The Getting Things Done (GTD) Method Promises Stress-Free Productivity

"The most effective way to do it is to do it," said Amelia Earhart. That's basically the methodology behind the aptly named Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity hack. Got stuff you want to get done? Just go get it done. Okay, there's a little more to it than that ...

Do. Or Do Not. There Is No Try.

The GTD method was developed by management consultant David Allen in his 2001 book "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity." According to the writers at and who swear by it, it really works. The book's description sums up the premise of Allen's method: "Our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential." You ready?

The "CCORE" Tenets of GTD

The secret of the system is really all about prioritization. To lay it all out, GTD is broken up into its five core tenets.

  1. Capture. Jot down or type up your to-dos, ideas, and thoughts as soon as they swim through your brain. Make the capturing process too easy to put off.
  2. Clarify. It's easy to write "clean the house" on your notepad, but what does that mean? That one item includes a bunch of other little to-dos that are less intimidating and require less thinking to jump right into. Dust the bookshelf then sweep the hall? Easy.
  3. Organize. Break down those items further into different camps of priority and category. Cleaning up the broken glass in the kitchen is probably more pressing than getting your high school yearbooks in year-ascending order. It's also handy to set due dates at this step if you can.
  4. Reflect. Spend some quality time with your to-do list to see where you can jump in first, and what to do next. Reflect on where you're making progress, and where you're not. (Hopefully, you got to that broken glass.)
  5. Engage. This step is the actual GTD part. Now that you have all your tasks in their appropriate buckets and broken down into digestible bite-size chunks, it's time to do the doing.

A challenge — or benefit — of this system is that it is very customizable. GTD doesn't give you specific step-by-step instructions, but more of a skeleton of a plan that's up to you to beef up. It doesn't give you fancy tools or software suggestions to help you on your journey either. It's all about just getting it all down. Who says a specialized notebook is more effective than a scribble on the back of a receipt? Whatever works, works. Time to GTD, baby.

Want more? Check out "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" by David Allen. The audiobook is free with a 30-day trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

How to Hack Your To-Do List With GTD

Written by Joanie Faletto July 6, 2017

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