Getting Things Done (GTD)… Is Productivity Really This Simple?

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If Instagram and TikTok are to be believed, you can’t have productivity without productivity “hacks”. Most of the time, these things-you-haven’t-thought-of are that way for a reason… they don’t work. In other cases, workplace productivity tips stand the test of time – and Getting Things Done (also known as the GTD Method) is practically an old-timer in the world of teenagers telling you to keep a journal, drink water and start a podcast. Let’s find out how it works and how you can start Getting Things Done with the GTD Method today. 

Getting Things Done

If productivity is getting things done, then Getting Things Done must equal… productivity? While it’s certainly not that simple, the GTD Method is an effective aid to getting the most from your time: in the office and in your private life. In this post, we’ll cover: 

What Is the GTD Method?

Woman at her laptop getting things done
Make room for creativity with GTD.

Getting Things Done is perhaps the archetypal productivity method, developed by David Allen and popularized by his book of the same name. With the goal of improving efficiency – at work and outside of it – it’s a wide-ranging technique that breaks down what you need to do and rebuilds it according to a more systematic approach.

If you’re thinking that applying this to everything you do must be a massive undertaking… you’re right. In fact, it’s the core argument as to why Getting Things Done is necessary – because if your mind is busy processing your tasks… it’s too full to have any good ideas of how to complete them.

The result? By using the GTD Method, you can free your mind… and unlock your full potential.

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How Does the GTD Method Work?

The process to freeing your mind with the Getting Things Done method consists of five main stages:

  1. Capture. The first step to Getting Things Done is actually knowing what you need to do in the first place. If you use the method for work, you’ll probably need a digital tool to gather your tasks and ideas into a central space, but it works with pen and paper as well.
  2. Clarify. Next, you’ll need to make sense of your tasks, deciding if they contribute to your goals. Ask yourself what each item means, what you would need to do, and whether that’s worth your time. Each item should be categorized as one of the following: do it, delegate it, defer it, or delete it.
  3. Organize. Once you’ve clarified your items, organize them into appropriate categories and lists. Normally, you’ll want to group tasks together by type so that similar tasks can be completed together and save you time.
  4. Reflect. Regularly review your lists and projects. This helps you stay on track, keep your priorities in mind, and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. If your Getting Things Done list doesn’t reflect what’s most important, make adjustments so that it does. 
  5. Engage. Work on the tasks you’ve organized based on your context and priorities. Use your organized lists to guide your daily activities, focusing on the most important and actionable items.

Getting Things Done: The Advantages.

Order and Chaos in scrabble tiles.
More structure, less stress.

At first glance, the process above might seem like an incredibly complex way of saying “prioritize and complete your tasks”, but the key is that the GTD method is the basis for better decisions about your day. This, in turn, makes you more effective in whatever you do.

From individuals to whole organizations, Getting Things Done is as close as it comes to a tried and trusted workplace productivity technique. Here’s why:

  • It increases productivity. When you use the GTD method, prioritizing tasks to focus on work that matters becomes easier. Without distractions and time spent on meaningless work, you’ll become more productive and efficient for the valuable parts of your day.
  • It reduces stress. When your priorities are clearer, so too is your route to success. With a clear plan of action, you’ll minimize the stress that long to-do lists create.
  • It improves decision-making. The GTD method helps you make better decisions about time and resource allocation. You can easily identify what needs to be done and what can be delegated or postponed.
  • It promotes creativity. With a clear mind and organized tasks, you have more mental space to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions – rather than occupying yourself with remembering things.

Getting Things Done: The Pitfalls.

Frustrated man at his laptop using the GTD method.
GTD: Not a golden bullet.

For all the rave reviews of the GTD method, there are a good number of stories from people who have had less success with the technique. Here are a few of the common complaints: 

  • It’s too time consuming. Ironically, for a system that emphasizes using your time effectively, there’s an issue of resource investment vs. reward. Some people find that the initial investment of time required to set up the system outweighs the benefits they gain from using it.
  • It’s hard to maintain. Keeping up with the constant capture, process, and review cycles can be challenging. It requires discipline and consistency to keep the system working effectively for you.
  • It’s not time oriented. Once you’ve made your GTD list, there’s still a gray area when it comes to scheduling. The GTD method won’t help you schedule your tasks, so you’ll need to apply (potentially arbitrary) criteria to decide what to do, when.
  • It makes task lists even more overwhelming. The GTD method can be quite complex, especially for those who are new to productivity systems. The extensive lists, categories, and processes can feel intimidating – maybe just at first, maybe as a rule.

