The Collected Quotes of Getting Things Done by David Allen

I'm a big fan of quotes. There's something very attractive about a well-crafted sentence of worldly wisdom.

I'm also a big fan of Getting Things Done by David Allen. GTD is a fantastic book - I've benefitted tremendously from the productivity principles David discusses in this book. I've read the paperback twice and have listened to the audiobook twice over the course of a year… it's helped to let the material sink in over time. My opinion of this book can not be understated.

Fortunately for me, Getting Things Done is full of quotes.

I've always had a particular fondness for the quotes that "The David" sprinkles throughout GTD. David Allen is a black-belt ninja master at finding inspirational and insightful quotes.

Just for fun, here's the entire collection, from beginning to end. Enjoy!

"The art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probably one of the secrets of our great men."

Captain J.A. Hatfield

"Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organization, preparation, and action."

David Kekich

"Time is the quality of nature that keeps events from happening all at once. Lately, it doesn't seem to be working."


"We can never really be prepared from that which is wholly new. We have to adjust ourselves, and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem: we undergo a test, we have to prove ourselves. It needs subordinate self-confidence to face drastic change without inner trembling."

Eric Hoffer

"The hurrier I go, the behinder I get."


"The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators."

Edward Gibbon

"Life is defined by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece."

Nadia Boulanger

"If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything."

Shunryu Suzuki

"There is one thing we can do, and the happiest people are those who can do it to the limit of their ability. We can be completely present. We can be all here. We can… give all our attention to the opportunity before us."

Mark Van Doren

"Think like a man of action. Act like a man of thought."

Henry Bergson

"The ancestor of every action is a thought."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

"This constant, unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy."

Kerry Gleeson

"Rule your mind or it will rule you."


"The beginning is half of every action."

Greek proverb

"Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the stairs."

Vaclav Havel

"It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head."

Sally Kempton

"The knowledge that we consider knowledge proves itself in action. What we now mean by knowledge is information in action, information focused on results."

Peter F. Drucker

"Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are the most active."

Leonardo da Vinci

"It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do."

Elbert Hubbard

"Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape."

Michael McGriffy, M.D.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Albert Einstein

"The affairs of life embrace a multitude of interests, and he who reasons in any one of them, without consulting the rest, is a visionary unsuited to control the business of the world."

James Fenimore Cooper

"You've got to think about the big things while you're doing the small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction."

Alvin Toffer

"Don't just do something. Stand there."

Rochelle Myer

"Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim."

George Santayana

"Celebrate any progress. Don't wait to get perfect."

Ann McGee Cooper

"Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior."

Dee Hock

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Albert Einstein

"Your automatic creative mechanism is teleological. That is, it operates in terms of goals and end results. Once you give it a definite goal to achieve, you can depend upon its automatic guidance system to take you to that goal much better than ‘you' ever could by conscious thought. ‘You' supply the goal by thinking in terms of end results. Your automatic mechanism then supplies the means whereby."

Maxwell Maltz

"I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific."

Lily Tomlin

"The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas."

Linus Pauling

"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have."

Emile Chartier

"Only he who handles his ideas lightly is master of his ideas, and only he who is master of his ideas is not enslaved by them."

Lin Yutang

"Plans get you into things but you've got to work your way out."

Will Rogers

"It is easier to act yourself into a better way of feeling than to feel yourself into a better way of action."

O.H. Mowrer

"I am rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I want to do, but I don't know where to begin."

Stephen Bayne

"I got it all together, but I forgot where I put it."


"I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."

Oliver Wendell Holmes

"We must strive to reach the simplicity that lies beyond sophistication."

John Gardner

"Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness."

Jean de la Bruysre

"What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do."


"To make knowledge productive, we will have to learn to see both forest and tree. We will have to learn to connect."

Peter F. Drucker

"'Point of view' is that quintessentially human solution to information overload, an intuitive process of reducing things to an essential relevant and manageable minimum. In a world of hyperabundant content, point of view will become the scarcest of resources."

Paul Saffo

"Thinking is the very essence of, and the most difficult thing to do in, business and in life. Empire builders spend hour-after-hour on mental work… while others party. If you're not consciously aware of putting forth the effort to exert self-guided integrated thinking… then you're giving in to laziness and no longer control your life."

David Kekich

"We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all."

Daniel Cohen

"To ignore the unexpected (even if it were possible) would be to live without opportunity, spontaneity, and the rich moments of which ‘life' is made."

Stephen Covey

"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it."


"The best place to succeed is where you are with what you have."

Charles Schwab

"The middle of every successful project looks like a disaster."

Rosabeth Moss Cantor

"Luck affects everything. Let your hook always be cast; in the stream where you least expect it there will be a fish."


"How do I know what to think, until I hear what I say?"

E.M. Forster

"Let your advance worrying become advance thinking and planning."

Winston Churchill

"Out of the strain of the doing, into the peace of the done."

Julia Louis Woodruff

"It is the act of forgiveness that opens up the only possible way to think creatively about the future at all."

Fr. Desmond Wilson

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting with the first one."

Mark Twain

"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

Mark Twain

"No matter how big and tough a problem may be, get rid of confusion by taking one little step toward solution. Do something."

George F. Nordenholt

"You can only cure retail but you can prevent wholesale."

Brock Chisolm

"Talk does not cook rice."

Chinese proverb

"There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction."

John F. Kennedy

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, they make them."

George Bernard Shaw

"Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified."

Dr. Samuel Johnson

"An idealist believes that the short run doesn't count. A cynic believes the long run doesn't matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run."

Sidney J. Harris

"A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world."

From a church in Sussex, England, ca. 1730

That's it… now sally forth and Get Things Done!

Read more essays by Josh Kaufman →

Published: March 20, 2006Last updated: March 20, 2006