GTD: The Five Phases of Workflow, Part 3

The last part of the GTD workflow discussion is about the last two phases of workflow: reviewing and doing. Again, this is nothing new, but the information should serve as a reminder of why Getting Things Done works for so many people. Reviewing and doing complete the reason for GTD’s success. People can fully trust this productivity system because they have organized their thoughts and tasks in such a way that reviewing is natural and consistent, and they can take action and check things off of their actions lists.

David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done, tells us, “The purpose of this whole method of workflow management is not to let your brain become lax, but rather to enable it to move toward more elegant and productive activity. In order to earn that freedom, however, your brain must engage on some consistent basis with all your commitments and activities” (p. 181).


The key to reviewing your lists successfully is determining what you look at, when. The GTD system strongly recommends checking your Calendar first, as these actions are time sensitive. If you are aware of what tasks need to be done by a certain time, you’ll be able to make better decisions for what tasks you choose to complete in between those with deadlines.

After your Calendared actions, look at your next action lists. See if there are any you can get done quickly, and then do them. If not, decide what you will work on next.

Continue reviewing your lists. The review doesn’t take long, but it is vital for your brain to be able to trust the system. If you are a consistent reviewer, you won’t forget tasks or leave actions undone.

Never let your system get out of date. Once a week, perform a weekly review to get your head empty—this means collect, process, and organize again each week to make sure you can continue to trust your system. Pick a specific time and place for this review so you can be consistent and develop a habit for your weekly review.


The final phase of workflow: DO. It’s as simple as that. Your system is reliable and solid, and all that is left is to tackle the tasks on your lists.

To choose what action you’ll do first, take into account these four criteria suggested in GTD: context, time available, energy available, and priority.

  • Context: Check your location, resources, and the time of day to determine which tasks you can complete in your current situation.
  • Time available: Determine how long tasks will take and compare with the amount of time you have available before your next scheduled action (meetings, appointments, dinner, e.g.).
  • Energy available: You can adjust your energy levels slightly, but you still shouldn’t take on a high energy task when your body and mind aren’t up for it. Keep a list of menial tasks you can do when you’re running low on energy.
  • Priority: After the above criteria, choose an action based on priority. What has to be done today? What should be done to help you feel productive for the day?

Feel refreshed on the reasons why GTD works? It’s a simple and reliable system that will apply to any lifestyle.

Image by David Castillo Dominici via

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