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An Intro to Getting Things Done (GTD): Horizons, Projects, & Context Lists

Introduction: What is GTD and how can it help you be more productive?

Getting Things Done, or GTD for short is a time management system created by David Allen. The basic principle of GTD is to get all the things constantly buzzing around in your head out of your head and into a system where you can track and manage them. This frees up your mind to focus on the task at hand and allows you to see the big picture of what you need to do.

There are a lot of productivity systems out there, but Getting Things Done (GTD) is one of the most popular and well-respected. So what is GTD, and how can it help you be more productive?

GTD is a time management system that was created by David Allen. It’s based on the principle that if you capture all of your tasks and ideas in one place, you can clear your mind and focus on what’s important. This system has helped many people organize their lives and increase their productivity.

One of the great things about GTD is that it can be customized to fit your needs and lifestyle.

The core idea of GTD is to capture everything that is taking up space in your brain into what Allen calls a “trusted system.” This can be simple as a notebook or an app on your phone. The goal is to get everything out of your head so you can relax and not worry about forgetting anything.

Once everything is in your trusted system, you can start to process it all. This means going through each task and deciding the next action step. For some tasks, this might be enough – you can just do it right then and there. Other tasks might require more thought or planning, and you must break them down into smaller steps.

The key with GTD is to have a system where you know exactly what needs to be done next for each task so that you can focus on actually doing the work instead of worrying about what needs to be done next.

The 5 Horizons of Focus: what they are and how they can help you better achieve your goals

In his book “Getting Things Done”, David Allen outlines a framework for productive living which he calls the “5 Horizons of Focus”. This framework is designed to help individuals identify and maintain focus on their most important tasks and goals. The 5 Horizons of Focus are as follows:

  1. Horizon 1: Projects – These are tasks or goals that require more than one action to complete and are typically completed within a year.
  2. Horizon 2: Areas of focus & accountability – These areas of your life or work require maintenance to keep them running smoothly. Examples might include health, finances, customer service, or planning.
  3. Horizon 3: Goals & objectives – These are outcomes you want to achieve in the next three to twenty-four months. They should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  4. Horizon 4: Vision – This is a long-term scenario of success that you can strive for. It should be inspiring and motivating, keeping you focused on your ultimate goal even when times are tough.
  5. Horizon 5: Purpose – This is why you are doing what you are doing. Your purpose should give your life meaning and direction, something you are passionate about.

The 5 Horizons of Focus can help you achieve your goals by providing a clear framework to guide your actions. Understanding which horizon each task or goal falls into allows you to prioritize your time and efforts more effectively. Additionally, the 5 Horizons of Focus can help keep you motivated by reminding you of your ultimate goal (Horizon 4) and why you are striving for it (Horizon 5).

Projects: how to break down a project into smaller, more manageable tasks

Breaking a project into smaller tasks is one of the most important aspects of Getting Things Done. By breaking a project down into smaller tasks, you can more easily manage your time and resources, and complete the project on time.

There are a few different ways that you can go about breaking down a project into smaller tasks. One way is to create a task list for the project. This list should include all of the individual steps that need to be completed to finish the project. Once you have this list, you can start to break each task into even smaller sub-tasks. For example, if one of your tasks is to write an article, you can break this down into smaller tasks such as research, writing, editing, and proofreading.

Another way to break down a project is by using a mind map. This is especially helpful if the project is large and complex. A mind map allows you to visually see all of the different elements of the project and how they are interconnected. This can help you better understand what needs to be done and identify potential roadblocks.

Once you have broken down your project into smaller tasks, it will be much easier to manage your time and resources and complete the project on time.

Contextual Lists: grouping actions together based on context (location, energy required, etc.)

One of the key principles of Getting Things Done is to group related actions based on context. If you have several tasks that need to be completed, you should group them based on where they need to be done, how much energy they will require, and so on.

For example, if you need to buy groceries and pick up your dry cleaning, you would group those two tasks under the heading ” errands.” If you need to write a report and make a presentation, you would group those two tasks under the heading “work.” And if you need to call your Mom and walk the dog, you would group those two tasks under the heading “home.”

Contextual lists help you use your time more efficiently by considering all the different factors that go into completing a task. This system can be used for any type of task, whether it’s personal or professional. So next time you feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, take a step back and break things down into manageable chunks by creating contextual lists.

One key thing to keep in mind with contextual lists is that they should be dynamic – that is, they should always be changing and evolving as your needs change. Don’t be afraid to add or remove items from your lists as needed; it’s all part of the process!


There are a lot of different productivity systems out there, and it can be tough to figure out which one is right for you. The GTD system is a great option for people who want a simple, effective way to organize their tasks and get things done.

The 5 Horizons of Focus help you prioritize your actions to focus on the most important things first. Projects are a great way to break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. And Contextual Lists help you group actions based on factors like location or energy required to easily find the right task for the situation.

With GTD, you’ll have all the tools you need to take control of your workflow and get things done efficiently. Give it a try today!

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