In response to e-mails from some of my readers, I decided to write a post about GTD for absolute beginners. No complicated productivity language, no philosophical discussion, especially no drooling over specific tools and gadgets, but just a plain and short description of GTD. What is it and how is it going to help you to get (more) things done?

This post consists of two sections to get you going. First, I’ll give you the lowdown on the who, what, when, why and how of GTD. This will show you what GTD can do for you. Second, I’ll make your expectations of GTD more realistic by answering a list of 5 real or imaginary questions.

The lowdown on GTD

Who?
David Allen “invented” the action management methodology “Getting Things Done”, more commonly known as simply GTD. Long before GTD became popular, David has been involved in coaching and teaching people about productivity.

When?
David Allen wrote his famous book “Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” (aff) in 2001. This is a must-read for every serious GTD wannabe.

What?
In plain words (and in my words), GTD is a mindset and workflow for coping with all the “stuff” in your personal and professional life. GTD is a useful method for capturing this “stuff”, transforming this “stuff” into meaningful projects and actions and creating a tracking system for them. GTD will not actually do these actions for you, that will be part of GTD v2 (j/k)! :)
In short, GTD assists you in becoming more productive and achieving peace of mind.

Why?
Why should you practice GTD? Let me ask you a question in return. Don’t you want to feel in control of your life, but relaxed at the same time? I know I do. And I know I am. That’s why. [QED]

Seriously though, GTD will make you more productive immediately. It is easy to get started with and the results are excellent for most people. You don’t need to spend a fortune on books, seminars, software and office supplies (though you could if you really want to!). You can start applying the principles of GTD right away and improve and adapt it to your liking as you go.

How?
This is the part where most people get tempted, even obsessed, with all the nice tools and gadgets that could be used to implement GTD. This is neither place nor time for that however. How to “do” GTD? Just start. Read the book. Use pen and paper for making lists. Apply the core principles of capturing, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing religiously until they become a habit – a way of life, if you will. Learn from other GTDers. That’s it!

Recommended post: 10 Simple Tips to Start Getting Things Done

Keep it real

I hope I have succeeded in making you enthusiastic about GTD and perhaps you can’t wait to learn more about it and to start applying GTD to your life. More power to you of course, but please take a minute or two longer to read the rest of this post. It will clear up some misconceptions about GTD. I will do so by answering 5 real or imaginary (can you guess which is which?) questions about GTD.

1. Will GTD solve all of my problems?
No, unfortunately it will not. It might solve some things that directly or indirectly lead to problems in your life, such as procrastination, stress, fuzzy-mindedness, feeling overwhelmed, disorganized and inproductive.

2. Is GTD a quick fix for becoming highly productive?
No, it is not. As stated before, it is extremely easy to get started with GTD, but at the same time it is hard to keep going at it consistently and make it a permanent habit. For instance, the obligatory weekly review has caused many people to fall of the GTD bandwagon.

3. Does GTD show me how to do things?
No, it does not. It will help you to keep track of the things you need to do and it will provide a trusted system for storing reminders of things you have to do, but it will certainly not show you how to do them. It will not even show you which action should be performed next. It is up to you. You make an intuitive choice guided by the GTD system. You still have to figure out how to do things most effectively. However, using GTD will enable you to do more things effectively.

4. Is GTD a cult?
As far as I know it is not. Some people think it is. I simply think David Allen has given the phrase “radical common sense” new meaning. Furthermore, he has merely provided us with his valuable insights on productivity based upon many years of experience. That’s it. No more, but certainly no less.

5. Will it blend?
Yes, it will blend ;) . It will blend in the sense that GTD can easily be combined and/or enhanced with other productivity methods and techniques to create a powerful system most suited to your specific needs.

Recommended post: 5 Things you should realize about “Getting Things Done”