Getting Things Done – the book – part 4

… starting from the point where the story stopped.

Setting Up the Time, Space, and Tools

The suggestions that follow about getting time, space, and tools in place are all trusted methods for making things happen at a terrific new level.David Allen

As I am writing this post live – in parallel to my reading – I have no clue what this chapter will be about; will it keep the author’s promise?


Let me remind you that the whole point of this mini-series on time management is to maximize my time (see How to find time?). As you may already know, if you follow this blog, I am barely managing to find some to read this book. So imagine my face when I read these lines: I recommend that you create a block of time to initialize this process…

An ideal time frame for most people is two whole days, back to back.

And the author, to justify such a time commitment, explains that Implementing the full capturing process can take up to six hours or more, and clarifying and deciding on actions for all the input you’ll want to externalize and capture in your system can easily take another eight hours.

He adds that it’s best to work on a weekend or holiday. Needless to say, I don’t know the meaning of these two words1. I am afraid that I will have to collect and process [my] stuff in chunks, even though it’ll be much easier if you can tackle that front-end portion in one fell swoop, according to him.

I don’t recommend using after-hours for this work. It usually means seriously reduced horsepower and a big tendency to get caught up in “rabbit trails.”David Allen


It’s imperative to have a functional workspace or to create one if you don’t have one already. As opposed to the previous requirement, I have no issue with this. Well before the author’s suggestion2 on that matter, I did set up mine (at home). It is not the same as in my office (at work) – and I cannot imagine having my home setup at work (see footnote #2); even though the author explains that it’s critical to have them identical, even interchangeable.

You must have a dedicated, individual, self-contained workspace—at home, at work, and even in transit.David Allen


In addition to time and space, you also need to have (or to get) some basic supplies and equipment. The author provides the list of items you will need. When reading it, I could not help but thinking of the back-to-school supplies lists (when I was a kid). Don’t believe me, compare:

David Allen’s listBack-to-school supplies3
Paper-holding trays (at least three)
A stack of plain letter-size paper
A pen/pencil
Post-its (3×3″s)
Paper clips
A stapler and staples
Scotch tape
Rubber bands
An automatic labeler
File folders
A calendar
Wastebasket/recycling bins
A large 96-page notebook
A 48-page music book
A rigid binder
Transparent perforated pockets
Four ballpoint pens (blue, black, red, and green)
A tube of glue
A roll of duct tape
A 30 cm flat plastic ruler
A pencil sharpener with a plastic reservoir
A diary

I still remember my parents asking “what the heck is this for?” when we were shopping and could not find a specific item. Here, the author explains the purpose of each tool; it’s crystal clear.

Moment-to-moment collecting, thinking, processing, and organizing are challenging enough; always ensure that you have the tools to make them as easy as possible.David Allen

In addition to the aforementioned shopping list, the author expounds on how critical a simple and highly functional personal reference system is before concluding this long part with I strongly suggest that you maintain a personal, at-hand filing system—both physical and digital.

To be continued…

1 Both have this word in common: leisure – time when one is not working or occupied; free time. I don’t know either! ^
2 Here are the author’s words: If I had to set up an emergency workstation in just a few minutes, I would buy an unfinished door, place it on top of two two-drawer filing cabinets (one at each end), place three stack trays on it, and add a paper, pad, and pen. The only differences are that I have just a wood plank (not even an unfinished door) and my two cabinets have three shelves each; not two. The latter two are a recent upgrade; I used to have two cheap, not very practical, wood trestles instead. ^
3 I didn’t make this list up; it’s from the French official website: ^

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