David Allen

David Allen is the author of Getting Things Done. Here are snippets from his material.


When you know what you're doing, efficiency and style are your only improvement opportunities.
— via Twitter on May 14, 2009

You can only feel good about what you're not doing when you know what you're not doing.

Often times, the more limited your parameters, the more creative you'll become because you have to.

Necessity to plan, organize, be innovative and be creative is inversely proportional to your resources.

It would be rude not to share what I know with those who want to hear it.

It's hard to be fully creative without structure and constraint. Try to paint without a canvas. Creativity and freedom are two sides of the same coin. I like the best of both worlds. Want freedom? Get organized. Want to get organized? Get creative.

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.

Remember, you're the one who creates speed, because you're the one who allows stuff to enter your life.

Your head's for having ideas, not for holding them.

Your power is proportional to your ability to relax.


  • you can only feel good about what you're not doing when you know what you're not doing —> Get things out of your head
    • collect: low-tech
    • organize and process: high-tech
  • data is available to you, but you're not available to the data
  • need does not mean organized (form follows function)
  • your mind doesn't have one (example: your brain reminds you that the batteries are dead when you want to use the flashlight, not when you're standing in front of the batteries in a store)
  • you don't need to have the same thought twice
  • simplicity is on the other side of complexity

Two key questions to getting things done

  1. what is the outcome you want?
    • that is, what does "done" look like?
    • where you trying to accomplish?
  2. what is the next step?
    • how you get from here to there?

Weekly review (example 1 to two hours)

  • clarify (this is the thinking)
  • objectify (this is the doing, the mindless clinking out of widgets: you've intelligently dumbed down your life)

Implementation is the key

  • how well do you do the basics?
  • how well do you deal with surprise

The better you get, the better you better get.

  • you'll be rewarded with more projects that are incomplete and ambiguous

Power is a function of your ability to relax

  • mind like water
  • balance + relaxation —> speed

What around your desk is not

  • supplies
  • reference material
  • decorations
  • equipment

this is what you have your attention on.

Don't break agreements especially to yourself since this disintegrates trust. Instead

  1. don't make the agreement (reduce your standards or care less)
  2. keep your agreements
  3. renegotiate your agreements (but you have to remember them first…)

Cybernetic Principle: if you want to make something complex simple, you have to have a system equally complex as what you're trying to manage to simplify it. Example: computers simplify our lives because they're so complex

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