The GTD Framework

There is a set of stuff that needs to be addressed in your daily life. It is comforting to procrastinate on that stuff in the short term, but after a while, that unattended stuff starts to nags you in the background, highlighting your incompetency. It crawls inside your brain, scratching on the edges, from time to time, reminding you of the significance of its existence. The chaos of anxiety creeps into the comforting order of procrastination.

The sensible way to deal with the anxiety-inducing procrastination is to get that stuff done. However, you cannot work on all those things at once. The rest of the tasks will bug you when you are attending one of them. This is where the GTD framework comes in to rescue you.

“You can only feel good about what you are not doing, when you know what you are not doing.” — David Allen

The GTD framework helps you externalize the burden of your incomplete tasks. It gives you a container that you can use to free your mind. The problem isn't that you have a shitload of pending tasks, the problem is that you are not doing anything about them. This is where the GTD helps you. It creates a system that streamlines your tasks even before you take the first step to get them done. This way it becomes more stress-free to address the pending tasks one at a time.

Related: Procrastination to Productivity | 5 Mental Gadgets to Detonate Procrastination

5 Steps to a Stress-Free Work Experience

The GTD framework was developed by David Allen in 2001 in his bestselling book with the same name. The book was heavily praised in the media for its practical utility to create an organized workflow.

The GTD workflow consists of 5 stages:

  1. Capture

  2. Clarify

  3. Organize

  4. Reflect

  5. Engage

The capture step is the simplest. Everything that's on your mind, write it down. Put it in your “inbox”. All your tasks, from professional to personal can be placed on that list. Don't overthink about it, add whatever you feel like. Whether you have to clean your room or reply to an important mail, all of it can be dumped into the inbox.

You can use your phone's notes app to create your in-list. However, I'd prefer a cross-platform tool that you can use on multiple devices. Todoist is definitely the best option.

The second and third steps are the most crucial ones as they carry the soul of the GTD framework—the decision tree.

The fourth step of reflection is all about weekly reviews of your lists. While the 5th step is about doing the tasks in your next action list (we will discuss it later) with full attention and commitment.

The GTD Decision Tree 🌲

The GTD Decision Tree helps you to distribute each task in your in-list in one of the four different lists. It helps you identify tasks that you should jump right on and the ones that you should delegate or differ.

Let's discuss the above flowchart briefly.

Pick the tasks that you have dumped in your inbox one by one. Ask yourself whether the given task is actionable or not, i.e. can you do something about it or not?

For instance, your college project is actionable. You get on it right now. However, your wish to visit Switzerland is something that is not necessarily actionable, as we are in the middle of a pandemic.

If the answer to that question is no, then:

  • Trash it, get it out of your mind

  • Or put it in your someday/maybe list

  • Or put it in your reference folder to get back at it later.

If the answer is yes, then ask yourself what the next action is, the next immediate step that you need to take to get started.

If it's a multistep action, add it to your Project list. David Allen identifies any task that requires more than one step to complete as a project. Identify those steps and write them down in your Next Actions List.

If it's a single-step action and will take less than 2 minutes—do it now!

If you think it will take more than two minutes:

  • Delegate it to someone else and put it in your waiting for list;

  • Or add it in your calendar to do it some other day;

  • Or add it to your next actions list, if you want to do it now.

This is the entire GTD Decision Tree, and I assume, like myself, you also find it a bit complex. When David Allen proposed this framework in 2001, it was more difficult to implement, since you needed a bunch of different journals to put it in action.

However, in the current times, we have software to improve our productivity. Tools like Todoist and Google Keeps are life-savers. Just create four folders for the four lists of GTD, go through the decision tree to categorize them appropriately.

With all that being said, I would like to conclude this essay by highlighting the most important thing about GTD—don't miss the weekly reviews. Make sure to reflect on your tasks. Keep a check on all the lists, especially the waiting for list—it's the easiest one to forget about.


I appreciate your patience and dedication to read this essay. I am glad that you made it to the end. I hope you learned something new that will help you to be more productive and efficient in your personal and professional lives.

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