Class 17: Getting things done

Methodology of Scientific Research

Andrés Aravena, PhD

April 30, 2024

Managing time is managing yourself

One day you may be the head of a lab (or department, or company, or organization)

You will need to decide

  • What to do
  • How to do it
  • When to do it

But if you are not the boss, you still need to make the same decisions

Why is good to organize your time

  • More free time
  • Better free time
  • Better mood
  • Better health
  • Better self-esteem
  • Professional success

Getting Things Done

This is the essential book


All the other books make reference to this one

First published in 2001, updated in 2015

Biased to business, but useful in other contexts

Core process

  1. We capture what has our attention
  2. We clarify what each item means and what to do about it
  3. We organize the results,
  4. We reflect on the options, and choose what to do
  5. We engage on doing

The trick is in the details

“Mind is for having ideas, not storing ideas”

Anything that is pending or incomplete can be a source of stress

The recommendation is to put everything out, in a system that you can trust

The Inbox

We should put everything that calls our attention in one place

(or very few places)

  • A physical “In Box” in the desk
  • The email inbox
  • WhatsApp/Messenger/Messages/Signal/Hangouts/ LinkedIn/Facebook/Instagram
  • Other channels that are forced on you (AKSIS)

Many inboxes leads to many ways to miss something important

Step 1: Capture

GTD recommends starting by putting everything in a physical inbox

Even printing the emails you have in your email

I prefer to keep separate digital and physical inboxes

Collecting everything is hard the first time, but later becomes a habit

Step 2: Empty the Inbox

In other words

  1. We clarify what each item means and what to do about it
  2. We organize the results,
  3. We reflect on the options, and choose what to do


Pipeline diagram.


  • Single inbox

  • 2-minute rule

  • Actionable?

  • Archive

  • Projects

  • Calendar


Using Gmail

Inbox zero



Spam filter

Automatic classification



Using rules

  • using + addresses


  • alias email
  • automatic forward