David Allen: Getting Things Done

Uploaded by Google on 02.01.2008


DAVID ALLEN: Delighted to be here.
My agenda is to be as much of a resource for you folks as I
can be for the time that we have. It's always the most fun
when I feel most used.
So very happy to run me through the grinder and take
advantage of what I might be able to share with you.
Let me just start out by saying you
all get things done.
I was listening to the radio this morning.
What, your stock price in the last--
I mean, excuse me.
This is about as cool as it gets in terms of getting
things done.
So why are you in here?
Maybe it's the stress of opportunity.
Do you know Wall Street was more stressed out in the '90s
than it was after the recession?
Because they were afraid the competition might be getting
there at 3:00 in the morning instead of 4:00.
So they just stayed.

In a strange way, when you're in crisis you get to relax,
because you don't have to think.
That's really, I think, what GTD, the nerve that it hit, is
what is the, as someone very actually elegantly called it,
knowledge work athletics.
What is the thinking that we need to do?
Now, we all do it.
We all sort of do it intuitively.
What I've done is bring to more conscious awareness what
the thinking process is that facilitates our ability to get
things done.
Quite simply, you need to know what done means and what doing
looks like.
But that is not in the Gmail.
Any of you ever open any one of your emails, and it
suddenly, by opening it and starting to read it, it
suddenly goes ding, ding, ding, ding?
By opening and reading and expecting this email, here is
the outcome you have now committed to about this.
And here is the very next action step you must take to
move toward closure to keep that commitment.
Any of you get emails like that?
It would be tough enough, even if that was all
clear, you got a lot.
But no, each one of those inside of all of that, we all
have to make those decisions.
That's the thinking process that has to go on
to determine meaning.
A lot of what GTD was about was, wait a minute.
What is it that we really need to clarify out there in order
to be able to surf on top of this game instead of feel
buried by it?
So if you're like me--
I'm a fellow student by the way.
Every single thing I'm going to share with you today, I
fall off the wagon regularly and fast. By the way, it's
very easy to fall off the GTD wagon for those of you are
familiar with this.
It's very easy to get back on.
It's very easy to get out of control.
Very easy to get back on as long as you
know how to do that.
So a lot of what I did which is make more conscious the
process of how we get back on in case you get off.
So if you're on, this will just be a reminder about how
you got there.
A lot of people get on, but don't know how they got there.
They go, wow, I'm on.
What happened?
Then they fall off and they go, oh damn.
What happened?
As opposed to understanding here's why I am on.
Here's what I did that created that.
It's actually a duplicatable event once
you figure that out.
So that's kind of what I did was figure that out.
And a lot of this is kind of after the fact.
I'm really a behavioralist. I didn't start with theory and
then try to make that work.
I started with what works toward making things happen
easier, faster, whatever.
And then kind of backed up and said now wait a minute, what's
the principle that lies behind that?
For instance, have any of you in here sort of felt your back
up against the wall and felt yourself sort of confused and
a bit overwhelmed, and you sat down and you made a list and
you felt a little bit better?
Anybody ever do that?
If you'd figured out why that works, you'd never keep
anything in your head the rest of your life.
It's just most people have to feel really bad before they do
things that make them feel a little bit better.
But if you actually figured out why that works, you'd
realize your brain is not for holding commitments.
It doesn't function very well that way.
And that's why writing it down, nothing changed out
here, but something changed about how you're engaged with
that by distributed cognition, as the
scientists now call that.
I had a psychologist go through one of my seminars.
She said, gee, David, you know what this is?
I said, what is it?
She said, distributed cognition.
I went, you mean write it down?
She said well, that's another way to say it.
Well, we laugh, but you've only seen the tip of the
iceberg in terms of people understanding the value of
getting things out of the psyche to be able to then
negotiate with it in a much more objective, elevated level
than to be in it.
And I think we're still at the beginning of sort of testing
out exploring and researching what those tools are that
facilitate us freeing ourselves up for what the
brain is really designed to do, which is intuitive, your
intuition, your intelligence.
No system can do that.
Now, you engineers are saying, I want to find a better way to
automate GTD.
So fabulous.
I don't care how much of an AI expert you are, how much of a
macro freak in your software you are, you're not going to
write a program that when you run it, it says, call Fred.
You might, but you're going to go no, I'd rather have a beer.

So systems can't tell you anything to do.
They can, but you're not going to be able to trust it to tell
you what to do.
What a system can do is move you from hope to trust in
those choices.
And that's really what GTD was.
That was the promise of what this was all about.
Basically, as Renee--
and thanks, Renee, for the introduction--
Renee said David, what do you want to talk about?
I said, well, here's kind of my topic du jour.
First of all, I'd like to frame GTD as the martial art
it really is.
It's the martial art of work and life, essentially, and the
logic of that.
So I'm going to walk you through the logic about why
this stuff works when you work it.

