot more tips for implementation in the book, but in short, what is the recommended system for going through the inboxes? I mean how often should one go through them and does this differ a lot for the different boxes? I realized I use very similar system already, so this would not be such a huge change…

  • Hanno Vainio

    Thank you for the comment, Karla!

    In short, the author says “regularly”.

    Ideally you keep as few inboxes as you can. I have noticed that I need 4 of them in total. Two at home and two at work.

    When I am at work, I tend to try and review the electronic inbox and mark the actions 3 times a day. Once in the morning, once during the noon and last time in the evening. My physical inbox fills up slower, so I usually just do it at the end of the day. At home I review the inboxes only once per evening.

    On top of this you should also check regularly your system to keep it current and functional. This way you make sure you are doing the right things at the right time. I tend to do quick checks daily and I have scheduled 2 hours every Friday for a weekly reviews.

    Hopefully this helps! If you are already using similar system, it would be probably easy to convert to this.