Productive Living
David Allen

Hi Everyone,

I was delighted to be a part of the 2010 Do Lectures this summer in Wales. It was an inspiring event for me personally, to listen to and connect with such a diverse group of people who've really done some pretty cool stuff. As a speaker, I was asked to present what I do, but in a unique and different way. You can see the video of my presentation on our blog.

To complement this "Do" theme, I chose an essay about a common challenge that gets in the way of doing—deciding. And the key to getting that under control.

All the best,



What decisions are you avoiding?

Every senior executive I've ever coached, without exception, has at least one (and usually several) key projects hung up and bottlenecked at him/her, simply because it requires a decision about something and there's no clarity about what action is needed to move forward on making that decision.

If you can't decide about something, it means you lack enough information to feel comfortable making some choice. Therefore, the next-action coaching question would be, "So what action do you need to take to begin to get the information you need to make that decision?" Nine times out of ten, there's a specific action to take, such as "surf web re: xyz" or "e-mail A & B to set meeting to explore options about xyz."

Every once in a while, though, the information you need has to come from inside—i.e. your intuition. You need to sleep on it. But even then, to really clear your head, you need to make the decision about how long you can "just sleep on it" until you feel like you need to actually make the Big Decision. Two weeks? Two months? Four days? Six hours? Whatever that answer is, you simply need to park a trigger in a calendar or tickler file to yank your chain at that point, ensuring that you re-assess the situation in your own timing. You might even, at that future point, decide that you need or want more time, in which case simply repeat the move-forward trigger. In other words, it's OK to decide not to decide—as long as you park something appropriate in your "decide not to decide" system. Of course at some point you or the world may change sufficiently to have the whole thing exhaust its relevance and disappear; and you can simply forget the issue. But you will have consistently remained clear in your own agreement with yourself about how you're engaged with the situation.

So, what decisions are you avoiding? What data would you like to get? Where could you start to get it?

Are you OK with not deciding? For how long? What reminder should you insert in your systems, for when, in order for your psyche to let go and really relax in its thinking?


"Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson



Q: How much time do I need to get my email inbox to zero?

A: For people who have 50+ emails a day, I've noticed that it takes an average of about 30 seconds each to process (decide what it is, delete it, file it, respond to it quickly, or defer it to an "action" folder or list.) For someone with 100 emails a day (more and more common) that's 50 minutes just to get through a day's email load. That doesn't count all of the other input you get as well, including phone calls, voice mails, conversations, and meetings.

A typical professional these days must factor in at least an hour a day and an additional hour at the end of the week (for a Weekly Review.) And not as "It would be nice if I could..."—but as an absolute requirement to manage their life and work with integrity.


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Understanding some key GTD definitions:

What is a Project?
A project is any outcome that will take more than one action step to complete. As a list, the Projects list will represent an index of the current outcomes on your plate.

What is Someday Maybe?
Someday/Maybe means you are not currently committed to complete it, but you are committed to track it as an item to periodically review for future action.

What is a Next Action?
A Next Action is your physical, visible next step. Some of these are project related, some are not. The recommendation is to sort these by context.

What goes on a Waiting For list?
Waiting For holds those items that you are waiting on from someone or something else. For example, call backs, responses to an email you sent, orders placed, etc.

Also new on GTD Times:

What are the best tools for GTD?

David Allen shares what GTD is really about.

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