GTD Notes: Chapter 10 – Planning Tools

This is a series of posts with reading notes of the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.

Chapter 10 – Getting Projects Under Control

This chapter is all about informal, straightforward planning and the tools that can assist us in this process.

David identifies 2 types of projects:

Next Actions about Planning

Some projects will need next actions to trigger more in depth planning. David outlines potential next planning steps:

Thinking Tools

Write things down!

Regardless of the method, it's important we have a means to capture thoughts. David suggests various options: paper and pads, easels and whiteboards, digital tools (text, outliner, mind mapping apps, spreadsheets, etc).

An interesting point from David Allen is that larger screens are better for planning:

“I suggest, however, that the value of smartphones and the like is for the execution of the results of thinking – not for generating creative thought. For that I want more space, not less.” — David Allen

Project notes can be stored in various locations, from a paper folder for loose-leaf pages to digital tools like mind mapping and outlining apps or the Notes section of a task manager. Whatever works!

My thoughts and lessons learned

I've always struggled a bit with project planning and notes. I tended to skip the “planning” step and jump into execution right away. Format and location were challenges too; I thought I needed a rigid process for capturing thoughts. I believed that all projects should have a Master Project Note, in a specific format, stored in a specific folder.

However, I've learned that project planning can take various forms, depending on the project. Sometimes, jotting down ideas by hand on a notepad works best, while other times, creating an outline with the necessary steps is more effective. The key is flexibility. This took some time for me to learn.

Now, for more complex projects, I still create a Master Project Note. It includes the project's start/end dates, related focus areas, and notes using the Natural Planning Model as needed. However, for most projects, I rely on notes in Nirvana or none at all. It's all about using the available tools as we see fit.

I think the ending of this chapter encapsulates the idea:

“The key is to get comfortable with having and using your ideas. And to acquire the habit of focusing your energy constructively, on intended outcomes and open loops before you have to.” — David Allen


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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.