GTD Guided Mind Sweep

I want to take you through a Guided Mind Sweep. The mind sweep is a technique gleaned from David Allen in his book Getting Things Done. In the Getting Things Done methodology, or more commonly known as GTD, there are five phases of the GTD method. The first is to collect things, get them out of your head, get them off of your desk, get them out of your notes, and then process them, organize them in your system, continuously review them, and take action.

In the first phase, the Collect phase, the mind sweep is one of the most powerful tools you can use to get things out of your head.

One of David's most famous quotes is, "Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them."

The mind sweep is a tool that is going to help you get relief and get things out of your head. It's going to give you a sense of calm and control. You can download our Mind Sweep tool. It's a simple PDF tool, where you can use this to capture things as we go through this guided mind sweep. So, you may want to pause the video, download the PDF. Print it out. You may want to print a couple extra pages before we get into the mind sweep.

This is going to take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. You may have so many things in your head and in your systems that you need more than 30 minutes. But in just five minutes, you're going to get a sense of control and calm from getting these things out of your head.



Before you get started

Download and print out our Mind Sweep tool before we get started.   

Ground Rules

Couple ground rules before we do get started is, don't try to overthink things. Just simply write them down, get them out of your head. You can throw this away when we're done. This is just a simple exercise for getting things out of your head so you can see what it feels like to start to get control in that first step of the GTD methodology.

Mind Sweep

Top of Mind

  • What's currently on your mind?
  • What has your attention?

Whatever's coming to your thoughts, just write those down. You may want to pause the video while you're just capturing those until you're at a stopping point.


Now, look at your calendar. If you have your phone handy or your planner, just take a quick look.

  • What has happened in the last two weeks?
  • Is there anything that you need to follow up on?
  • Any unfinished projects?
  • What's on your calendar in the next two weeks?
  • Is there anything you need to do to get ready for some critical deliverables or critical meetings?

Just write those down. You may want to pause the video while you review the last two weeks and the next two weeks.

Conversation, People, Follow-up

Are there any conversations or meetings that you've had recently that may not have been on your calendar?

Did you run into someone?

Did you have a conversation, and there was some follow-up that needs to happen out of that?

Let's take a look beyond the next couple weeks.


Do you have any vacation coming up?

Any vacation planned in the next couple weeks or couple months?

Is there anything you need to do to get ready for that vacation?

Is there anything you need to delegate before that vacation?

And while we're on the topic of vacation, is anything with your family that you need to do?

Events, Special Occasions 

Any upcoming events?

Any birthdays? Anything with school?

I'm sure still thinking. Pause the video. Just capture everything related to the family, friends.


Let's take a look at your office. If we were to walk around your office right now, what would you see? If you're physically in your office, then you can do this. Walk around your office. Are there papers around with unfinished things that you need to capture? Is there any equipment that needs maintenance? Any supplies you need to buy? If you're not physically in your office, just walk through it in your mind. Coming to the door, look around. Is there things written on on your whiteboard? Capture those things.


We could do the same thing for your home. If you're at home, this is a great time to do this exercise. Walk around your home.

  • Are there things that need to be fixed?
  • Do you need to call someone for service?
  • Any unfinished projects?
  • Walk around the yard and look for anything that needs to be done... Maybe from a seasonal perspective, if you're getting ready for the spring, or maybe it's coming into the summer, or even fall?
  • Are there any seasonal items you need to be thinking about?

And if you have any other locations where you spend a good amount of time, maybe you have two offices or you spend time in multiple locations, just go through those areas as well in your mind's eye.

30,000 Ft. View

So let's step up to the 30,000 foot view. Is there anything that's going on in your life that's longer range planning? Looking to get a degree, do you need to register to go back to school? Are there any certifications that you need to work towards getting? Any longer-term initiatives at work? Any personal goals? Any financial goals? As these come to your mind, just write them down.


Think about all the projects that you currently have going on at work and at home.

  • What are some things that needed to be done to move those forward?
  • What's the next action item on one of your projects?

If you've got a project list. This will be a great time to pull that out. Start just reviewing those. If you've got a notebook where you're keeping notes, flip through that.

Anything Else?  

One last time, think about any other open loops you may have.    

  • What comes to your mind?
  • Anything do this week or next week?
  • Any commitments?
  • Are there any opportunities?
  • Any new client that you need to reach out to?
  • Any potential new employee?
  • Anyone you've been meaning to to connect with?

Just write those down.

Events, Fun!

Any new special events? Any fun that you need to write down. Any concerts coming up? Any special events, and the family may have planned? Or, maybe it's a celebration at work? Any other relationships that you need to foster? Personal relationships, professional relationships? Anything else, just anything else come to mind.

This was a quick guided mind sweep. Hopefully by doing this exercise, you've filled out both sheets of paper, maybe even more.

By getting this information out of your head, what we refer to as open loops, and starting to capture them somewhere that you potentially will start to trust is the first step of that GTD process. At this point, you probably have an immense sense of relief. You may even feel a little more relaxed. You may also feel a little bit of anxiousness or overwhelm, because wow it's a really long list and that you were holding on to a lot of information in your head. But that's that first step of the GTD methodology. Getting those items out of your head and into a system so you can then organize them, review them, and take action.

So, hope you found this guided mind sweep very useful.

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