Productive Living
David Allen

Hi Folks,

Want to know one of the easiest ways to act on your creative ideas? Stop trying to hold them in your mind. Your mind is a great place to have ideas, but a terrible place to manage them. And all you really need is some ubiquitous capture tools at hand wherever you are. It's why I designed my NoteTaker Wallet--I wanted something that had an elegant, frictionless design that enabled me to capture on-the-go with little effort more than pulling a blank pad out of my pocket.

Whatever tools you choose, make sure they work to harness your creative ideas, not try to stuff them down in your psyche.

All the best,




There is a light year of difference between a system that has merely a lot of our commitments objectified and one that has 100% of the total. And few people have ever gotten to a totally empty head, with absolutely every project, action item, and potential agreement we have made with ourselves and others out and available in an easily reviewable format.

My hat's off to you if you're trying to keep mental lists as reminders of things to do—but I'll bet those lists are not anywhere close to complete. Consequently they are putting enormous and unnecessary work on your psyche. If you don't have everything in a system that the system ought to have, there is still no full trust in that system, and minimum motivation to keep it up and keep it current. If your "to call" list doesn't have every single phone call you need to make on all your actionable things, then your mind still has the job of remembering them when you're at a phone. You'll probably leave phone slips lying around a desk and in briefcases. You don't really have full freedom to trust your intuition about which call to make from the list, as your psyche still has the job of remembering and formulating all the options. If your address book is only partially complete, you will probably not be motivated to get all your collected business cards input and cleaned up, as soon as they arrive in your life.

If some errands to run are on the list, but there are others that aren't, your mind is still trying to remember what you have to do on the way home. If some projects have been identified, but there are many more that haven't been captured, you're never quite sure that something is not slipping through a crack somewhere. And because these inventories of to-do's are incomplete, they often create more pressure on us than they relieve. We will subliminally know that we don't have everything out in front of us, and we have a mistrust of the tools. The mind continues to be forced to retain the job of remembering and reminding, which it does not do very well.

Most people trust their calendar. Why? Their minds are relatively at ease about appointments because they know they have them all captured-there's nothing missing in the system. What's the difference between your calendar and all the other commitments? Why don't people have as complete a system, and get to the same level of trust about all of those? Probably because there is a finite amount of calendar items, and they are relatively unambiguous. But the calendar usually holds only about 5% of the commitments we actually have-all the rest need to get done in and around our appointments, and they are often not nearly as clear-cut as our appointments. But the principle is the same. There is a level of trust about our lives and work that is available, if we'd only manage all those actionable things as rigorously and completely as our calendars.

How will you know when your reminders and categories are complete? When will you know how much you have out of your head and into your system? You will only know how much you have left, when there is nothing left!

Either your head is the best place to hold all your agreements with yourself, or it's not. (You can guess which way I vote.) I can't imagine any intellectual justification for halfway in between. Yet most people still have over half their life in their heads. And a partial system is almost worse than none. As a favorite mentor of mine is fond of reminding me from time to time, in regard to tracking and renegotiating life commitments in general—99%'s a bitch, 100%'s a breeze.



The life-spirit and energy which contribute to the mastery of the creative process, can never be fully engaged by a commitment to a compromise. —Robert Fritz


Q: How can we apply the GTD principles in our lives, where we are often burdened by stress and other pressures of a hyper-competitive world?

A: The opportunity to apply the key principles of GTD are both immediate and infinite. We live in a continual flow of making and renegotiating our agreements with ourselves and others -- whatever it is that we think we might want to do or experience that we haven't yet. This can range from a poem we feel like writing, to a company we want to start, to a walk we want to take, to the feeling we should clean up our old emails. The point is not to finish everything, but to be constructively engaged with our process of creating and completing.

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Just wanted to share the news that I defended my doctoral dissertation today with highest honors. Needless to say, this would not have happened without GTD. Imperfect though my practice is, it's made a *huge* difference and helped me to achieve a major professional milestone. Next project, per my committee, "Book published!"


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