GTD – What Are You Waiting For?

by Lela Davidson 

One of the most valuable books I have read in a long time is David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  There are websites devoted to his brand of efficiency, including  43Folders and LifeHacker.  I could go on for days about the merits of his systems, but I want to tell you about the most effective tool for delegating work to others: the Waiting For list.

The Courage to Delegate
In order for small businesses to grow, it’s crucial that entrepreneurs learn to reproduce their own efforts to a certain extent.  At some point, business owners must learn to delegate effectively.  A mistake I see in dedicated business people over and over again is the tendency is to assume others will care like you do.  They expect others to do the things they say they’ll do.  We all know this doesn’t always happen.  If everyone were like you, they’d be entrepreneurs too.  Instead they’re working for you. 

What happens sometimes is that once burned, people hesitate to delegate important tasks to anyone.  If you want it done right, do it yourself.  While I can understand that attitude, it will only get you so far.  There are only so many hours in the day and only one of you.  Instead of giving up on delegation altogether, use David Allen’s ingenious Waiting For (WF) list to transform your life.

How a WF List Works
A simple list can make a huge difference.  All you do is create a habit of tracking on a list every time you ask someone for something.  I keep mine in Excel (along with all my other geeky GTD lists).  So you have a line item for your request or whatever along with a date to follow up with the person if you haven’t yet heard back from them.  This serves a couple of purposes. 

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First, the WF list keeps the task on your radar.  You don’t have to worry that there are things ‘out there’ not getting done.  It’s on your list.  Second, it saves you from getting pissy every time you need to follow up with someone about something they’ve inevitably let go.  It just becomes part of your day.  When the line item pops up, you send a reminder or ask for a status update.  Trust me, once a person receives three or four reminders, they either do the task or admit they can’t and hand it back to you.  Either way, you rest assured nothing’s being left undone.

The WF List In Action
Right now I’m working on a huge community fundraiser.  I’ve been on the task for almost a year now and at the beginning of the year I made the rookie mistake of assuming all the volunteers on my committee were as committed to the project as I am.  Wrong!  Just as things started to fall through the cracks, I learned about the WF list and implemented it for this detail-laden project.  Now, it’s almost as if the work is getting done by itself.  My role is to keep a list and send out painless reminders.  I encourage you to try a WF list for work, for home, for anything that you work on in collaboration with others.

  • The @WF list is one of GTD’s most underrated yet powerful productivity boosters. If you do nothing else, I usually recommend people try this part out for many of the reasons you outlined above.

    Here’s a tip for those who use Outlook as their GTD tool: To make it easier to remind myself to add things to the @WF list, I always bcc myself on any message I send out to people with a request. That way, it’s easy to drag things to the @WF list.


  • Thanks for the tip, Michael. I am old school Excel, so I am at the mercy of my post-its. Maybe someday I’ll take the next step to Outlook. For, the Waiting For list was the deal closer – I knew I had to have it as everything came to a head on my current project.