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Getting Things Done

By Ashraf Al Shafaki


After completing this workshop you should be able to:
  • Have clearer business and personal goals
  • Become more productive towards achieving your goals
  • Have peace of mind while handling all your duties
  • Enjoy your leisure time without sacrificing your work duties

Duration: 3 days

What is Getting Things Done?

Angle #1: Reorganizing Activities across Time

Getting things done (GTD) can be viewed as a reorganization of activities across time. Without GTD you normally find yourself very bored at times while extremely busy and out of time at other times. GTD helps you find enough activities to do whenever you would have felt bored and it will provide you with a sort of butter for the activities you need to be doing whenever you feel you have too much to do more than you can handle at the current moment.

Angle #2: The Mind Handles Small Pieces Well

When you chew food well, the stomach is able to digest it well. If you just gulp up large chunks of food without chewing them, you are giving a really hard time for your stomach to digest such food, and most probably your body will benefit only minimally from such food.

Similarly, the mind can easily handle small chunks of "to-do" items. It can grab one of those clearly defined to do items and go ahead carrying it out. Conversely, the mind would have a hard time chewing on a full project at one time trying to accomplish it in one go! This is simply impossible and would result in a similar situation as that of the stomach trying to digest large chunks of unchewed food.

Getting things done (GTD) is all about 'chewing' projects down so that they can be easily digestible by your brain.

Angle #3: Sorting your Life

Getting things done can also be viewed as a way to sort out your life. Every idea, every thought, every piece of paper or even thing you receive or produce can and should be sorted and organized under the getting-things-done paradigm. Getting things done is a process by which you can sort out and organize your life and separate the various phases of processing to sort it in the best way possible for a boost in productivity.

Angle #4: Digesting Projects

A project can be a large thing that is uneasy to go through. GTD helps you break it down into smaller more manageable pieces that are easier to process and deal with. It works exactly like digestion. Without breaking down food into tinier and tinier pieces it will be impossible for the body to make use of.

How it Works

How the Regular System Works

The regular system works be first defining a target (a goal). Then you go about trying to figure out a sequence of steps that would lead you to reaching such goal or target.

How GTD Works

The GTD method also starts by specifying a clearly defined measurable goal yet it differs from the regular system in that you do not have to specify up front all the steps that would lead you to achieve such goal. In the GTD method all you have to do after specifying a clear and measurable target is to only specify the next step that would create progress in your 'project' and get it going towards atchieving the target.

The target here acts as a fulcrum or magnet that attracts you to it and the "next step" is a small step further in the right direction towards reaching such target. It is enough to know only what the next step is rather than having to know all needed steps following it as in the case of the regular system.

Resistance to Writing Down What is on your Mind

The GTD approach relies on getting all what's on your mind written down on paper. If you have been used to having loads of ideas rushing around in your brain like crazy kids playing in a playground, then the thought of writing them down on paper might result in great fears to you. You will find yourself experiencing great resistance to the idea of writing your thoughts down on paper. You will be afraid that your mind will just bee loosing out on its steam. The ideas running about speedily in your brain knocking each other down, bombarding with one another and producing lots of action in your brain just make you feel alive and active. They make your mind feel a lot of energy inside it.

This might be true, such ideas do make your mind hyperactive and full of energy, yet they often result in burning your brain down. After writing those flooding ideas down, your mind will be clearer and calmer yet it will not use its ability to think and think well too. On the contrary, your mind will be now better able to think on higher levels provided the clarity of vision it now has after writing down the many rushing ideas that have been rushing inside it. You will still feel the energy, but instead of a chaotic kind of energy, it will feel more like a laser beam which might be think yet way more powerful and can be used to do all sorts of impressive things with.

Getting addicted to having ideas fighting brutally in your brain can be treated by gradually experiencing the pleasantness of having a clear mind that is always ready to take whatever challenges it may encounter.

GTD's 5 Stages

  • Collect (EVERYTHING)
  • Process
  • Organize
  • Review
  • Do

Planning Projects

  1. Purpose
  2. Principles
  3. Vision/Outcome
  4. Brainstorm
  5. Organize
  6. Next Action(s)

GTD Application Directives

  • Instantly apply whatever part of the GTD system you get to learn as soon as you know about it. Do not wait till you learn the whole system then start applying it then. Start instantly with the parts you learn as soon as you learn about them.

Principles Underlying the GTD System

  • The brain naturally functions in random access rather than in sequential mode. Thus ideas are best collected and recorded in that natural way. Actions are also best performed in that way rather than forcing them into an unnatural sequential order.
  • The mind is for creative thought and not for storing reminders or the content of heavy ideas. GTD helps release the brain power for creative and productive thought by taking away the heavy ideas, that were burning the brain down, and storing them in a safe system instead.

Reflections over GTD

GTD can be thought of as an extreme state of being in which the mind is peaceful yet alert able to interact creatively and swiftly with anything that comes its way. In such extreme state of being the mind exhibits characteristics that are beyond the normal and is able to operate on a different level of productivity and performance both quantitatively (speed and abundance) and qualitatively (creativity and brightness).

Human Behavior

Not knowing what task has priority, or feeling that the task at hand might not have the highest priority and that other things that are more important are left out could lead a person to a stand still an no action. GTD solves this issue by making the individual aware of what should be done while being comfortable that high priority items would be taken care of eventually.

Workshop Sequence

  • Use the story telling technique to mention  your mistake when delivering a session about time management to your colleagues and how one attendee told you it has to depend on your goals and values to be able to set priorities. [But still keep in mind that GTD uses a bottom-up approach, so you start first with small actions then climb up to more general and wider goals till you reach mission of life.]


  • What do you expect from this course? What the the reasons behind your joining this course? What are your fears? How can you overcome those fears? (group work)
  • Think of something that is pressing on your mind because you feel you want or need to do it. Now go ahead and write it down on a piece of paper. Now try to figure out what the needed outcome is for such thing to be considered done so that you can cross it off your "to do" list. Write such desired outcome down. Finally, write down what next step is needed to make progress towards realizing such outcome.
  • Tell us about a time when you felt really bored. Now tell us about another time when you felt really busy and did not have enough time to do all what you needed to do. [GTD is reorganizing your time]
  • Imagine yourself after 5 years (or 3 years) from now. Imagine that you have learnt and have fully applied the GTD system successfully. Now imagine the the amount of productivity that you would be experiencing, the number of projects you would be successfully completing and the peace of mind and harmony you will be experiencing then. [right brain activity]
  • Try to fit in some 'luggage' inside a bag. You will discover that by reorganizing stuff in the bag you can fit much more.


  • Tidy up some place in your house. It could be one of your drawers, a shelve in your wardrobe or your book library. This exercise clear up your mind, tidy your life and make you think and feel much better. It will get your life more organized and prepare you for making it even more organized.

Starter Kit

Each participant gets a starter kit containing paper based information collection, storage and classification devices. The kit will also contain a printed page in color pointing to what other analog devices the participant can use and where to get them from (S&M).