What should you do?

What should you do? 

With many choices you are given moment-to-moment, what should you do? There are five steps in the Mastering Workflow model of GTD®: Capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. So which step is most important? How do you decide whether to collect stuff, process an inbox, organize your work, reflect on all of your choices, or just do something? The decision comes back to a key concept in the Getting Things Done® methodology:

What most has your attention?

Is any one of those five stages more critical than another? It depends. And, it will change moment to moment. You may have a lot of unprocessed emails piling up in your inbox, but there may be some action you should be taking that’s more important than getting IN to empty. At times, organizing more effectively or differently will take precedence. And certainly there are times when the priority is to step back and reflect on the total inventory of your work.

If you’re not sure which of these processes you should pursue in the moment, I’d recommend cleaning up your inboxes and reducing your backlog toward zero.

A few good reasons:

  • It helps clean up residual stuff needing decisions so you can think more clearly.
  • It ensures that all the options about what you could be doing are evident in front of you.
  • It serves as preventive maintenance so that you can be ready for new stuff coming toward you that you can’t foresee.
  • It’s usually rather fun and freeing to be playing a part of the game that you know you can win by cleaning up, making progress, and generating creative and productive ideas along the way.

The Solution

So when in doubt, clean an inbox. Then see what you really feel like doing.

This essay appeared in David Allen’s Productive Living Newsletter. Subscribe for free here.


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  1. Translated from Spanish with the Google translator:
    I love this article poes at this precise moment I sit in front of the computer without knowing what GTD phase to start. Now I start to Clarify Trays of Pending Things to clear my mind and succeed with my work this afternoon. Thanks for your articles in this blog.

    Traducido del español con el traductor de Google:
    Me encanto este articulo pues en este preciso momento me senté frente al computador sin saber que fase de GTD iniciar. Ahora me pongo a Aclarar Bandejas de Cosas Pendientes para despejar mi mente y triunfar con mi trabajo de esta tarde. Gracias por sus artículos en este blog.

  2. I agree 100%, but we have a big challenge nowadays, because there are not only emails, but whats app messages, messenger, instagram, telegram, etc… too many people that insist in sending requests on messenger and other plataforms, normally I get lost on where “that” inforamtion was anyway?
    I ask clientes to communicate oly via email or whats app, but I’ve noticed that the voice messages are a nightmare… you have to listen many to find one little info… and sometimes you just delete it from your phone otherwise you have no space for images…
    it’s almost hilarious how stressful the digital facilities can be.

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