How to stay focused and get stuff done.

Live life more productive with less stress

How to be more productive? How to stay focused? How to get stuff done? How to be organized? How to live stress-free? These are the questions I often ask myself. I sat down with David Allen, author of the book (Get Stuff Done), and I got to ask him questions about how to live a more productive life, and this is what I learned.  

Evan: (01:51)

I want to start with the first question that has to do with self-denial. For those that are in self-denial, what are the warning signs that someone needs a better productivity system? 

David: (02:07)

The feeling of Stress, an overwhelming sense of confusion, a sense of being distracted by the latest and loudest. A feeling that there’s more stuff they ought to be doing, that they’re not doing. All the repercussions of that, which could look like a lot of things. It is this gnawing sense of anxiety. I call it the GSA of life, the gnawing sense of anxiety. That there’s stuff you probably ought to be doing, that you’re not doing, you don’t know what it is and so you’re not fully present anywhere. 

Evan: (04:32)

What is the GTD methodology? 

David: (04:38)

It’s quite simple. First of all, stop using your head as an office. It’s a crappy office. Your brain did not evolve to remember, remind, prioritize, and manage relationships with more than four things. That’s new cognitive science, proven data. This whole process is about how do I build the external brain and make sure I put the right stuff in it so that my mind is freed up to have space to focus on the most meaningful things in creative ways and being present with whatever I’m doing. 

David: (05:12)

It’s about how to do that and the best practices for it. It all boils down to a pretty simple set of practices, 

Step one -Capture 

First, you identify what’s off, what do I have my attention on? What’s not where it is the way it needs to be.

Step two-Identify 

Once you’ve identified what’s got your attention, I need cat food; I need a life, I need a business plan, I need my tooth fixed or whatever it is. 

 Step two 2.1 -Clarify

Then say, I have to clarify what exactly am I going to do about that? What action step do I need to take to move this forward to closure, and one action won’t finish it. What’s the project I need to keep track of until it’s complete? That’s the clarifying step. So first to capture, then you’ll clarify. 

Step three – Next Action/ become organized

It is when you’ve decided on the next action, I need to call the dentist about my tooth, but it’s after hours. I can’t call them right now. Then you need to park some reminder of that phone call you need to make, so you see it at the next appropriate time. Step three is organize. I need to park reminders of the things I need to remember or need to have access to in the right context and the right time and space that step three. So first I’ve captured then I’ve clarified and then organize the results. 

Step four -Review/Reflect

I make sure that I review or reflect on the contents of all that. If I’m going out to run errands, show me the list of six areas I’ve come up with, that I might need to do. 

David: (06:42)

The purpose of GTD.

GTD is about being able to see a map and then orient yourself based upon the content of what you’ve captured. This is the reflect and review stage. Then you can review all the way up to what’s my life purpose, what are my core values, what’s my vision of wild success in my life? What are the objectives I need to accomplish over the next year or two? I need to maintain health and my vitality and my finances and my relationships. So those are the multiple horizons we’ve identified as the things that you have commitments towards. 

Step five- Engage

 Once you’ve captured, clarified, organized, and reflected on the contents of your life and your commitments especially. You engage, you set the alarm, you put down that beer, you go to your computer and handle the ugly email, you stop avoiding whatever it is you decided to do at that point. Its system comes from a trusted place as opposed to just being driven by the latest and loudest. That’s a straightforward five-step process about how you get any situation more under control and more focused and free to be thinking creatively and being present. 

How to create more Brain bandwidth!

Evan: (09:08)

Talk to me about how one’s creativity is more productive with the belief that one’s brain is for creating ideas versus trying to remember small nuances?

David: (10:07)

Getting things done is not so much about getting things done as it is about getting appropriately engaged with your life and your commitments about your life so that you’re present with whatever you’re doing. When you’re present, you’re not distracted. You’re not being held hostage by commitments that you are not appropriately engaged with yet. So if I need cat food, pops into your head more than once. You are inappropriately thinking about your cat. 

You went somewhere you’re not yet appropriately engaged with, otherwise, it would not pop into your mind as something you need to think about, handle or manage.


 David: (11:06)

I can guarantee you that if you capture everything that has your attention, clarify what you’re going to do about it. If anything, organize the results and trust in your place that you have a good reflection and review system that we’ll take a look at all that at appropriate times. I guarantee you it will create more space. What you do with that space is up to you. You want to use it for your spiritual practices. You want to use it to be more strategic. You want to use it to be more creative or more innovative or just more present with your kids, that’s up to you. I guarantee you with multi-thousand of people who’ve implemented my stuff over the last 30 years, that invariably is what happens. GTD creates space, but what they do with it is up to the individuals.


This year I realized that I struggle with anxiety, and it comes at different times for different reasons. One of the areas is in a stressful situation when I can not control the situation ill get anxious and almost sick even. 

David: (28:46)

The problem is when you feel out of control, but the way you create control is not to change the situation. It’s to accept the situation and then have the desired result and the next action. So you know, and that’s why the GTD is so transformational and powerful once you start to train yourself in that mindset. One of our statements is there are no problems, only projects, 



Writen and produced by Evan Herrman and the whole person podcast. Guest David Allen Author and creator of Get Things Done.

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