The GTD aha moment

If you’ve read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, you’re familiar with this already but if you haven’t, here’s a chance to get the GTD aha moment. For this, you’ll need a pen and a paper, and just a couple of minutes. Ready?

First, write down a problem that’s been on your mind lately or something that’s been bothering you. Don’t worry about letting others see it, you can burn the paper later, if you want. E.g.: I want to create a website, but I don’t know how.

Then, write down what you would consider as a successful resolution or outcome of the problem. Just do it one sentence, don’t go writing paragraphs now. E.g.: My website is up and running.

Now, write down the next physical action (or step) “required to move the situation forward” (in David Allen’s words). It’s not “Create website” — that’s more than one step, a project, if you want to get technical. A next step more like, “Call Nina and ask her how she created her website”, or “Go to and check if is available”.

If you do this about a problem that’s bothering you, chances are that you’ll feel a little better about where you are with respect to the problem. That’ll feel funny because you haven’t actually done anything to make the problem go away.

What you’ve done though is to clarify your thinking process because the “next physical action” is a lot easier to do (action) than some vague idea in your head. And, once you know the physical action, it’ll be a lot easier to act.

Clarity in thinking process –> clarity in what to do –> increase in likelihood of doing.

As a pop-metal band* used to sing, Action not words.

*: Def Leppard.


2 thoughts on “The GTD aha moment

  1. It’s a wonderful feeling, but difficult to explain. I once tried to get a group of subordinates to list out all the projects we were working on, figure out what success looked like (another GTD idea), and then what the next action was to move each one forward.

    Like pulling teeth, I tell ‘ya. “Next action” is easy enough, but it takes an “aha moment” to grasp.

  2. I think that once you do get the aha moment, it really drives the point home. Even writing stuff down the moment it comes up or when you make a promise makes a difference–it has for me.

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