And then, ultimately, why it solves the two aspects or it
facilitates your ability to enhance the two aspects of
essentially managing yourself.
Control and perspective, by the way, those are the two.
We'll talk about those.
In the matrix, when you overlay those against each
other, you'll see that--
and they need very different things to do.
There are different things to do that get you in control and
different things to do that give you perspective.
They're not the same animal.

Talk about why the models that I sort of synthesized and
pulled together facilitate control and perspective.
And as you're going to see folks, and some of you who
have intersected-- how many of you have intersected with GTD
to some degree?
You've either read the book or been to a seminar or
something like that.
By the way, if you haven't, that's not a prerequisite.

If you have, this will be a reminder of what you probably
saw, but didn't quite see yet.
I need reminders of this regularly.
Seems to be this onion I can keep
peeling deeper and deeper.
And we'll see more aspects of it.
But I'll share with you two very simple models that we
Now, each one of those, you can drill into it in quite a
bit of sophistication in detail.
So happy to range further into that detail, if we have the
time to do that.
I don't want to spend too much time just sort
of talking at you.
I do want to open it up and dialogue with you.
Because trust me, there are as many different applications
and implications of this material as there are people
sitting in this room.
GTD, a lot of people have called this life changing in
terms of truly how they changed how they just dealt
with getting up in the morning and dealing
with work and life.
And a lot of people just like the tips and tricks.
Usually the younger you are, the more you're interested in
the tips or tricks.
I'm changing my life, fine.
Come on, I'm too busy to be worried about
improving my life.
But as you kind of say, yeah, but now as you start to get up
and start to have kids and want play golf and want to do
some other things, oftentimes, wait a minute.
There's a whole different approach here that can
facilitate my ability to keep a lot more plates spinning at
a lot more sophisticated level without
upping the stress level.
And when that starts to be of importance to you, that's
where you start to see the value of these models.
For instance, I doubt if many of you need to understand
gravity or automobiles any better than you currently do.
You probably make it through the rest of your life real
cool without understanding those gravity or cars any
better than you do.
Unless you're hired as a formula racer.
Then you damn well better understand cars and gravity
better than the average bear.
So the same is true with work.
You don't need to understand the martial art of work if the
heat ain't on.
But if you jump yourself into or throw yourself into places
and opportunities that will challenge you to the edge,
that's when the elegance of the martial art and the moves
and understanding that and seeing how they work in making
more conscious can make a big difference.
And that's what we've seen with these models.
And I'll talk a little bit about the GTD phenomenon.
I'm as much bemused by it as many other people are.
I just said, at some point, it took me 25 years to figure out
what I figured out.
Because I thought everybody had figured
this out before me.
I was trying to catch up with the rest of the world that I
thought had already done this.
Then one day, I looked around and went, nobody
else has done this.
What happened?
So my game was just to sort of write the book, create a
website, throw this out there, put my spin on this, and see
who saluted.
And I was willing to take this as small as it wanted to be or
as big as the world wanted it.
Well, the world keeps saying, gee, this is
cool, we want more.
So now I figure I was going to take the next 25 years to
figure out how to educate the world or at least give them
tools to facilitate the implementation of this.
And I don't consider myself really an expert
at that yet at all.
So you can help us, and you are, by the way.
By the way, I understand the purpose of this company is
basically to essentially make information accessible to
everybody on the planet, all the information that there is.

So the information overload people are in deep trouble.

And people say, information overload, what about
It's not information overload.
If information overload was the issue, you'd walk into a
library and die.
The first time you surf the web, you'd just blow up.
Actually, the first time you walked through
nature you'd blow up.
That's why nature is so relaxing is because of the
infinite variety of information that
it feeds your brain.
Actually, you'd go weird when you go in a room with no
It's called sensory deprivation.
So the truth is your brain actually relaxes with the more
horizons that it can range in that will map to the
sophistication of whatever that computer is in there,
interestingly enough.
But it's not information overload.
It's potential meaning overload.
Potential meaning.
Each one of those emails yuu're getting has potentially
a snake or a berry or something inside it, but it's
not evident when you first see that email.
That's the problem.
So you start to add all the potential meaning.
What if you walked into nature and anything could
eat you, bite you?
It's like gah.
That would be like I'm not going out there.

Let's talk about the martial art.
I want to give you an idea of the martial art.
And I did have a background in karate, so it actually was
interesting to find the analogy seemed to hold very
well with work.
Work is an art.
I'll be bold enough to tell you GTD
described the art of work.
Most people just work.
They don't realize what the art of that work process is.
By the way, I use work in a very universal sense.
Anything you want to get done that ain't
done yet, that's work.
So buy a company or buy a dog, they're both work.
Trust me.

