GTD® Step 5: Doing

We are continuing our series on The Concepts of GTD®, using our one page graphic which can be found here.

As a quick refresher, GTD® is a five step system for processing, organizing, reviewing and doing your tasks and projects. The five steps are: Collection, Processing, Organizing, Doing and Reviewing.


We have previously discussed how we Collect, Process, Organize and Review our tasks and projects and will now discuss how we actually choose what to do and when.

Determining what actions you do in a given moment is very personal. You need to find a system or systems that work for you. However, there are three priority frameworks that David Allen offers and they provide some insight into how to prioritize work.

The Four Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment

This model highlights the fact that deciding what you should do is based on Context, Time Available, Energy Available and Priority. The first thing you will want to ask yourself at any given moment is: what can you do given where you are with the tools you have. For example, if you dont have access to your phone, you wont be able to make any of the calls on your lists. However, if you are at a computer, you will be able to email, research, write, edit, etc. After determining what can be done in your context, think about the time available. If you have a dentist appointment in ten minutes, you can only approach a task that takes less time than that. Next, you need to assess your energy level. If you have been out of the office all day and haven’t even had breakfast, let alone lunch, you probably don’t have the energy needed to approach a potential new customer to discuss a significant purchase or commitment. Choose those items that you know you have the requisite energy for. David Allen has a separate list of low energy activities that he turns to when he doesn’t have the energy for larger matters. Finally, when you know which items are available to you, ask yourself which is the most important one to get done and do it. Very often, those are the things we don’t want to do. Push through that, get them done first and the rest of the day will be easier.

The Threefold Model for Evaluating Daily Work

This is a system for approaching the reality that as much as we plan, there will always be things that come up on the fly. How we incorporate those things into our day will be a significant factor for determining the success of our workflow. David Allen says ” If you let yourself get caught up in the urgencies of the moment, without feeling comfortable about what you’re not dealing with, the result is frustration and anxiety.” Dealing with immediately evident things is often a subconscious avoidance of dealing with all of the other things you need to get done. The trick is to define your work well. When your work is well defined, you will be better at determining whether a new, unexpected matter should be addressed immediately or whether you should continue working through your list of Next Actions. The better handle you have on what you are not doing, the more effective your system will be.

The Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work

This approach forces focuses prioritizing your actions based on six categories:

Three-to-five Year Vision
One-to-two Year goals
Areas of Responsibility
Current Projects
Current Actions

This approach forces you to look at all of your current actions and place them in perspective with the other levels. All other things being equal, those items that fit into all of the levels will obviously have priority. For example, if you have a phone call to make and an email to send and you can easily do only one right now, see which one best fits with all of your goals and aspirations from now all the way through your longer term life goals.

This concludes our review of GTD®. Shortly, we will be releasing a short video that summarizes the concepts and works with the chart we have been using in this series. Now, Go Get Things Done!