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Watch > Episode > David Allen - How To Get Things Done

David Allen - How To Get Things Done


Have you ever felt like there’s no way you can get all the tasks on your plate done in time? Does that pressure, in turn, keep you from working on those tasks, thus creating an endless cycle of sorts?

Well, David Allen would like to help you. He’s spent many years of his life cultivating his patented time management method, How to Get Things Done. We were lucky enough to get Mr Allen to sit down to an interview with us and explain that process with us, among other things.

But who is David Allen, and what other nuggets of wisdom does he have to offer?

Well, it’s time to take a closer look! So without further ado, let’s get started!

The Background of David Allen

David Allen was born in the state of Louisiana on December 28th, 1945. He attended school through college and even did some graduate work at the University of Berkeley. However, his life screeched to a bit of a halt when he developed a drug addiction, which resulted in him having an extended stay in a mental institution.

After recovery, he bounced around through a wide variety of jobs. Along the way, Mr Allen would go on to develop what he called the Getting Things Done Method (or GTD Method for short).

This idea centred around taking the tasks of your daily life and making them into a list with clear objectives. After that, you can focus on the tasks in the list order without worrying about keeping them as “to-do’s” in your head. A big part of the GTD method is keeping everything simple: if you have vague objectives or cluttered lists, you’ll end up right back where you started.

The book he published on the method ballooned in popularity, with rave reviews across the board. He later went on to found the David Allen Company, a coaching firm based around his principles. He would go on to write two more books in the “series”, 2004’s “Ready for Anything” and 2008’s “Making It All Work”.

The Podcast Discussion

In our talk with Mr Allen, we discuss his history and how he got to where he is today. This involves him sharing various insights into how his life experiences informed his development of the GTD Method, including his stay at a mental institution.

He also breaks down the GTD method for us, discussing the five core steps (Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, and Engage) and how he approaches people who claim they don’t have the time in their lives to practise his method.

Finally, we talk with him about the reasoning behind his move from the U.S to Amsterdam in 2016 and his current view on the scope of world politics today.

Come Sit Down and Listen

And there you have it! Now that you’ve got this brief bio on David Allen, you are ready to dive into our exclusive podcast to find out what makes him tick. And if you want to listen to more quality interviews with everyone from Anthony Scaramucci to Kenneth Roth, check out our episodes page for more content!


00:00 | Trailer
02:51 | Brian’s thoughts on the episode
04:56 | Brian’s introduction
06:00 | How David got to where he is today, elements of which built GTD
21:10 | GTD is a Marshall Art
22:38 | Most people are not prepared to deal effectively with their next unexpected life event
25:06 | Spiritual explorations, meditation, spiritual practices, drug experimentation leading to mental hospital
30:57 | From spiritual, personal growth and corporate work, time management and randomly, glass blowing
36:08 | I need to, should, could, would, need to: the agreements we make with ourselves
37:11 | Developing as a consultant and learning how to clear his mind by getting himself organised
42:32 | How GTD became the system
45:58 | Why people procrastinate and how GTD can help
49:21 | Capture, clarify, organise, reflect and engage: the five stages of GTD broken down
57:03 | What would you do with your clear head, how would you use it
1:00:35 | What he says to those who say they don’t have time to do the five stages and why they should
1:04:37 | Effects of technological advances since his book was re-released and might in future help people
1:09:42 | Final steps, reflect and engage
1:12:21 | The 2 minutes rule
1:13:32 | How the GTD method is being taught across the world
1:17:12 | The importance of realising when you have the wrong people in place, company culture and DNA
1:21:33 | David is successful, but unusual in that he doesn’t appear to have a big ego
1:23:40 | How does his GTD message speak to the men, woman, retirees and children living everyday lives
1:25:45 | Why he left America to live in The Netherlands and what he likes about it
1:28:28 | Why David decided to put on a big 2-day GTD conference in June 2019, in The Netherlands
1:33:07 | What the next ten years hold for David
1:33:35 | Success secrets
1:34:16 | What scares him
1:36:17 | What we would be surprised to learn that David does in his spare time
1:40:12 | What keeps him awake at night
1:40:26 | David’s view on current world politics
1:44:15 | Phone call to the twenty years old David Allen
1:48:24 | Best advice ever received
1:48:54 | Advice to the twenty years old person listening
1:50:41 | Brian’s summing up.


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