So work's not a pejorative to me.
I also don't even have a distinction
between life and work.
And I'll talk about that, too.
That's where this is going is that that's going to dissolve,
if it hasn't already, in terms of you.
But the martial art.
Martial deals with surprise.

Matial deals with surprise.
Not that the other art forms you're not also dealing with
surprise in some interesting way, but martial says you
could be walking down a dark alley and four people jump you
you don't expect.
So your training in the martial art will then reflect
how good you are with surprise.

And allocation of energy in surprise.
From my experience, a lot of your competitive edge is your
ability to deal with surprise, personally and
The organizations that can't deal with the stuff that
wasn't expected are not around or look very different than
they did before.
So it is a martial art.
Now, there is an image in the martial arts that I use and
refer to a good bit, mind like water, grasshopper.
Mind like water.
What does that mean?
Well, throw something into a pond, how does the water
respond to input?
Totally appropriate.
You throw in a pebble, it does pebble response.
Real simple.
Back to calm and balanced again.
Ready for the next input.
Throw in a boulder, what does it do?
It dozen to pepplenees.
It does boulderness perfectly.
Back to calm and balanced again.
Ready for the next input.
The water's not confused to how to deal with stuff.
Also, the water's not tensing up before the rock hits it.
It's not going, oh dear, here comes a rock.
It just goes, rock, all right.
What does that have to do with anything?
Well, I don't know if you're aware of it, but the power in
a karate punch comes from speed, not muscle.

But if you're distracted, hung up, and not fully present and
available, you are not totally relaxed.
You're not totally relaxed, you lose speed.
So a simple definition, if you will, about mind like water,
and see if you can translate this into your professional
world or just into your world, perfectly appropriate response
to and engagement with whatever's present.

But let me ask, and you you don't need to raise your hand,
just internally answer this question, have you ever taken
one meeting to the next?
You ever taken home to work, work to home?
It's probably because you then are not fully available to
that new thing with your full resources.
There's some part of you that's--
if I could see psychically, I can't, but if I could most
people would look like Pig Pen, the cartoon character
with this cloud of stuff spinning around them.
That's been going on that is potentially clouding their
ability to see, their ability to respond to the next thing,
new thing, appropriately with all their resources at hand.
And I will suggest that your ability to generate power,
whatever that means to you, but essentially your ability
to be effective in any way shape or form, has an awful
lot to do with your ability to concentrate.
It's just physics.
You concentrate electricity, it gets more powerful.
You concentrate.
So there's a sense of concentration.
However, your ability to concentrate is directly
proportional to your ability to eliminate distraction.
Any of you ever been distracted, by the way?
What'd that do to your productivity, by the way?
Now, who distracts you more than anybody?

Yeah, they're going he, her.
Oh, come on, any of you ever been in a room by yourself and
got distracted?
Who did that?
Who did that?
Who turned on solitaire to this computer?
Who did that?
Got to finish.

However, where do your distractions come from?
Sure a, loud noise could distract you.
But I guarantee you, if you were trying to save a baby
under a car, you wouldn't hear that noise.

What is it that distracts you?
Well, from my experience, and this may not be the totality
of it, but the vast majority of distractions seems to come
from mismanaged commitments.

Mismanaged commitments.
By the way, I'm just curious, how many of you, since you've
been sitting here this morning, have had your mind go
somewhere that had nothing to do with what
was going on in here?
Raise your hand.
Now, if where you went in your mind was just
grazing out of fun--
I'm just looking around, imagining that, imagine that,
cool-- or where you went was doing creative developmental
thinking down a track your brain has ever been before
that was maturing your thought process and adding value to
life and work, I'd go, wow, that's a cool place for your
mind to go.
Don't pay any attention to me, stay there.
How many of you would say though that where your mind
went was something you need to do, you need to handle, you
need to fix, to take care of, see about, do something with?
Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
Why did that pop into your head?
By the way, did any of you make significant progress on
it while you were sitting here?
Could be, possible.
What did most of you do?
Oh, you worried.
Wow, how effective of you.
What a high performer.
Let's go there, waste time, make no progress whatsoever,
just add a few more toxins into your bloodstream from the
stress of them that probably threw you into.
You go there in your head, a part of you says I should be
out there doing that.
Another part of you says, but I'm stuck in
here with this jerk.
Hope he's good.
Conflict, inner conflict, unresolved, still there.

Where most of you didn't go in your mind was where am I going
to be a week from Friday at 3:15.

Because you trust that system.
and the only reason the other stuff popped in is because you
don't trust that system.

The problem is you gave that system all of that other stuff
your mind the job of managing all of that.

And it's a fabulous servant.
But it's about seven years old emotionally.
Don't forget, we got to, we need.
And it wakes you up at 3:00 in the morning beating you bloody
about something you can't do spit about while
you're lying there.

Have any of you yet to discover your mind
doesn't have one?
If your brain had a brain, it will only remind you of things
when you could do something about them.

