Productive Living
David Allen

I consider myself both a relatively lazy person as well as someone who is easily distracted by bright shiny activities that attract my attention. Of course I discovered years ago that if I let either or both of those tendencies hold too much sway, my life would veer in an unproductive direction. And, worst of all, because things would start to go, well, not so well, I would begin to lose my freedom to goof off and my ability to run down cool, creative rabbit trails! So some of the best things I have done for myself are to create blinders and focusing tricks that keep my attention engaged with the best things at the right times, so I don't have to work so hard at not working hard.

GTD provides many of those structures for channeling my attention, and for quite awhile I've wanted to create a map that really handles the whole banana, in terms of an overview of the GTD process. How can I show the total process of optimal engagement with the contents of our life and work? It took a couple of years to get it fine-tuned, visually and conceptually, but I'm delighted to announce it's now a product in our store—the GTD Workflow Map. It's comforting to have a reference tool to use to keep an orientation in a world full of surprises, curve balls, and ever-increasing inputs and opportunities.

All the best,




If you had no trouble making decisions, you would probably have no trouble. You'd still have challenges, but problems would be in motion toward solutions, no "stuff" would lie around draining your psychic energy, and things to be done would be funneled into a process of completion as they show up instead of as they blow up.

There is obviously a strong connection between choice-making and productive, relaxed behavior. So, what's the issue about making decisions? Why don't you immediately and easily get off the dime with a pending choice and dispatch it? Several hindering factors could be at work:

  1. Decisions require thinking, which takes time and energy. Often you feel you have neither.

  2. You believe if you choose, you lose. Deciding means there's something you must sacrifice. Likely you are spoiled—you'd love to pretend that you could really have it all. You may add way too much reading material to your piles, for instance, instead of limiting it on the front end.

  3. Bad choices get the blame. You can't be blamed for going off course if you're not yet on the course.

  4. You potentially create lurking monsters. If you got feedback from every decision instantly, you could probably handle it easier than having to make choices for which the consequences could be far-reaching and unexpected.

So, if thorough front-end decision-making is a key success behavior, and you can easily get sidetracked, can you train yourself to make them quicker, better, and more thoroughly across your life and work? Sure.

The most all-encompassing approach would be to do whatever you need to do to gain a greater sense of self worth, giving you more confidence and reducing the fear of making mistakes. But perhaps the most significant short-term factor in ensuring consistent decision-making is increasing your discomfort with not doing it. If you raise the bar internally with how much ambiguity and lack of clarity you are willing to tolerate, you'll find it much easier (necessary, actually) to just get on with it. We spend thousands of hours holding a focus for our clients to make hundreds of thousands of decisions that have been pending in their psyche and their world—from random papers on their desk to key issues distracting their consciousness. They would not have allowed those to linger had their comfort zone not tolerated them.

So how do you raise your standards about indecision you'll tolerate? Become conscious of the inventory of choices you haven't made, but need to. Realize that executive time and energy must be committed to expedite the process, and discipline yourself to empty your in-basket regularly. Commit to bigger results that require an intelligent allocation of your limited resources. And practice, practice, practice... until you get so accustomed to the energy you experience with a clear deck internally, you just won't allow the nagging lack of choice to linger.


"It's not always the actual work that is the hardest part of a job and success—it's the decisions, compromises and choices that need to be made."

-Barbara Abrams Mintzer
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* This discount may not be used combination with other discounts. Special rates available for not for profit and government employees, students, alumni and groups.

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