“If it’s on your mind, it’s not getting done.” 3 ways to get things done.

David Allen and me at the ASTD conference in Chicago

David Allen, productivity guru and author of several books, including Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity wowed the crowd at the recent American Society of Training and Development conference in Chicago. I’ve been a David Allen fan for years – clearly, look at the grin on my face above – and couldn’t believe I had the opportunity to see him speak live.

David began the session by asking us to take 30 seconds to write down everything on our minds. Fingers flew as ideas, to-do’s, and questions spilled onto people’s notebooks. Then, he drove it home with one sentence, “If it’s on your mind, it’s not getting done.”

With tremendous thanks to David Allen, here are 3 ways to get things done:

1. Find Your Trusted System

It can be a spreadsheet, a paper notebook, or a fancy program. A “Trusted System” is a very personal thing; it’s what works best for you. The point is to capture everything that’s on your mind. When I worked at J&J, I used a small notebook to capture information when I was away from my computer, and added everything to a spreadsheet when I returned.

I discovered during David’s talk that my Trusted System has become fragmented; I collect information for different roles in different places. This afternoon, I plan to reinvent my system in a central location. Where do you collect your data? 

2. Use Action Verbs on Your Trusted System Project Lists

This small step increases productivity instantly. When you add a note to your Trusted System, start it with an action verb. Thinking up front – Do I need to send an email? Do I need to do a Google search? – frees you up to act when you have the time. If you have 10 minutes before a meeting, you can just glance at your Trusted System, and pick something to do.  For example, Email Jane Smith RE: scheduling an informational interview.


I guarantee using action verbs magnifies my productivity. I would love to hear how it magnifies yours.  

3. Schedule Regular Reflection

As David Allen says, this is one of the most difficult things to implement and is also one of the most important. If you don’t pay attention to your Trusted System, you may stop trusting it. Then, clutter builds in your mind and overwhelm strikes. David recommends scheduling 1-2 hours a week reflecting on the projects and tasks your system. 

I must admit, I completely forgot about this part of the process, and am thrilled with the reminder. Thursday afternoons from 3-5pm will be my time. When is yours?

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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  1. Hey Grayson, loved this post. Very useful information. Even I have a fragmented trusted system – I use google tasks, mark mails with todo label and also use evernote to note my thoughts.

  2. Hey Madhu, I’m so glad you found this post useful! Thanks for sharing your trusted system. I want to learn more about Evernote; it seems like it could be a good on-the-go way to capture information.


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