David Allen's workspace, clearly labeled

Date: Friday, March 23, 2012 by GTD Times Staff

This is a photo of David Allen’s workspace. You’ll notice that he has helpfully labeled many of the items in the photo.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the larger version of the photo, so you can see the details and read the labels.
David Allen's workspace

David Allen's workspace

35 Responses to “David Allen's workspace, clearly labeled”

  1. Paul Higby (@Process2Succeed) says:

    Very helpful. Thanks David. I had an office organizing project scheduled for this weekend anyway; your photo has helped me re-align an idea or two.

  2. Bea says:

    This is great! and the labels show David’s sense of humor and practicality.

  3. phil says:

    this is interesting. Instead of a middle tray for Pending, he has a standing file rack with Project Support files. Good idea. Never considered it. always kept ongoing project items in the pending tray.

  4. Hamish says:

    Good to see David is a Mac user, and I can spy an HP LaserJet 2840 in the corner (I have same model).

  5. Lynn O'Connor says:

    Admirable. David also taught me to label everything in our environment,including: our garbage cans (“recycle” “compost” “other”), our TV remotes (“TV””Cable” “Sound””DVD”)etc. What surprises me here (and what is most problematic for me) is the relatively small amount of Project support files that are visible, and the short stack of reading material. I am always swamped with reading materials –in part because for technical reading, student papers/dissertation drafts, sections, even productivity reading I want to go over (for whatever reason, I use productivity reading to relax),l still print everything out. Even my omnifocus maintained lists which I refresh and review slightly every day, and thoroughly a few times a week –I print that out every day and always have it in front of me. I have never figured out how to manage the massive amount of reading. How is David able to have such a relatively small amount of reading and project support material?? I spend most of the day, every day, reading and writing and seeing hard-edged (time/place/person) appointments, students & clients. But when I keep track of my time, reading is the winner. How does David manage to control his reading material?

  6. KW Massey says:

    I especially love the “caffeine,” “sweetheart,” “sounds”, and, best of all, the “dog.” No office would be complete without a furry friend.

  7. Donna says:

    Well, that’s me screwed then. My dog’s W-A-Y too big for a lil bench like that.

  8. Bob Domine says:

    Very Good! My layout looks/feels amazingly similar! Likely because I have been “listening” to David for 10 plus years now. Got it – Thanks David!

  9. Don says:

    Great stuff, would be interested in the difference between the creative writing pad and the quick writing pad.

  10. Don says:

    Sorry, I meant the creative notetaking versus quick notes.

  11. John says:

    David does have a sense of humour keeping his dog closer than his sweetheart! Also using an iPad as a support for project files is a bit extravagant don’t you think?

  12. AJ Perisho says:

    Very good post!
    A nice and simple work space.
    I’m new to GTD, but I’m looking forward to learning and implementing your system.
    Looks sweet :-)

  13. Michael G. Sorel, Jr. says:

    GTD should be required reading for all high school seniors nationwide.

  14. Carol Anne says:

    I think the two most important items in any office are a dog (or in my case, dogs) and caffeine. Nice to see my work space is not that dissimilare to David’s.

  15. JC says:

    Clean and functional! Just the way we expect from you Mr Allen!

    Best Regards

    Twitter: @ComoMeOrganizo
    Ultima Nota: Como decir que no

  16. Paul B. Taubman, II says:

    UGH! So NOW I see what is wrong with MY office! Time to make some changes to help me GTD!


    Paul B. Taubman, II

  17. Richard says:


    It’s an honor to look inside a chefs kitchen, same as looking in to your “kitchen”. Nice, clear and organized.

    I am curious though, what’s that computer program on the screen? Outlook?

    Richard Duinmayer

  18. Loz says:

    I really don’t understand what the fuss is about. My normal office at home is both ‘busier’ and more organised than this – and that’s nothing compared to my classroom….. I mean no disrespect to Mr Allen – but why all the praise for having a sensibly organised, if somewhat small and claustrophobic-looking (for my tastes) work area?

  19. JGT says:


    Now the next step: setting things up so that you can stand and work at the the computer as well.
    Much healthier, and ultimately gives you more energy to Get Things Done…

  20. Adrian says:

    I love the Dog space. Mine would have cat space, but it would be smack in the middle of the desk!

    I would like to hear more about how the tickler files are set up and how they are used? I hear about them all the time, but I’ve never seen an in-depth explanation of how to use them.

  21. Paul says:

    Where can I find those file cabinets??? Exactly what I’ve been looking for!