Oh come on, let's check this one out.
Honestly, how many of you somewhere out there in life,
somewhere, have got at least one flashlight right now with
dead batteries in it?
Raise your hand.
Tell me where and when your mind tends to remind you when
you need batteries.

When it's dark.
This is not smart.
Your brain had any innate intelligence whatsoever, it
would not bother you about batteries at dead ones.
Where would it bother you about batteries?
When you pass the right size live ones.
Hey David, you need two double a's, they're on the shelf.
Whoa, thank you very much.
If my mind had a mind, I don't need a system.

How many of you, since you woke up this morning until
now, have thought of something you needed to do you still
have not done?
Raise your hand.
How many have had that thought more than once?
Excuse me, aren't you folks busy?
What makes you think you have the luxury to sit there having
thoughts about things and make absolutely no progress on it?
I'm sorry folks.
Once you're introduced to GTD, no excuse to ever have a
thought twice, unless you like the thought.

But guess what folks?
Your mind does a crappy job, but it can't give it up until
it absolutely knows there's a better system.
And you can fool me.
You can't fool yourself.
It absolutely knows whether you're going to look at the
right place and that you have the right stuff in the place
you'll look.
And if it doesn't trust that's true, it's still got it.
Can't let it go.
Cannot let it go.
The problem is that part of your mind that is hanging on
to this stuff, it's that place we call psychic RAM.

It's that short term memory spot, which the study in 1959
showed how much you could hold data, you could hold in there
and still function with that appropriately.
About seven things, plus or minus two.
If you're really good, you can handle nine.
But as soon as you try to keep track of a tenth one,
something just got screwed.

It doesn't do that very well.
So the point is it can't let go of the job.
And it's still now trying to do all that, and it
can't let it go.
It can't.
And it has no sense of past or future in there.
That's the weird part of it.
If you really catch that, that means as soon as you give
yourself two things to do that you can't finish when you
think of them and you're using your brain for your system,
you create an instant failure and stress.
Because you can't do them both at the same time, but there's
a part of you psychologically that's trying to.
Now, this is a working hypothesis.
I would challenge you to go prove this right or wrong
yourself to see if that works.

And what happens is there's usually an inverse proportion
between the amount something is on your mind and the
amounts that getting done.
So you can pretty much bet that if something's bugging
you, it's hung up and you're the bottleneck.
Because the reason it's going to be bugging you is usually
because there are decisions about what that thing
specifically means to you and what you need to do about it
that you haven't made yet.
Or even if you've made those decisions, you haven't parked
the answers to that question in some trusted place you
think you'll look at the right time and place.
Because those are the critical things to do to
get it off your mind.
By the way, you don't have to like your life to
get it off your mind.
You don't like where you're going to be a week from Friday
at 3:15 to get that off your mind.
You folks understand?
The only reason it's on your mind is because it's trying to
be your system.
It just doesn't do it very well.

And the strange thing about this is if you don't--
it's actually not strange, it's actually pretty common
sense when you think about it-- if you don't give
appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will
start to take more of your attention than it deserves.

So you better start to pay attention to where
your mind is going.
There's a message inside of that.
And if you're not dealing with it, it keeps going there, and
it keeps adding fuel to the fire in terms of stress if you
don't handle that.

That's one of the reasons that the old models haven't worked
is because they didn't start with that reality.
They tried to start with some reality that didn't map to
what was really going on inside of your psyche.
And that's where I started.
Now, if you really want to get things off your mind-- and by
the way, it is possible to be buried and have
nothing on your mind.

Well, I'm modeling that for you.
Maybe that's evident.
There isn't much going on up here.
Well, this is going on, not that.
Could it be?
Yeah, I'm buried.
Got tons of stuff, important, big things.
I'm here, lovely folks.
But you're still one small operational detail in my life.

I'm an extra in your play, too.
But you wouldn't want my mind going where yours are in here.

So in order to get things off your mind, you don't do it by
stacking it up, meditating about it or drinking about it.
Those have other purposes.
But if you really want to clear your head, you need to
make sure you have captured, clarified and organized all of
your commitments at every horizon you've made those
And you also have to trust that you will engage
consciously with those commitments at the appropriate
time and place.
That simple.
You want nothing on your mind?
Make sure you've grabbed it, decided what it means,
organized the results of that decision into a trusted place
you absolutely know you'll see at the right time.
Then your mind can let it go and not until then.
But it's possible to do.
You've all done it with your calendars.

