Step 2 – Clarify

All the articles on GTD® that were previously published on are being revised to bring them up to date with the latest edition of David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and republished here.

Before you can get ORGANISEd, you need to CLARIFY the information that you have CAPTUREd to determine what it means to you.

You need to decide what each item means to you by asking firstly – “Is it actionable?” – that is, is it something that you need to take action on, or do something about?


  • Is it reference material? If so file it as reference material in an A-Z Filing System. We will come back to the best ways to do this at a later date. For now if you don’t have a filing system put it in another in-tray labelled “Reference”.
  • Is it something you don’t need to do anything about just now but you’d like to be reminded of it at a later date? For example, menus for Christmas or New Year meal that you may want to book. These sort of items go into a Bring Forward (or Tickler File). Again we will talk more about these at a later date. For now put them in another in-tray labelled “Bring Forward” or “Tickler”.
  • Finally, in the Non-Actionable, is it something you no longer need? In this case bin it now!


  • Is this something you can defer until a later date – a reminder to pay a bill for example. This can then go into your Bring Forward file to be actioned on that date.
  • Is this something you can delegate to someone else to do? If it is put it in a pile labelled “Delegate to”.
  • Is this something you need to do? If it is you have two choices. 1. If it will take less than two minutes to do then do it now because it will take more time to write it down and pcik it up again! 2. If it will take longer than two minutes then what’s the next physical action you need to take on this to move it forward? Write this down on a list as an action, for example, “Call Fred about Jane’s school report”.

In dealing with the ACTIONABLE items, think about what outcome you seek for the item that you originally CAPTUREd. What does DONE look like? The next physical action is about DOING something that will get something DONE.

If that one next physical action will get the item done then you can discard the item you CAPTUREd. But if it will take more than one action to get something done then you have a PROJECT and as well as listing the next physical action on a list you need to put the PROJECT on a list of PROJECTs so that you’re reminded that it’s not finished yet. Then you can discard the CAPTUREd item.

Next we’ll look at ORGANISE where you put the items you CAPTUREd and CLARIFIed into a trusted system that will help you with Getting Things Done.

As last time, you can get an overview of the Five Phases of Mastering Workflow from David Allen’s site for free!

1 thought on “Step 2 – Clarify”

  1. 1. If it will take less than two minutes to do then do it now because it will take more time to write it down and pick it up again!

    ^^ That! My Enemy! It was a struggle for me before GTD – Not the actual doing, but the side effect of getting sucked into the black hole of trying to fix something else that caught my eye along the way that took more time and tools than I had!

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