How to Use Getting Things Done (GTD) to Organize Everything in Your Life

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.” – David Allen


“Getting Things Done (GTD)” is a work-life management system created by the leading productivity expert and author David Allen. According to Allen, there are five stages we go through when we deal with our work;

“We (1) collect things that command our attention; (2) process what they mean and what to do about them; and (3) organize the results, which we (4) review as options for what we choose to (5) do”.


As mentioned above, the GTD method consists of five stages for managing your workflow. Let’s go through the steps in detail.

To clear your mind, you need to gather all your task, projects and commitments and store them somewhere outside of your head – in a physical or digital ”inbox”.

The next step is to process all your items in the “inbox”. Go through the items and clarify what they are and decide what needs to be done about them.

Organize all your tasks, projects and commitments into non-actionable or actionable items.

  • If no action is needed at the moment, decide if it’s something you might look at later, store as a reference or get rid off.
  • If an action is needed and takes less than 2 minutes, do it right away.
  • If an action is needed, but takes longer than 2 minutes, you either delegate it or defer it.
    • Put items you delegate in a “Waiting for”-list.
    • Put items you defer in a “Next actions”-list.
    • If it’s a multi step project, put it in a “Current Projects”-list.

Review all your tasks and projects weekly, so that you see the big picture and what you should be prioritizing. Add new items to your “Inbox” and update your lists.

5. DO
Now that you have collected, processed, organized and reviewed all your commitments, it’s time to decide what to start working on.

One method for choosing actions in the moment is the “Four-Criteria Model”. The four criteria are:

  1. Context: Does the action require a certain location or certain tools? 
  2. Time available: How much time do you have?
  3. Energy available: Does the action require physical power and/or mental energy? 
  4. Priority: Given the context, time and energy available, what action will give you the highest payoff?

Create your GTD-system in Upwave

Start by selecting the “Getting Things Done”-template. This boards consists of 6 columns: ”Inbox”, ”Someday/Maybe”, ”Next actions”, ”Current projects”, ”Waiting for” and ”Completed”.

Add all tasks, projects and commitments in the ”Inbox”-column. For all items, decide if you should do it now (if it takes less than 2 minutes), defer it (move to ”Next actions”-column), delegate it (move to ”Waiting for”-column”, store as project (move to ”Current projects”-column), do it in the future (move to ”Someday/Maybe”- column), save it as a reference or delete it. Use colors to reflect the action required, and then move the items along to the appropriate column.

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