And from my experience, your ability to refocus rapidly on
the right things at the right horizon at the right time is
the master key, the master technique of
knowledge work athletics.
As you get more sophisticated and take on more ambiguous,
strange and more plates spinning in the air, your
ability to know, 3:15, what's the thing I need to focus on
at what level right now?
And to be able to shift that in an absolute moment's notice
and have ability to manage that game, I think, is the
master key here.
And since perspective is your slipperiest and it's the most
valuable commodity you have. Your life could be in just the
worst dire straits by anybody else looking in, and you can
still be on with the appropriate perspective.
And your life can look fabulous, and you want to take
your life if you have inappropriate perspective.
So your point of view, you're viewing point, your attitude,
your altitude, those things are just so critical in terms
of you being on.
So anything that helps do that is going to help.
Any of you ever lose perspective out
there, by the way?
Yeah, so anything that can get you back on.
Wait a minute.
Now what happened and where am I?
And we all do this.
You wouldn't be sitting here if you didn't.
Again, I'm just going to make it more conscious.
Therefore, the two things that seem to be the most critical
to manage are we need control, which means we consciously
need to be able to feel like we're engaged in some
intentional way and aware of all the options that that
engagement could include.
A good example is before you go on a vacation.
You know when most people feel best about their job, from my
experience-- well, not here, because you folks feel great
about your job all the time.
I know.
I just walked around.
It looks fabulous.
This is the place to work, right?
But from my experience in all those other companies, when
most people feel best about their job, a week
before their holiday.
But it's not about their holiday.
They think it is.
What are you folks doing a week before you go on holiday?
Cleaning up, clarifying, grabbing, organizing, and then
renegotiating all your agreements with yourself and
everybody else.
I just suggest you do it weekly, not yearly.
But everybody's got a reference point about what
it's like to get that kind of control.
OK, they're going to feed the cats and the sprinkler system
is going to go and the client's good.
There's probably three calls, but I've got my people set up
that can handle all that.
That's what I mean by sort of get the whole environment, all
the different aspects of it.
That's a control piece.
Perspective says, should you be taking the vacation?
Or what are you using the vacation for?
And that means that I'm clear about priorities and
In other words, there's some vertical alignment in terms of
what I'm doing.
These are two actually very different events.
Most people have tried to blend them together.
That's why it didn't work too well.
You can look at it this way.
In my old consulting days, obviously there's a two by two
matrix sitting in my DNA.

So let's matrix control and perspective, OK?
They're actually different dynamics.
On the bottom left quadrant, no control, no perspective.
Who or what's that?
Now, that's basically in reactive mode, driven by
latest and loudest. Any of you ever find yourself there?
If you're not there at least six times a day, you're stale.
Oh come on, any of you ever leave a big meeting that just
generated 14 billion cool, wicked cool and fabulous
things to do and just blew the hell out of how you were going
to spend the rest of your day?
That's what I'm talking about.
Now, I go back and go, whoa.
I've got to now regroup.
Now I'm in reactive mode right now.
I need to move some other direction.
Now, bottom right, high control, no perspective.
Who or what's that?
That's your basic micromanager.
Any of you ever avoid making a tough phone call by
reorganizing your desk?
That's what I mean.
Let me overstructure here.
So there's a lot of overstructuring.
Some of you work for one.
Some of you are one.
Some of you are married to one.
I don't know There's an anal retention thing here.
The bean counters that if you just count beans, you'd have
no beans to count soon.
But it's kind of the overstructure
side of this thing.
Too controlled is out of control, by the way.

Asa a matter of fact, if I were sparring with you in
karate, I'd love for you to become a micromanager.
I'm going to get you upset.
I'm going to get you focused on some tiny little thing,
because then I can control you.
If I can get you upset, I can get you to be over reactive
and I can control you.
And your kids know that.
So does your dog.

So overstructure.
There's too much structure, lack of flexibility.
I'm trying to nail it down.
I'm trying to control it out of a sense of insecurity, and
there's too much structure on it.
Now, upper left.
Who or what's that?
High perspective, no control.
That's your basic crazy maker.
Here's an idea, oh here's another thing, oh, and one
more, let's do, and here's another one.
Absolutely no consciousness of constraints or resources.
Some of you are married to one.
Some of you've worked for one.
Some of you are one.

One of the reasons a lot of people don't want to take a
GTD class is because they're crazy makers that don't want
to be a micromanager.

They think this is about getting organized.
Don't fence me in.
Dude, look at all those lists.
Because they're afraid of that.
I understand.
I wouldn't want it either.
There is an upper right quadrant folks.
Who or what's that?
Master and Commander.

We should get Russell Crowe as our
spokesperson, don't you think?
Their eye on the prize, but they'll clean
the toilet if required.
They can shift their horizon absolutely
where it needs to be.
Any of you ever work for a boss, you haven't seen him for
two weeks and they walk in one day and walk over to the one
thing that screwed up?
Because they got it in their gut.
Somehow that ability to walk that interesting line between
structure and freedom, staying where I want to go to be able
to get their most elegantly.
And come on, we fall off of this.
I do.
I fall off regularly.
Regularly, come on.
Many times I find myself here.
Many times I find myself here.
Many times I find myself here, because I was here and here.

