David Allen and I talk about the ultimate productivity app

In late July, John Forrister interviewed David Allen and me for a few hours about the ultimate app for Getting Things Done (click here for my previous blog post about this). That interview was published this month as a two-part podcast.

The three of us discussed what would make for an ideal app, why it hasn’t happened yet, how close I got with eProductivity (which David designated as GTD Enabled), and what’s next.

What is the ultimate GTD app?

After 25 years of working with David, we still agree that the ultimate GTD solution is not the perfect app: it’s the solution you can make work for you. No matter how good a tool is, you can’t outsource your thinking to it.

Of course, a good tool can drastically lower the resistance you feel to your work and encourage an intentionally productive mindset. I’m still convinced that those things, much more than gee-whiz features, are what make a tool extraordinary. It remains true, however, that the best tool can only support your thinking, not replace it.

"The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

I took this photo at the GTD Summit. Einstein was right (no surprise).

Links to the podcast

To listen to our conversation, click these links:

You can also find these episodes on Soundcloud and most podcast apps.

Feel free to contact me re: app design and system implementation

Since the release of this podcast, several people have asked me to consult with them on designing or implementing their own productivity systems. If I can be of service you, by all means contact me. I’ll be happy to talk about how I can help you.

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What do you think about what we discussed in the podcast? Do you agree that no tool can do your thinking for you? Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon: answers and podcast on the ultimate GTD app

At the GTD Summit last month, David Allen announced that he would give away his plans for the ultimate “Getting Things Done” app.

An excerpt from David Allen's hand-drawn 1994 plans for the ultimate GTD app

David followed up in a newsletter with a link to his plans and a recommendation that people reach out to me for more information about building the ultimate GTD app. The response has been significant: many people have written to me with suggestions and questions, as well as requests for coaching for their own GTD systems or consulting to design the ultimate GTD app.

While I can’t personally respond to every inquiry, I will be blogging responses to popular questions here (make sure to subscribe).

In addition, David Allen and I plan to record a podcast in a few weeks (which I’ll post about here), in which we’ll talk about:

  • The subtle and powerful features and design that make an app “GTD enabled
  • The rigorous thought that goes into providing a truly seamless experience for the user
  • Our experience designing and developing the ultimate GTD app (how close we came, and why it hasn’t quite happened yet)
  • Answers to some of the many questions we’ve received since David’s announcement

If there’s a question you would like David and me to address, please post it in the comments below. We’ll review these as we plan the podcast.

David Allen gives away the ultimate GTD app

David Allen, world-renowned creator the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, is giving away the ultimate GTD app (some assembly required).

Twenty-five years ago, David created a set of plans for the ultimate GTD app. Despite committed efforts by many talented people, it has yet to be built. Now, David is putting his plans in the public domain.

David Allen’s announcement from the 2019 GTD Summit (in Amsterdam) about “the ultimate GTD app”

I designed eProductivity, the GTD app that David has used and recommended for the last decade. He talked about it at the GTD Summit in Amsterdam two weeks ago. Though we were constrained at the time by the existing Lotus Notes platform, this app is, in David’s words, “the closest anyone has ever gotten” to his vision of the ultimate GTD software implementation.

Over the six-year process of designing eProductivity (2002 – 2008), David and I looked at hundreds of apps supposedly designed for GTD. I’m sure many had smart people behind them. Some were elegantly designed, but none hit the mark. For many, it was clear that their creators simply did not understand the more subtle aspects of what makes GTD so powerful.

As David showed parts of his plans at the GTD Summit, he recommended developers talk to me. A few confidently claimed that they could crank out a dream app in a few weeks. Looking back on my 25 years of experience with David and GTD, I had to warn them not to be deceived. Though what the user sees may appear simple, behind it lies great complexity.

The ultimate GTD app will require an impressive array of features, but that’s not the hard part. The hard part—the part that I spent six years thinking about—is making the entire GTD experience as seamless and simple as possible for the user. That requires not only deep understanding of GTD, but also great complexity and intricate design, all hidden behind the scenes.

Consider this illustration: the perfect system is like an automatic transmission. As anyone who’s driven a manual transmission knows, an automatic turns a complicated operation into a simple one—and as any mechanic knows, the automatic transmission can do so only because it is complex.

Twelve years of running eProductivity has given me a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t for personal productivity tools. This has led me apply the knowledge I gained in the software space to help people do their best work where they are, with whatever tools they have (Notes, Office 365, etc.).

David Allen and Eric Mack together at the GTD Summit 2019 in Amsterdam

That said, I, along with David, would love to see the ultimate GTD app come to life. If you have a productivity application that you want to GTD enable, or you’re thinking about designing one, I can help. 


What features would you love to see in the ultimate GTD app? Leave a comment below!

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