Articles and Advice

Zen And The Art Of Getting Things Done (GTD)

The founder of the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, David Allen, was a follower of Zen Buddhism and martial arts. It was his passion for pursuits requiring a focused, quiet mind that gave him the impetus to design GTD, a time management system that ultimately creates clear headspace.

It’s a method that appeals to many entrepreneurs. Not only for its strategies for organising calendars, creating to-do lists and scheduling weeks, but also for its ability to create freedom. By not allowing day-to-day tasks to clutter up our brain, we create time for creativity and spontaneity.

GTD helps create “mental space”. It’s David Allen’s belief that it is space that is ultimately more important than time.

The Getting Things Done method consists of 5 steps:

  • Capture
  • Clarify
  • Organise
  • Reflect
  • Engage


Make a list of all the things that are consuming your attention. Feelings of being out of control occur when we try to retain everything in our head. We are pestered by the small details of our life rattling around in our head taking up mental space. These details suck energy away from the important things. From this list, identify what is important.


Clarify what each of the things in the previous step mean to you. Decide what you are doing with each item (or if you should do anything with it at all). Make a decision about what the next action step is. It may be a phone call, research or discard the item altogether.


Organise your items with reminders. Trying to remember too many things is what clutters our mind and denies us space for creative thinking. Some tasks may only require a one-off action whereas projects may require a list of action items before an outcome is achieved. Recognise what needs to be done and allocate your resources. Once a decision is reached,park it (so it doesn’t go back to rattle around in your head).


Break down the to-do list into bite-size pieces. Decide what you can do, and what you should delegate.


This is action mode. Execute your action and to-do lists. Be realistic, the best outcomes come when you match the task with your ability toget the job done. Action will depend on your location, energy levels and priorities.

It may sound structured and complex, but ultimately GTD aims to create loose ends, open spaces to think, daydream and be creative. By freeing up your brain, you have the freedom to turn your attention to where you want it to go.

Entrepreneurs are known for having an aversion to rules. The Getting Things Done method often appeals to entrepreneurs because it’s not a rigid system. You can see what you have on your plate and choose what to do based on how you’re feeling or your current circumstances.

Why people like GTD:

  • It is a method to drive decision-making, rather than procrastinating
  • Creates a feeling of calm that allows the ability to take clear steps forward
  • Helps establish a person’s reputation for reliability because things don’t get forgotten or slip through the cracks
  • Helps you keep to the right path and achieve goals
  • Gives a feeling of being able to handle things, even when workloads are high.

GTD will appeal to anyone who has ever been woken at 3am by worrying thoughts of what you might forgot, or have already forgotten. You may try to keep a hold of everything in your mind, but it’s the buzz of a busy brain trying to handle everything that wakes you in the middle of the night. Find some clear head space instead.

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