No, really.
But the trick is, do you know how to recognize that you fell
out and to boot strap yourself back up to there?
How do you do that?
Well, that's why we created and we found these two models.
One is just mastering workflow.
That's usually the first thing people get when they get with
GTD is a way to get some sanity out of all this stuff.
And how do I recognize a best practice about how to think,
organize, clarify that stuff quick, fast, complete without
too much structure?
But just enough so that I can know things are in their
place, and I'm not losing anything.
So that's the workflow piece.
And there are five stages to that, which
I'll go over briefly.
And then the perspective piece says, OK, I need now to shift
the horizons, and I need to be able to look at some other
different levels of my work and commitment to make sure
that those are clear.
Different events here.
And there are six horizons we found that seem to be
functional for people to work with.
Let me give you a sense of what I'm talking about.
How many would say you have let reading material get
somewhat out of control out there?
You've got stuff to read and review just sort of strewed
all over God and creation.
It's all spread all over the place.
If we said, OK, let's get control, one of us, Kelly or
Wayne of one of our coaches, we'd walk in with you and say,
tell you what.
Let's get yourself a box.
Let's get a labeler.
Let's label this thing read and review.
Let's go find what means read and review to you all around
your environment.
And we're just going to find all the things that map to
say, yeah, I want to read that.
I want to read that, too.
And we're going to put it in one big box.
Big, big box.
Big box.
However, if we get it all in there, there's a part of you
that will want to take us to lunch, buy
us a bottle of champagne.
Look, I'm in control.
There's all my reading material.
Wow, that's really cool.
You're looking at a bunch of crap, but the rest of the
world has no crap.
Hey, if you put a fence around crap and label it, you're on.
No, no, no.
If you don't, it owns you.
You got to name them, folks.
If you don't name it, it owns you.
You think we're kidding about a labeler?
Don't kid yourself.

So now you got it under control, sort of.
Say, OK, right.
And then we say, OK, now let's go to the
perspective side of the thing.
Should we go through all that stuff and ask yourself what
should you be reading in there?
How many of you are currently getting magazines that were
something of interest to you two years ago, but the
subscription hasn't stopped?
But you haven't read those magazines,
they just keep coming.
Anybody got some of those?
That's what I mean.
Which subscriptions do you need to cancel
right now, by the way?
And which new magazines do you need to subscribe to?
Ah, now we're into perspective.

But if I walked in with a perspective conversation and
said hi, let's talk about what you should be reading and not,
you're going to go [WAILING].
So guess which order we do this in.
You've got to get control first. Now, the truth is, if
you don't decide which magazines you really should be
reading, it will get out of control again.
So these things are very closely tied together.
If you lose perspective, you'll also lose control.
And if you get out of control, it's impossible to have the
right perspective.
So there's a high correlation between these two events.
If you are going to get control--
and this our five stages.
If you read my book, this is chapter two in there.
And actually part two walks you through
our coaching process.
First thing you got to do is you have to collect anything
that has potential meaning to you.
That means you need to grab all the would, could, should,
need to's, might want to, that'd be cool, oh, yeah, I
might want to's.
Anything that has life to it longer
than the thought itself.
Anything that doesn't belong permanently on your desk and
in your desk represent something that needs to be
done or changed or done something about.
We grab all those things.
So first thing we do is just physically collect the
environment, stuff that you still need to
decide meaning about.
If I go back to your desk right now, we'd look through
your work station.
Anything that's not supplies, reference materials,
decoration or equipment represents some commitment
you've made to make something different.
Because those are the only four things that belong where
they are the way they are.

Everything else is in process.
So we want to grab all the in process stuff.
Most people have no idea how many commitments they've made.
And our first process is actually to start to identify
what all of those are.
Guess how long it takes us, typically, for the mid to
senior level professionals that we coach with this
material, guess how long it takes just to have a
oh, yeah, I got to.
Oh yeah, that reminds me.
Guess how long it takes to get the complete dump
out of their head?
One to six hours.
Had to take 16 hours for a guy one time.
I finally just told him, eh, you get the idea.
A lot of stuff out there.
Now, once you gather it altogether, that's one thing.
But then the next thing you got to do is you got to then
clarify what those things mean.
See, all kinds of people make all kinds of lists, but they
don't clarify what they need to do about what's on that
list. And unless you do that, that list will actually create
a lot more fatigue.
Most people don't want to look in their planners or their
lists or their email because there's decisions about
actions they have not made about it.
And all it does is remind them that there are decisions they
haven't made and how tired they are, because they don't
have the energy to think and decide.
Most people's existential experience with their planners
and their organizing tools is fatigue simply because they
don't clarify what's in there.
You have anything that looks like a to-do list, 99% of
every to-do list I'v ever seen when I sat down to work with
somebody is nothing but an incomplete list of still very
unclear stuff.
And by the way, every single email, every single thing in
any one of your categories or your folders, is either
attracted or repulsing you psychologically every time you
look at it.
Sorry, there's no neutral territory.
You're going to go, ooh, when can I mark that off or ahh,
get out of my face.
Because they're still thinking about you
haven't finished yet.
Now, I'm not talking about any of you, but people you know.
Once you process it, oh, that email.
I got to call Bill about that thing.
OK, now you've collected something, you've now
processed it call Bill.
But if you don't call Bill right then, you better
organize a reminder to call Bill.
Otherwise it crawls back up into your head again.
And you better organize it in some place you trust you'll
see at the right time when you have time and a phone.

