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David Allen’s framework of “Getting Things Done” sounds simple: Collect to-dos, Process them by clarifying the desired outcome and next action, Organize them around projects, Review your system, and of course Get Things Done! But as I discovered this week, looking closely at your personal system often reveals huge gaps.

I don’t need any more tools. I use a wide range of physical and digital devices to Collect my “next actions”. Click on the images to see my annotations, and add some of your own if you like (the embed doesn’t work unless you have a self-hosted blog).



What I need is a better approach to Processing and Organizing those next actions. Here’s a short video illustrating my “horizontal filing system”. I have so many “open loops” around me taxing my brain!

Where does my current system break down? I never get around to exercise, grading papers, and personal email. Collecting all of my next actions makes me a great micro manager. But since I don’t Process and Organize the tasks, the larger chunks of time that I need for longer tasks are always whittled away. Furthermore, my system won’t work when I change roles and gain different types of responsibility, as Allen eloquently states on page xii of “Getting Things Done”.


I need time to think on this. (I didn’t intend that to be so ironic but it sure is!) My “next action” is to read through relevant sections of Allen’s book. I can handle that!


Allen, D. (2001). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York, NY: Viking.