Is Getting Things Done the Right Method for Me?

Woman working with the GTD method
Struggling to prioritize? GTD could be the answer.

As a personal productivity technique, the results of the Getting Things Done method are naturally very subjective. Some people love GTD, while others can’t seem to get along with it at all. Although – in comparison to a lot of productivity techniques – the GTD method has been reasonably well-tested, there are many variables that could stop it from having the effect you want to see.

As such, it’s best to take a look at the method in the context of your job before making the leap. We’ve defined some key factors below.

Why the GTD Method Could Work for You.

If your workday looks a little bit like this, you could be the perfect candidate to use the GTD method. 

  • Your work is proactive. If your job requires you to find the best use of your time independently, Getting Things Done is a good way to work out what the most productive activities are. 
  • There’s a clear distinction between “important” and “not important” tasks. If your work has a clearly-defined priority system it makes sense to highlight these as much as possible with the GTD Method. If it doesn’t, you risk tasks falling through the cracks.
  • Your work needs creativity… but also needs structure for that creativity to happen. Outlining your plan of action with GTD is a good way to compartmentalize the administrative and creative parts of your role.

GTD in Practice: Sales Pipeline Management

The GTD Method could be a good fit if your job is to generate revenue – you’ll need to locate the most promising leads and take steps to turn potential income into reality. 

Using the Getting Things Done technique, you’ll be able to pinpoint the activities that will bring the most value to your business – whether that’s pipeline creation or closing deals – while also freeing time and energy to give potential clients your undivided attention. 

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Why the GTD Method Might Not Be for You…

Manual labourers at work.
Is GTD a match for your workday?

Although there will be benefits to using the GTD method in your personal life, it may not be the best fit for your workday if one or more of the following apply:

  • Your work is reactive. If you don’t know the tasks that will come your way during the course of the day, it’s difficult to formulate a plan to do things you can’t see. 
  • Your work is time-structured. If your workday requires you to be in certain places at certain times – for example meetings, interviews or the like – then these events can disrupt your Getting Things Done flow. 
  • You’re looking for something flexible. Although not all implementations of the GTD method need to be “by the book,” it still requires a certain level of patience and commitment to see the results.   

GTD Alternatives

If, for whatever reason, Getting Things Done doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other productivity techniques that you can try. We’ve dived deeper into some of the most popular methods on our blog.

You can learn more about the different techniques for workplace productivity on the MeisterTask website.

Does Getting Things Done Actually Work?

Andrew Lapidus, Community Lead, Meister

When you implement Getting Things Done, the key is to put your ideas in a single in-tray. No matter how trivial or unformed they seem.

Andrew Erickson-Lapidus

To put the GTD method to the test, we asked Andrew Erickson-Lapidus – Community Lead at Meister – about his experiences. Having used different forms of Getting Things Done over the past four years, as well as having frequent contact with Meister users who use different productivity techniques, he’s ideally placed to give expert insight.

For me, what makes Getting Things Done such a powerful system is that it emphasizes breaking larger tasks into “Action Items, not To-Do lists.” 

What does this mean? Well, most to-do lists have items like “report”, “appointment,” “conference prep,” but these are not action items as described in Getting Things Done. Instead, the GTD method helps you take vague ideas and turn them into outcome-oriented tasks. I find this to be helpful in turning “work time” into actual work instead of “processing time” – instead of making decisions about how best to tackle an item, I’m actually doing it.

So, how would Andrew recommend starting with the technique to someone who hadn’t used it before?

When you implement Getting Things Done, the key is to put your ideas in a single in-tray. No matter how trivial or unformed they seem, every idea should be sent to a unified inbox (for me it’s in MeisterTask) to be later processed, delayed or discarded.

