What is Getting Things Done Task Management?

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How do you keep track of everything you need to do? If your first thought was, ‘I just remember everything,’ this article is for you.

Trying to keep on top of your to-do list and priorities in your head is not only mentally taxing but makes it more difficult to get your work done. It makes decision-making harder, increases the chances of details being forgotten, and can lead to being overwhelmed. When you consider the additional information, documents, and dependencies associated with each task, it’s clear why using your brain isn’t the most effective system for managing your to-do list.

Unfortunately, storing information is not the brain’s forte. Luckily, there are countless tools and systems designed to help you keep organized. One of the most popular systems is Getting Things Done, or GTD. Keep reading to learn more about GTD and how to get things done at work.

What is GTD?

GTD is a task management system created by David Allen. In his work as a productivity consultant, Allen realized that our brains are great at processing information but not so good at storing it. GTD encourages people to better manage their priorities by storing all this information externally.

The GTD system is designed to help people:

  • Keep track of what they need to do
  • Better prioritize and manage their life and work
  • Quickly understand what needs to be done next
  • Reduce feelings of overwhelm (and burnout)
  • Create a structured plan of action that prevents procrastination

If you juggle multiple responsibilities in your life and work, find it challenging to focus on projects once you begin, or are overwhelmed by worry that you’ll forget everything you’re trying to remember, GTD is the solution.

Get things done in 5 steps

GTD follows five simple steps, starting with a mind dump.

  • Capture everything: Begin by writing down everything that pops into your head. That covers everything from big projects to the smallest of details. This information is stored in your inbox (more on that later).
  • Clarify: Use your brain for what it does best: processing everything you’ve captured. You’ll categorize each item and potentially discover some new actions to note down.
  • Organize: Move each item into its correct place; store documents, add meetings to your diary, and define any actionable tasks.
  • Engage: Begin working on priority items.

Putting GTD into practice: how to get things done

While making GTD work for you will require some hard work up front, it’s worth it in the long run. This system is deceptively simple but incredibly effective when applied consistently.

Before you begin, you need to choose a tool to use. We recommend using a digital tool to capture and organize your items, but ultimately the best solution is the one you’ll commit to using. Digital tools are more flexible, but the right physical planner can work just as well. Make sure your tool is versatile, easy to use, and offers all the features necessary to make GTD work for you.

Capture everything

The main goal of GTD is to get all the information you’re storing in your brain organized externally. That means capturing everything that enters your mind by writing it down, from upcoming work meetings to shopping lists.

You will store this information in an ‘inbox.’ Not to be confused with an email inbox, this visually represents all the information you need to process. Your inbox could be a blank page in your note-taking app or your Getting Things Done planner or notebook; either way, this is an opportunity to empty your brain with a mind dump.

What information to capture

You should capture everything that could be considered an ‘open loop’ or items you will need to action. We’ll list some thought starters below, but it’s worth looking at the GTD trigger list.

  • Projects that are in flight
  • Upcoming meetings or medical appointments
  • Calls to make
  • Personal errands
  • Books you want to read
  • Information a colleague shared

How to capture

This first step is the most time-consuming as it requires you to dig up all the information filling your brain. Here are our tips for getting the most out of this stage:

    • Capture new tasks immediately: As soon as a thought enters your head, jot it down. You don’t need to organize it right away if you don’t have time; this is to prevent you from forgetting later.
  • Make your inbox accessible: If you’re using a digital tool, opt for one that has a mobile app so you can add items to your inbox on the go.
  • Store everything in one place: Don’t set up different inboxes for different areas of your life. Keep everything in one place to simplify the process.
  • Add associated documents: If you’ve added a to-do item with related documents, like a presentation, attach the document or a link to where it’s saved. 
  • Include notes: The idea of GTD is that everything is stored externally, even the most minor details. For example, if your colleague requested you export a report in a specific format next time, add that detail as a note as a reminder.


How does it feel to have finished your mind dump? Relieving or overwhelming? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the information laid out in front of you, don’t worry. The next few steps will help you get that organized and captured as clear action steps.

Rules for clarifying

When clarifying the items in your inbox, there are certain rules we recommend sticking to.

  • Assign tasks that you can delegate to a colleague
  • Complete any tasks that will take you less than two minutes right away
  • Add any documents or information to the associated task or folder immediately
  • Add completion dates and deadlines to tasks when you set them up
  • Create projects to house tasks that have multiple steps
  • Make your tasks actionable by adding details that make it clear what you need to do (e.g., write ‘Create report on billable hours’ rather than ‘Create report.’)


This step happens alongside ‘Clarify,’ but it’s important to discuss the logic behind them separately to help you understand how to organize tasks and projects at work.

There are dozens of ways you can organize and divide the items currently sitting in your inbox.

  • Project categories: Exactly how you set up your project categories will depend on your job and responsibilities. You can create individual projects for each client or project, personal chores, meetings, and one-off tasks that don’t fall into any specific category, like ad-hoc requests. Within each category, you will then organize the tasks associated with that project.
  • Areas of life: Want to keep your personal and professional lives separate? You can segregate these tasks into two categories, with sub-projects underneath representing personal and professional projects rather than having them all mixed together.
  • Priorities: When we have a lot on our plates, it’s best to focus on what needs to be done immediately. Digital to-do lists are fantastic for task prioritization as you can filter them to show only what needs to be completed in the next day or two. If you’re using an analog system, create separate lists for tasks to be completed today, this week, and next month.
  • Looking ahead: On the other end of the spectrum, it’s worth creating a ‘Someday’ section to store tasks that you want to complete one day in the future but don’t want to forget.
  • Dependencies: It’s a good idea to create a separate list of tasks that can’t move forward until you’ve received information from another person. This makes it easy to keep track of what you’re waiting on and chase up on time.

If you’re a visual learner, look at this Getting Things Done flowchart.


Congratulations, you’re now out of the weeds! It’s time to get things done.

You should now have a clear list of actionable items organized according to category and priority, allowing you to make informed decisions about what you should focus on. That means less time mentally juggling priorities — you’ll instantly know what needs to be done next!


GTD is a living, breathing management strategy that you need to keep up to date. Add new tasks or thoughts to your inbox as soon as you think of them, and set time aside each week to review your lists and organize your tasks.

This helps you to remain flexible, optimize your GTD workflow, and focus on your priorities. If you were wondering how to get work done fast, you now have the answer.

How to focus and get work done with GTD

Whether you work in an agency or a corporation, prioritization is the foundation of your success. The Getting Things Done method helps you better manage your to-do list and be a better teammate by keeping track of files, essential information, and tasks you’ve been delegated (and have delegated).

In addition to clarifying workflows, the GTD method allows you to understand your responsibilities better and run your projects more smoothly. So, when it comes time to create project plans in Forecast, you already have all the information you need organized and at your fingertips. From due dates and assignments to notes and subtasks, creating your project task cards has never been easier.

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