If you don't, your brain's still reminding you that you
need to call Bill.

Which then you must review all of that stuff.
Once you've done that, you need to keep it alive and keep
it current.
You need to be using the system to
keep your brain relaxed.
See, I need to constantly be checking in with my system so
I trust that it's current.
Otherwise, my mind has to take that job back.
I want my mind to be free, to be fully here, not there.
But in order to do that, I have to care
and feed the system.
I have to keep coming back to it.
I have to keep reviewing.
I have to keep looking at the right thing at the right time.
Then I engage.
Then I make choices about what to do.
So that's really how it is.
But each one of these stages has its own best and its own
worst practices.
And we can drill into that in more detail if you guys want
to hang around the next hour in terms of what that's about.
Or just get my book.
There's a sleazy sales pitch, if you want.
Well, I wrote it because nobody had really written a
manual about this stuff in that level of detail about it.
And then of course the horizons of focus, we've
identified at least six in there that you probably need
to make sure these conversations are mature if
you want to trust your priorities and trust your
directions about all these things.
Kind of you need to know what the ultimate
intentionality is.
Why are you on the planet?
How are you doing?
What are your core values?
What's really, really, really important to you?
But even if you have that clear, you better get clear
about what the vision of you think that purpose being
fulfilled out there.
By the way, I could be talking about your department or your
company or your relationship.
This iterates to anything.
But if you looked at it for you
personally, what's the vision?
That's the long term thing.
It's one of the reasons you folks are at Google is there
is some vision you've had about what you want to be
doing in a little bit longer term in terms of career and
lifestyle for which this is probably a part of that.
But then you need to bring that down to
12 to 18 to 24 months.
OK, yeah, but in order to make that vision happen, here's
where I want to be.
Here's what I want my job to do.
Here's what I want to accomplish over the next
period of time.
And that will be goals and objectives when you tend to
look at it that way.
And then you'll notice at 20,000 feet, you've got about
10 to 15 areas of focus and responsibility.
Any of you find taking care of your body might be useful for
your professional goals?
And I'm older than a lot of your parents.
So wait till you get to 62 and you
discover you're not immortal.
Any of you have any body projects or should?
I always have something I'm fixing, taking
out, putting in.
I don't know.
Something's going on.
Relationships, spiritual life, service, a sense of creative
These are the areas of responsibility.
In your job, staff development.
What are the four, five, six, things you really need to be
doing and maintaining?
Sometimes you can spend the whole day just at 20,000 feet
because that's where maintenance is.
Keep the engine going.
I need to maintain relationships.
I need to maintain my house.
I need to make sure the cat's fed and my 401(k) is
appropriately invested.
Stuff like that.
All of which, by the way, will generate
between 20 and 100 projects.
Our definition of project, just something you want to
finish you can't finish.
It's going to take more than one step to finish.
You can finish within a few months.
And most of you have 40, 50, 60, 70 of those if you include
all your personal.
Which then comes down to about 150 to 220 next actions right
now if you were to actually clarify your agreements and
commitments with yourself at all these different levels
When we tend to coach people, by the way, we'll walk people
through this.
But guess which way we go?
Do we go bottom up or top down?
Bottom up.
You go top down, nobody's home.
If I ask and of you to write down the top three things on
your mind, very few of you would write fulfill destiny as
human spirit on planet.
What you're going to write is cat food.
That's right.
So if I want to work with you, we're going to
start with cat food.

