10 GTD Jargons that every GTD Afficiando knows and loves

Besides being Master/Guru/Sensei of Productivity, David Allen is a very effective communicator. And you’ve just got to love the colourful phrases, analogies and metaphors that he comes up with.

Here’s a list of 10 GTD terminologies that David most often uses. Most of them I got from listening to David Allen podcast interviews, listed by Chanpory here and some from podcasts of David’s paid service GTD-Connect.

1. Latest and Loudest:
David often refers to the fact that if we haven’t got all our commitments objectified, it’s always the “Latest and Loudest” thing in our lives that we attend to. As opposed to writing down what has our attention, looking at it objectively against all other commitments we have, and then attending to the one that would give us the highest return or bring us closer to our goal in life.

2. Psychic RAM:
So many GTDers being Techies, they all know the feeling when their computer RAM fills up. David beautifully uses this as an analogy to communicate that there’s only a certain amount of to-do’s that we can hold in our head and that’s precisely the limit of the RAM of our Psyche. Again, unless we write the stuff down, our RAM is always full and some part of our system feels that we’ve got to be doing the stuff in our head all the time.

3. Rapid re-focussing:
When I heard David first explain this, I had such a Aha moment. You really truly can never multi-task. All you do is you rapidly-refocus. Multi Task would mean that you’re typing an email, while having a telephone conversation and having lunch all at the same time. That never happens. Sure what may happen is that while you’re having lunch at your desk, you’re phone rings, you stop having lunch and attend the phone the phone call, during the conversation you’re put on hold, that’s when you scan your email and maybe even reply to a few, then you’re back to your phone conversation, the conversation is over and you’re back to lunch. You see, you were always doing one task at a time and were never multi-tasking. Instead you were changing your focus from one task to another very very quickly.

4. Radical Common Sense:
Bret has written a lovely blog post why it’s so difficult to convince people on GTD. (Arif’s comment: “Tell me about it, Bret”). The response I often receive when advoacting GTD is, ‘But I’m already doing this GTD thingy, see I write stuff down, here’s my to-do list bla bla bla?, as they begin searching and fishing out their list from stacks of paper lying on their desk. *Sigh*. David has mentioned that he too has difficult at times advocating GTD. Because it sounds so deceptively simple, so ‘common sense’ that too many have dismissed it without giving it the attention it deserves. David very smoothly distinguishes GTD by describing it from common sense by saying it’s Advanced or Radical Common Sense. Nice.

5. Physical Visible:
I love this one. How do you know what’s the next action. Well just ask yourself, what’s the next “Physical Visible” next step that you need to take. Is it speaking to somebody, making a call, surfing the web? What’s the next “Physical Visble” action?

6. Paralysis by Analysis:
I’m not sure if this is a David Allen original, but I heard David use it and it’s beautiful. Especially today, when you want to buy a mobile phone but have a million reviews, recommendations, blog posts, forum posts to sort through you’re immediately attacked with a symptom of Paralysis by Analysis. So what do you do? David Allen says it’s simple. Trust your intuition. And over time you’ll train your intuition trained to make the right judgement.

7. Hugging trees
vs Managing the Forest:

This one?s so my favorite. Hugging trees is like being ?down in the trenches? (another phrase that DA uses a lot) when you?re busy ?cranking out widgets? (explained below) making phonecalls, sending emails, reminding whoever passes by your desk on the task that you asked them to do a few days ago.

Compared to “Managing the Forest” when you’re doing the weekly review and reviewing your commitments, projects, your goals and areas of focus

8. Cranking Widgets:
The most commonly used phrase, best explained by David Allen himself in the introductory video here.

9. Being a Black belt:
That’s when you?re a true GTD ninja and can change your focus extremely rapidly from one moment to another.

10. Mind like water:
Having a state of mind to where you’re as relaxed and still as the water on a pond on a calm Autumn morning. And your reaction is appropriate to the situation that presents itself and not more. If you throw a pebble into the pond, all you’ll get is a ripple. But the way our states of minds are many times, you throw a rock at us, we respond with a Tsunami.

To conclude here are David’s favorite Shticks:

If you don’t give appropriate attention to what has your attention it will take away more of your attention than it deserves.

You need to think more than you need to but not as much as you’re afraid to.

Which one of the above is your favorite? To GTD afficiandos I’m sure I’ve not got them all, any cool terminology I’ve missed?


  1. Thanks for the comment. Yes, “Mind Like Water” is indeed a relaxed and productive state. Now to find a consistent way to stay there…

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