  22. Tim says:

    This is a surprisingly humble and attainable setup. I expected some kind of space station of uber-organization, but this shows that one can fully embrace the GTD system without too much fuss. His office is very normal-looking. (This is a good thing — it means people shouldn’t be afraid of the GTD system.)

  23. Chris says:

    Richard — That is Lotus Notes.. I was shocked to see that on his screen.. I’ve used Lotus Notes (involuntarily) for 12 years and have never had any ability to keep it organized. If Mr. Allen is able to keep his mail organized using Notes, then he truly is a guru of epic proportions. I’m in awe.


  24. John says:

    It’s Lotus Notes, but David is using the eProductivity application. That’s the GTD-enabled version of the email, task, calendar and more. Vastly better than the off-the-shelf Lotus Notes email.

    — John

  25. Jan says:

    I too, would like to know about the file cabinets, specifically the one that also has the smaller two drawers on top of the file drawer.

  26. Karla says:

    Interesting that the phone is so far away. Thanks for the view in to see we are not so different. Add in a shredder and remove the iPad (can’t afford it) :)

  27. Mister Bogey says:

    Surprised to see that a guru on work productivity works on an office on wheels…

  28. Drew Clarke says:

    Sorry. I see this as distracting and wasteful in space.
    There should be nothing on the desk apart from what is being worked upon at that moment. Other projects and files tidily stored away as they’ll distract you. Why do you need a clock? You have a watch(probably), a computer, a mobile phone – all with clocks.
    In-tray, how quaintly 1950’s, great way of storing mess – although this is quite tidy.
    What is all the crust under the left corner of the monitor? You shouldn’t have peripherals on the desk that aren’t being used all the time. They just attract dust, take up space and risk being damaged.
    Your monitor is too close to your normal sitting position.
    If you want to get stuff done, get rid of the distractions. The dog is a good idea though and they always seem to know exactly when you need a break!
    What could be better at the end of the day, than putting everything away, leaving a clean desk, putting a sense of closure on the work and walking away – next day, clean desk, fresh start,get out what you need when you need it.
    Kill the clutter!

  29. GTD Times Staff says:

    For those who asked about the file cabinets, they’re made by Herman Miller.

    – GTD Times Staff

  30. Victor says:

    No caffeine please, the best is some jogging 😉

  31. Jan vdP says:

    I’ve heard David once saying that he chose to always use a laptop-size screen, so he wouldn’t get used to a big screen at home, and then miss it while he was on the go.

    That idea has changed :) Just like the replacement of the IBM by a Apple.

    Thanks for sharing!

    – Jan van der Ploeg, the Netherlands

  32. BV says:

    Wow, I’d get rid of 50% of what’s on the desk. Am I the only one that thinks the desk, for a start is too small?

    That, and if you do a LOT of written and computer work, you need more space/OR push the computer back to work. One has to remember where you legs go, otherwise you end up straining accross your desk at an angle to write things down!

    I have a printer, file cabinet (something similar) and an in-tray on the other side of the room, and that way most of my desk is clear and inviting. Perhaps it’s the minimalist bent that I’m on, but I really wouldn’t enjoy working at David’s desk. I still respect the system he advocates.

  33. Babs says:

    Yikes! Thought he would be organized! I’d be happy to offer my services to help him be more productive from an office point of view. This makes me wonder if he isn’t more than a little OCD and stuck in his ways. Not good to have your back to the door. The light is poor and I bet this is as straight as this desk has been in awhile. Just for a photo, you know. I use part of his GTD in Evernote. Part because it was revised and is quick and sensible. You don’t have to spend your LIFE scrutinizing and deciding and planning what to do next. You would never GTD if you overanalyze EVERY detail And besides that, if you read others opinions, it’s only common sense that you take the best ideas/suggestions of someone else and incorporate it with your own personal style. That’s all he really has to say…And get on with it, for goodness sakes! He’s lightened up some since he’s learning to use Evernote, I read. Maybe, he, too will GTD with it and the bare bones of HIS system! Love the dog. I have a Jack Russell named Butler who sits in his own wicker bed in front of a window. The sweetheart needs to enter and organize this office! lol!

  34. gsc gtd says:

    When I saw Dave’s workstation/office desk there was 1 thing that entered my mind… productivity! :) I’m thinking Dave’s arrangement is very effective to maximize productivity. Thanks Dave for giving us GTD system :)

  35. Felicia says:

    This was helpful. I find that workspace is very individual, so I don’t try to imitate David’s. But there are ideas I can use, like having files and supplies close at hand so processing is easier.

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