There are many parts to the system, and you can really go “all in” in terms of depth, for example by making “true” classifications of project folders, reference folders, and more. Even if you don’t go super hardcore into the whole GTD system – and it can get complicated – keeping those two principles in mind makes the system easier to implement.

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How to Use the GTD Method in Your Work.

Woman at her laptop smiling indicating the GTD approach is working.
All you need is process, patience – and the right tools.

You’ve read through the pros and cons and decided that you want to give the GTD method a try? Despite the complexity of the method, it’s surprisingly easy to get started. All you need is process, patience and the right tools for the job.

Tools for Creating Your GTD List. 

The first thing to remember is that the GTD method is not a to-do list… which is why you probably want to skip over to-do list apps if you use the method. Our suggestion: use a mind map instead. Mind maps – especially when you create them with online mind mapping tools like MindMeister – can help you capture and organize vast amounts of information: so they’re perfect for GTD.

Better yet, MindMeister has a specially made Getting Things Done template that you can start using straight away.

Open the Getting Things Done template in MindMeister


We’d recommend going through the Getting Things Done method with MindMeister, until you reach a stage where you’re ready to start work. 

Getting Things Done: Engage with Task Management.

Getting Things Done: Engage with Task Management.
Turn your GTD map into concrete tasks.

Whether you use a mind map or any other method to create the list of tasks that you want to engage with, your success with the GTD method will depend on how well you execute step 5 – engaging and getting it done. 

If you already use a task management system, this would be the logical place to start: somewhere to organize your tasks and projects in a single, accessible platform. But what about copy-pasting your whole GTD list?

Fortunately, with the MindMeister-MeisterTask integration, it’s easy to turn your GTD map into concrete tasks that you want to get done. You can simply assign the GTD item to yourself, in whatever project you like, and keep the overview from your map. 

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With MeisterTask, you also extend the practical application of the GTD principle. As well as tracking the progress of the tasks on your GTD list, you can bring other stakeholders into the equation with comments, mentions and more.

Find out more about the MindMeister-MeisterTask integration and how you can turn your ideas to actions too.

Getting Things Done. Worth a Try?

Man putting the GTD method into action at his laptop.
It’s time to put the method to the test.

The GTD method is a radical approach to productivity that could yield radical results… or fall flat on its face. However, with the right tools to implement the technique, and a solid knowledge of the advantages and potential pitfalls of Getting Things Done, all that’s left to do is open your GTD template and give it a try.

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What Is the Getting Things Done (GTD) Method?

The GTD Method is a productivity method – in other words, a way for people to manage their tasks and commitments. “Getting Things Done” has a clearly defined structure: guiding people through the stages of capturing, clarifying, organizing, reflecting on and executing tasks in a systematic way. At the end of this process, you should be left with a series of actionable items which can be prioritized at will. The goal of the method is to “free the mind” of unnecessary tasks and help people achieve more.

Who Invented Getting Things Done?

David Allen is the creator of the Getting Things Done (GTD) Method. The productivity consultant authored the bestselling book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” in 2001, following his own struggles with productivity and time management. He wanted to create a system that would help individuals overcome overwhelming task lists and stay on top of their to-dos. The GTD Method has gained widespread recognition and is used by professionals and individuals all around the world. As one of the most-trusted modern productivity systems, Getting Things Done continues to be a popular choice for people looking to boost their powers of productivity and organization.

What Are the Advantages of Getting Things Done?

The advantages of Getting Things Done (GTD) include:

  • Increased productivity. It’s a reliable method to get the most valuable tasks done and make the most of your time.
  • Reduced stress. Getting Things Done reduces the mental burden of trying to remember everything and helps you reduce the impact of external pressures.
  • Improved focus. The method encourages individuals to prioritize tasks based on context, time, and energy, leading to improved focus and concentration. 
  • Better organization. GTD is a systematic way to organize tasks, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.

Does the GTD Method Work?

In many cases… yes. There’s a reason why the GTD Method has been proven to work for many individuals and has such a loyal following in professional and private contexts. Many advocates of the system say that implementing the GTD Method streamlines and brings clarity to your tasks and commitments. However, others may point out that the complexity and rigidity of the system makes it hard to implement in practice, especially in the long term.