Develop and Maintain Successful Business Relationships with GTD

Date: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 by GTD Times Staff

cardsReaders of my site know that I am a big fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology, which the cool kids call “GTD” (see my 5 must read business books post).

GTD for some is a life changer. I can tell you that I personally went from work drawers full of paper piles to an organized filing system and, every once in a while, a clear desk.  But GTD isn’t about organization. It’s about capturing your commitments in a trusted system and using your now free brain to make decisions about what you should be doing right this instant.

When people ask me to recommend a tool for keeping up with business contacts, I don’t have a piece of software I recommend, but rather a systematic approach that could be used in a variety of programs or even on paper.

Let me explain. You may find yourself at a business function. It could be a meeting, a local event, or a national conference. You will probably meet new people, have a few conversations, make a few light-hearted promises, and collect a pocket full of business cards.  The meeting is not where people experience the most stress, it’s the next day. The next day you get back to your desk, open your drawer, and throw in a pile of cards. You’ll deal with them later, right?

If you are trying to develop or grow a professional network, this is a huge mistake. What GTD teaches you is that each one of those cards is a mental commitment you’ve made with yourself. You’ll spend more time and energy worrying about , “who was that guy I met?” and “what did I say I would send her?” then you will if you just process the cards right away.

Instead of throwing those cards in your drawer, get yourself a card scanner (they are cheap). Scan those cards into whatever system you use (Outlook, Apple Address book, Lotus Notes, day planner, etc.)

As you verify the scanned information for each card, do a brain dump into the notes section. Where did you meet this person? What did you talk about? Capture every bit of information or minor detail about this person you can. Get it all out of your head.

Now ask yourself whether there are any “next actions” related to this person. If there are, capture them in your next actions list.

Example: “look for old boating book for Ned Smith”

If it is your desired outcome to develop a meaningful and productive business relationship with this person, create a project on your projects list called “Relationships: Ned Smith.” That way you have captured your desired outcome somewhere you can review it. During each weekly review, you can determine the next action needed to move that relationship forward.

The GTD system recommends that you have a series of lists you review on a regular basis. One list you should have is a relationship “hit list.” This is a list of your 10-15 most important business contacts. You should review this list monthly to make sure you “ping” each of these contacts (send them a note, call them, take them to lunch) at least once per month.

mattscartoonUsing GTD will improve your ability to develop and maintain successful business relationships. Get those cards out of your drawer. Get those commitments out of your head. And get them into a trusted system.

Matt Handal is a marketing professional who offers actionable advice on marketing, business development, and productivity at He is an avid GTD’er and can be reached by email.

7 Responses to “Develop and Maintain Successful Business Relationships with GTD”

  1. Stephanie Jarrell says:

    Enjoyed the article. I’m a big GTD fan, but haven’t fully implemented the system yet – baby steps. I just added a relationship tab to my “list” spreadsheet and can already tell that it will help because it allowed me to do an instant brain dump of the people I want to stay in touch with. Thanks for the tip! Stephanie

  2. Bud Ward says:

    I agree with your GTD philosophy for contact management. As a healthcare practice owner & clinician, I have found the GTD system to be the only way I can keep all of my commitments straight.

    For contacts, I use Highrise by 37signals. Since it is web-based, it allows me to enter contact info from anywhere. I can add notes, atach emails, and create follow up tasks among other things. Tasks that are created can also be delegated to other staff members. Email notifications are sent to me, or if I delegate the task, to staff members.

    For example, if I visit a referring physician, I can enter notes about the visit & create a follow up task for my office staff. They receive an email stating that they have been assigned a task. In doing this, I have used GTD’s under 2 minute rule to enter my notes & delegate a task. This commitment now moves to the “waiting for” area & my mind is clear for the next task.

    I hope my comments are helpful. Thanks for the post!

  3. Ron Lane says:

    Great article and example of how to use the GTD system with relationships and contact management.

  4. Helen says:

    The GTD System is that system that you implement to yourself to make order in your life, to organize it better, to remember to do certain things/tasks at their time.the best part about GTD’s is that it is applicable to almost everything.:)

  5. What a fantastic article. I am leaving a conference right now, and I have made numerous promises that I need to execute. While I haven’t read GTD (I know, I know, I need to!) I will definitely be creating executable actions related to my contacts.

    Has anyone had any luck with card scan services?

  6. Matt Handal says:

    Hey everybody!

    Thanks for reading my post! And thank those of you (you know who you are) that contributed a comment. Let’s keep this discussion of GTD’s application to relationship development going with your observations, thoughts, questions, and solutions!

    I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

  7. Great idea, Matt. I’m getting into GTD now and have found it invaluable already – my email inbox now stays below a count of 5 almost all the time (getting there)…

    For business cards, I just add them to Evernote by taking a photo of them on my iPhone. That then syncs to the Evernote server, which uses OCR to index the card – that’s then available via a web interface and in the Mac Evernote client. No brainer!

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