From the first step - collecting
- you have your GTD "in" set up - as many as you need, and as
few as you
can get away with - and you understand that you need to empty "in"
regularly to be effective. As a reminder, you don't need to
on the items from "in", other than deciding what it is, and what your
That's where Processing comes in. As you read through the
processing steps, have a few things from "in" in front of you, whether
some emails, voice mails, items in your physical inbox, or anything
else you're working on.
Since a picture's worth 1000 words:
Allen's GTD workflow diagram briefly summarizes the Processing and
Organizing steps. Before reading any further, either click on
image to open it as a PDF in a new window, or right-click to download
it. Go ahead....I'll wait.....
It doesn't matter if you're
going through your emails, listening to your voice mail, or thinking
about your next project. As you're emptying "in", start by
Next question: "Is it actionable?"
If it's not actionable, than you can either:
If it is actionable, then first decide if it's a project.
What's a project?
- Eliminate it - hit the delete key,
erase it, throw it away...
- Add it to a someday/maybe list, or
- File it for future reference
GTD defines a
project as anything that takes more than one action.
You'll keep track of your projects on a "project" list, so you'll
always have a current list of what's going on. More about
projects when we get to the organizing step....For now,
what's the next physical
action. This is the
key to all of GTD, so I'll
say it again:
Decide what's the next physical
So what is a physical action anyway? It's something you can
As an example, let's say you want to join a health club.
Unless you already know the club you want to join and are
standing there, your next action is going to be something other than
joining the club.
Your next action could be:
See the difference? Instead of leaving yourself with an action that you
can't actually do, you now have something you can act on.
- Research local health clubs online
- Ask 2 friends for their opinions
- Look up phone number of club
- Search for health clubs near me on google maps
As an aside,
this one step has made a profound difference in the results of meetings
I've been in. Asking that one simple question,
"What's the next action" transforms meetings from wasted time to
productivity. Try it in your next meeting and see what
happens. If it's as transformational for you as it
has been for me, I hope you'll share your results at the Contact
Once you know your next action, either:
To summarize so far, we now know what "it" is, and whether it's
actionable or not.
it, if it will take less than 2 minutes
it, and keep track on a "waiting for" list
it, and keep track on your calendar or a "next actions"
Next step: Organizing - getting "it" into a trusted
system, so you don't have to think about it again until the right time,
and you know you won't lose track of it.
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