Productive Living
David Allen

Hi Folks,

If all you get from the GTD methodology is to retire your mind from the job of being your list manager, you'd be light years ahead of most people on the planet. It's one of the easiest principles to implement, and probably one of the most common to disregard in terms of how powerful it can be. Do yourself a favor—get smarter than your mind. It would love to let go of this stuff; it's simply afraid you don't have a better servant.

All the best,




Your mind doesn't have one. A mind, that is. If your mind were smart, it would only remind you of something when you could do something about it.

'Fess up—do you have any flashlights with dead batteries? OK, so when does your mind remind you that you need batteries? At the dead ones! Gee, that's smart. If your mind had a mind, it wouldn't bother you at the dead ones, but would clearly let you know only when you were in a store that had live ones!

Have you ever changed your mind? Sure. Well, who did that? That's the part of us that has to take charge, and realize that just because we think of something we might need or want to do something about, that doesn't mean that we are being productive or constructive about or with it, or that it will be fulfilled. We have to realize that the thought itself is just a beginning, and if we care at all that it bring value or improvement, we probably need to capture it, clarify what it means to us, and organize the actions and information embedded or associated with it.

Your mind will seduce you easily. When you have a thought about something you want or should do, it is usually so simple and so obvious when you're thinking of it, you're sure you'll never forget it or that you'll remember it in the right moment. Then two minutes later, consumed with the next thing on your mind you're sure you'll never forget, you've forgotten that you've forgotten the first thing! And trusting that you'll remember something at exactly the right moment is (if you haven't learned that yet) a seriously risky bet.

Your mind is an incredible servant but a terrible master. Most people I meet, though, are still letting their mind run the show. They need to learn that a flashlight with dead batteries should either have the batteries replaced the moment they notice it, or the flashlight itself should go right into the in-tray.

You have to get smarter than your mind if you want to reach stress-free productivity.



Rule your mind, or it will rule you.—Horace



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Hello David,

I wanted to thank you for your book Getting Things Done. It was recommended to me by one of the Trustees of the Library which I am a director of. After receiving her email I purchased your book and the audio version as well. I figured if it is as wonderful as she says it is it'll be well worth it.

Rarely do I have time to read, I know I'm a librarian, so I have been listening to your book. I must say I love the statement that it's not that my system is wrong it's that certain elements of it needed to be tweaked. I found that many of the things I had been doing already but not in a way that was consistently effective. In adjusting these methods to the ones you present I have gotten loads done in just a week.

Unfortunately I don't have the opportunity to take a day or two aside from my job to gather everything so I have been doing this in chunks. The piles are getting smaller and daily I go through my in box top to bottom. My email has gone from 16 pages long to 2. The only things that are in my inbox are items that are action items or waiting on. The mundane two minutes items are actually getting done.

I noticed today when covering your book for the shelves that this must have been a first edition as it was signed by you and contain a letter that you had written Jan 1 of 2001 upon publication of this book. It was a very nice surprise to see this.

I have even continued your methods at home and again it has streamlined many of my tasks and I no longer have 6 or 7 to do lists that are so long I will never get it all done.

Thank you again for your help. Sometimes it just takes a person from outside our lives to open our eyes.

—Nina Sargent

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