Productive Living
David Allen

Hi Folks,

It's natural to want to create a system for priority coding (like "A, B, C" or the flagging feature that's showing up in a lot of software programs) to tell you the most important things to do. But it's a short-term insurance policy that won't give you the trust you need when the time comes to take action. Read my essay below (a reprint from the very first issue of Productive Living sent nearly 14 years ago!) for the real driver in your system for making these decisions.

And if I haven't said it lately, thanks for being a part of our community. I'm always inspired when I hear about how GTD works with folks and the impact that it has made in your world.

All the best,



Leaping from Hope to Trust

Every decision we make about what action to take at any point in time is an intuitive risk. I have twenty minutes before my next meeting—should I call Bob, work on chapter eight, or go get Susan's opinion on the new software?

The over-simplicity of "A, B, C" or "high, medium, low" priorities or daily to-do lists can never really answer that question sufficiently for any of us. No matter how organized we get, how squeaky-clean our systems and our processes are, or how current our strategic and tactical planning is, we have to ultimately trust our hunches about the best thing for us to do at 10:43am or 3:22pm today. It's true that we can utilize those prioritizing frameworks to good advantage, from time to time, to help us focus constructively. But to the degree they potentially limit our options unnecessarily and constrict spontaneous, creative thinking that is dynamic to the moment, they do us a disservice.

The vast majority of the coaching and training we do installs a thought process and a good system for clearing the psychic decks, and frames perspective at the appropriate horizons to make good decisions. It never ultimately answers the question—what's the best thing for me to do right now?

People would often love to be able to give up the non-stop accountability for their intuitive judgment calls about the moment-to-moment allocation of their resources. That's why the ABC-priority and daily-to-do-list structures have often seemed so attractive as a way to "get a grip." But reality has a way of requiring us to be more on our toes than that.

So how can we really know for sure what action to take? Prepare for the worst, imagine the best, and shoot down the middle.

Prepare for the worst = Tie up all the loose ends and don't leave yourself vulnerable to the self-deflation of unclear and un-renegotiated commitments.

Imagine the best = Keep focused on the most positive outcomes and energies you can.

Shoot down the middle = Leap into action!

The GTD methodology we teach doesn't replace the need for the use of your intelligence in the moment. It just makes the intuitive leaps more a matter of trust than hope.



Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's. —Billy Wilder



Dose of Leadership interviews David Allen on the core principles of GTD, including some tactical steps for getting started.
Listen Online or Download Now (37 minutes)

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We asked one of the Certified Trainers in our Trainer Certification Program, "What is the greatest benefit you've experienced (personal and/or professional) since implementing GTD?"

She replied, "I am dealing with a large number of significant life changes all at once (special needs child, husband who is seriously ill, aging parents, promotion at work, etc.). If I hadn't discovered GTD two years ago, I don't know where I would be in terms of my mental state. GTD hasn't taken these problems away, but has provided a framework for dealing with them in a way that minimizes stress and allows me to feel more in control and less frazzled."

How would you answer this question? We'd love to hear your story at

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