At some point you'll realize you have a cat because it fits
into your vision, which is fulfilling your life purpose
and whatever.
But we got to start with cat food.
In two days of coaching intensely with people, we
barely get up to 10,000.
We might get up to 20,000, might get to 30,000, because
there's so much stuff down at that level that has got people
out of control.
They can't think at 40,000 feet yet.
But that doesn't mean those are not conversations to have.
It just means you didn't get to them yet.
And we need to make sure you've got implementation and
deck clearing capability first. Because otherwise,
you'll resist taking on bigger stuff, because you'll know you
couldn't handle it if you did.
The old models, why they don't work.
They only dealt with one aspect.
They either dealt with perspective or control, but
they didn't tie them together.
They also weren't complete.
Hi, just organize the important things.
And then cat food will take half your day, because of
forgetting it and then having to go back.
So a lot of times, they tried to start top down and they
didn't get all the way down so it was incomplete.
Or they said it's OK to only have a few of your phone calls
on your calls list. Excuse me, as soon as you have anything
left on your mind, you don't trust your system.
If you don't trust your system, it's not worth the
energy to put stuff into it, because it's not giving you
the pay out.
You folks who've only got half of your stuff in terms of your
commitments into Gmail and into however you're organizing
that, sorry, it's just more work than it's worth.
Do it all.
Change the game.
Totally changes the game.
But you don't have a system until you do.

They also compress the models.
Any of you ever sat down and said, oh,
I need to get organized?
And you tried to collect, tried to prioritize, tried to
clarify, tried to organize, tried to review, all in one
fell swoop and you blew a fuse.
Go, eh, doesn't work.
So we've taken this down to as close to the zeros and ones as
we could possibly get them in terms of you cannot get it any
closer to just the simplest thing to do.
But you got to collect.
That's different than processing what you collect,
which is different than organizing what you've
processed, which is different than reviewing it all, which
is different than making choices.
Those are very different behaviors with different tools
and different best practices.
And we can't compress it anymore than that.
And everybody's tried to do that.
Also, people have tried to compress the horizons.
So let's talk priorities.
Is that Google's strategic plan or yours?
How about health and vitality?
Where's that fit?
Do you understand that people go, let's do part of it?
And that won't work.
If you try to compress priorities into anything less
than at least these six different horizons, probably
not going to get it all.
Disconnected from reality.
People want to deal with the vision of their life, and they
got 3,000 emails blowing up on their desk.
This didn't map to where people really were,
And they were system-dependent.
Hi, my system.
My way to organize this is the best way to do it.
If you folks get GTD, you'll see we are system agnostic.
Doesn't matter.
You want to write it on a body part, fine.
It doesn't matter.
Just make you don't wash it off when you need it.
Mine is like, what's the purpose of this?
Clear my head.
Whatever system keeps my head clearest, that's what I'm
going to use.
That's the driver.
How I came up with all this?
I needed a better job.

After 35 professions by the time you're 35, consultant or
flake are your only two options.

I'm the laziest guy you ever met.
I'll stand toe to toe with any of you on that one.
I'm so lazy I've set up a system so I only have to have
a thought once.

I'm enthralled with efficient process.
I thought everybody was.
I wake up thinking how much easier can I get done what I
got to get done?
I thought everybody thought that way.
Apparently not.

I value clear space.
I discovered that.
Especially in the martial arts, a lot of that's about
how do you clear the space, wherever that is.
But a clear space is a much easier place to operate from.
There's a surprise coming toward me right now I can't
see, so when I'm not doing anything else, my emails at
zero, folks.
I'm cleaning backlog because there's a surprise
coming toward me.
You think it's easier to deal with surprise when you got
3,000 unprocessed emails or when you're at 0?
You tell me.
And by the way, it takes a lot less psychic energy to
maintain at 0 than it does to maintain at 3,000.
And if the good fairy, by the way, showed up and disappeared
all your Gmails right now, you're at 0.
Within 10 days, you'd all have exactly the number you have.
Because it has nothing to do with your volume.
It has to do with your comfort zone of how many unprocessed
things you will tolerate.
Mine is 0.
It's never at 0.
There's always stuff coming in.
But it's a lot easier to maintain at 0, and it's a lot
easier to deal with surprise.
A whole lot easier.
Whither goest GTD?
I don't know.
That's why you'll see question marks there.
It's starting to become a standard.
We are actually getting calls and emails, could you tell us
a GTD compliant company that I can go to now I'm sick and
tired of where I work?
It's the truth.

General Mills has now used this, SC Johnson now.
These folks who are very much into the life balance stuff
and they really want to put their money where their mouth
is about that.
It's starting to become a standard.
If you don't think this way, you don't start meetings
without going, what are we trying to accomplish?
You don't end discussions without going, what's the next
step, yours or mine?
And people are writing things down.
It's not uncool.

The world's coming at us.
Our kids need to know this.
No kidding.
So that's been on our Sunday maybe list, but it's warming
up to be able to get to that.
Work life balance is a hoax.
Just using that vocabulary is reinforcing something that's
just bizarre.
There's just what's next.
And it's cat or software or strategic plan.
It's just that.
And we've got to start to understand that's
what the game is.
Now, you folks seem to be doing that as a culture here.
You kind of get that.
You walk around, you sort of get that idea.

Accepted assumed practice.
At some point, hopefully, perhaps, our whole company
will dissolve, because everybody just does this.
I don't know.
We'll see.
I just walk around and look at in baskets, I figure we got
job security for a while.