GTD for my coworkers

Dear Coworker,

Hi.  I work differently than other people you may have worked with.  I wanna take a minute to bring you up to speed on how I do it, and what this might mean for you.

I use the Getting Things Done methodology from David Allen, and here’s how I work.

When You Email or Call Me…

When I get an email, phone call or meeting from you, I figure out what specific actions you want me to perform.  When it’s clear what I need to do, there are only 3 possibilities:

  • I’m going to do it in the next hour
  • I’m going to put it in as a to-do for sometime in the future
  • I’m going to bring in someone else who should do it instead of me

One of those three things will happen every time, and then I’m going to delete your email/voicemail/meeting request.  My goal is to eliminate the clutter, and keep everything I need to do in a single place (  Email and voicemail inboxes make for really crappy to-do list management systems.  Don’t freak out if you look over my shoulder and you see an empty email in-box – it’s not that I have nothing to do, and it’s not that people don’t want things from me.  I’m an in-box ninja.

I’m 100% transparent, so if you want access to my to-do list on, just let me know and I’ll hook you up.  At any time, you can look on my RTM to-do list to see what I’m currently working on, and where your request ranks in the list.

If You Want Me To Do It Faster…

If you disagree with my priorities, let’s talk, and I promise I’ll never take offense.  I’m here to serve you because you’re my customer.  I will never leave you disagreeing with my priorities: we will come to an agreement, and if we can’t, we’ll get my manager involved because I might be getting the priorities wrong.  It wouldn’t be the first time!

I truly don’t care what I do first.  I’m going to be busy for the rest of my life because when you’re good at what you do, people find out and they give you more stuff to do.  I’m cool with that.  At the same time, I need you to be cool with it too: I can’t work 60 hours a week to accomplish everything on my to-do list, because I can never possibly be done, no matter how hard I work.

If you believe that I need to work through the weekend to accomplish your goal, then we’ll get together and have a conversation with my manager.  I’m totally okay with working the occasional weekend in order to knock out an ugly emergency, but when it happens, I want to make sure my manager’s aware so that he can start budgeting for another person to help me out.  Plus, sometimes my manager knows about another resource that has time to do that particular task.

Before You Schedule A Meeting With Me…

If you want to schedule a meeting with me, stop for a second to consider if the meeting is about assigning an action.  If it is, just drop me an email with the action that you need me to perform.  My job is to service my customers.  If you’re my manager, or if you’re “above” me in the company in any way, then it’s my job to do what you’re asking me to do, or find the right person to do it.  I’m not a “yes” man by any means, but you don’t have to sell me on something you want me to do.  Point me where you want me to go, and I’m on it.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

On the other hand, if you’re not my manager, and you’re scheduling a meeting with me to get me to do something, don’t be offended if I ask you to cut to the chase and just give me the action item instead.  You’re still my customer, but keep in mind that my managers have my plate chock full.  If you want something from me, I’m going to need to push something else out of the way, and a meeting isn’t going to “sell” me on pushing other things out of my to-do list in order to fulfill your request.  Instead, just send me the request, and I’ll do one of the three things: just do it, put it in my to-do list for the future, or point you to the right person to fulfill that request.

GTD is about being at one with your to-do list.  I’m really comfortable with it, but I find that it helps when my coworkers understand the basics of it too.  I’ll never try to get you to convert to GTD, but if you know how I work, you’ll understand why I quickly divert some tasks to other people or why I’m so reticent to join meetings with no apparent deliverable.

The payoff is that I’ll be one of the most productive, responsive and timely people you’ll ever work with.

Previous Post
Cringely says databases are dead
Next Post
SQL Server Kilimanjaro, Gemini announcements

10 Comments. Leave new

  • Great article as usual Brent. I already had this topic on my blogging To Do list and you wrote it better than I probably could.

  • Very interesting philosophy. Clutter is the root of all evil.

  • Nice post. I love the way that you don’t complain about how people are interfacing with you so much, but focus on educating them on how to be more effective in their interactions with you. All too often I hear someone complaining about their boss or a co-worker. Don’t complain, just educate them on how you work and to a certain degree, shape their interactions with you for maximum benefit.

    I really like your blog. I wrote about this post on mine this morning. You have some great ideas. Check out my thoughts here:


    Troy Malone

  • Great ideas! Tanks!

  • For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version and iCal are available too.

  • Great post! I may have to do the same with my fellow employees.

  • Great insights shared concisely about GTD, a great process when you can be disciplined. Nice blog too!

  • Thanks, Chris! Really enjoyed your keynote. Great stuff.

  • Not familiar with GTD, but where are the 4th an 5th options…evaluate the “drop dead” date and maybe adjust it and… /dev/null … lots of tasks fall in these categories…somebody absolutely thinks something “needs” to be done by such and such date…but maybe it doesn’t need to be done by then or not at all.