A car analogy for GTD methodology

GTD Car Analogy

According to landmark education if your life is a car then you drive your car by looking in the rear view mirror and what shows up in the rear view mirror is your past full of baggage of emotions and resentments. If you drive crazy like this you are bound to meet with an accident.

So what should you do? Remove your rear view mirror and drive the car – No.

Use rear view mirror as a tool to access only facts and information and nothing else.

I would like to apply analogy of car to our GTD methodology.

Consider you life as a car it would work like this as per GTD  

  • Rear view & side view mirror – Weekly review
  • Clutch & gear – Organise step
  • Brake pedal – Unplanned work
  • Accelerator – Engage step
  • GPS navigator (map from point A to point B) – Next Actions for Project

Consider two penguins are driving a car like those shown in Madagascar 3 movie on penguin car chase scene, these two penguins have two independent minds of their own.

First penguin is an old and wise. He is able to take better and tough decisions between them. All he does all the time is to stands on the seat of the car and look outside of windshield, he steers the wheel, set or resets the inputs on GPS navigator and coordinates with other penguin.

Unfortunately outside of the car there never is a clear visibility sometimes it’s dark,sometimes it’s foggy. It’s very rare that there would be clear visibility.

Second penguin is a sporty one he trusts the wise penguin blindly and always listens to his instructions carefully. He remains near the clutch, brakes and accelerator and uses his tiny flippers to slide and press them. Sadly this penguin never gets to see what’s happening outside. All he does is refer to the GPS navigation for next turns and instructions and gets to know only the vague sense of where they currently are.

So how do we map these two penguins who limited by their respective senses, receptions and abilities to move places at the same time enjoy the journey and feel alive.

  1. 5 stages of GTD workflow mastery
  2. 3 Fold Nature of work and
  3. 6 Horizons of focus and

5 stages of GTD workflow mastery

Wise penguin takes care of only #1 that is capture and #4 Reflect, he able to do weekly reviews and he understands very well that weekly review is a linchpin of car. Steps Clarify, Organize and Engage are gladly carried out by sporty junior.

3 Fold Nature of work

Unplanned work or interruptions, neither of the penguins are well equipped to handle interruptions.Sometimes it could be road block, sometimes diversion or sometimes a simple phone call. Both the penguins would gets off balance when it strikes. It’s only when they get back to their senses they are able to course correct and resume on their work.

Defining of work – senior wise penguin takes the job or hacks out what works needs to be done..

Planned work is again gladly carried out by our sporty junior.

6 Horizons of focus

Sport junior who is always on the carpet takes care of only the runway where as all the other 5 horizon of focus are carried out by senior wise penguin using GPS navigator, maps, magnetic compass, binoculars and journals.


The two penguins hints us that we actually need dual intelligence to run our life and GTD framework helps us to do that.

Blog post written by Arun Kumar, co-founder tigri.in