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December 31, 2023

Mastering Allen’s Input Processing Technique

The best time to establish protocols with your clients is when you onboard them.


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Every day, a lot of us have to sift through a massive volume of incoming information. For instance, you most likely receive dozens of emails, calls, voicemails, requests for meetings, invoices, and other paperwork.

You still have work to accomplish in order to reach your goals and ambitions. So, how can you remain productive while efficiently processing all of this incoming information?

Allen’s Input Processing Technique is a practical method that assists you in doing this. We examine this tool and discuss how to utilize it to handle incoming information in this post.


Some of the phases in this procedure may already be part of your workflow management routine. Even so, it’s beneficial to go over the procedure again and make sure you’re making the most use of your time and resources.

About the Tool:

The Input Processing Technique was created by productivity expert David Allen and published in his widely read 2003 book, “Getting Things Done.”

The tool illustrated in the figure is a straightforward procedure that assists you in keeping track of your “inputs” and staying on top of your tasks.

Allen’s Input Processing Technique

In his book “Getting Things Done,” available in print since 2002 through Penguin Books, DavidAllen defines something requiring action as an input.

He describes it as “anything you have allowed into your mental or physical space that doesn’t belong there, yet you haven’t identified the desired outcome and the next actionable step.”

Your ideas for a new project, emails and documents you’ve received, or an invoice you need to pay are all examples of these inputs.

The tool’s primary advantage is in its ability to facilitate prompt action on all incoming inputs. This allows you to concentrate on your goals rather than second-guessing everything you could have overlooked.

There are three main stages in using the technique:

  1. Collecting.
  2. Processing.
  3. Reviewing (not shown on the diagram).

Let’s take a closer look at each of these three phases and talk about how you may use this approach to organize your workflow.

Applying the Tool

Although Allen’s Input Processing Technique looks complicated, it’s actually fairly easy to use.

Step 1: Collecting

Every day, information comes to you in a variety of forms, including thoughts and ideas, voicemail, letters, texts, emails, and paper notes.

Getting all of the many forms of incoming information that you need to consider is part of the “collecting” process. It compiles all the information you need to act upon and specifies where and how to keep it until you have time to process it.

The secret to gathering this incoming data is to make sure you have a suitable location to store it; Allen refers to these locations as “buckets.” You probably use many of these already, but some good examples of buckets are your voicemail, your to-do list, your email inbox, the in-tray on your desk, the notepad where you take notes during meetings, and your voicemail.

Organize your workspace so that your buckets are in the proper locations at home and at work if you haven’t already set up a bucket for each sort of information that comes in.

A more ethereal form of contribution is your thoughts and ideas, which are easily forgotten! After noting them down, put them in the proper container. You can send ideas to your mailbox or utilize an app for this. Later on, you’ll organize and sort through these ideas.

As few collection containers as feasible should be your goal. As email is probably the bucket you’ll use the most, be sure you understand how to handle it well. At the proper times of the day, check your email, and respond to short-lived requests right away (we go into more depth about this in Step 2).

Recall that during this step, you are not required to take action on anything that is not urgent. It may need a significant amount of self-control at times, but it’s crucial to adhere to the system while gathering your inputs.

Step 2: Processing

Processing begins when you have the right collection buckets for every material that comes in. In figure, processing your inputs is the primary function.

Schedule regular times to process your inputs rather than processing them as soon as they arrive. This might be every day at a specific time, or during any voids in your calendar, depending on your preferred method of working.

Our piece Is This a Morning Assignment? demonstrates how to plan your activities for the optimal time of day. (In certain positions, this might not be the wisest course of action; in such cases, exercise your best judgment and provide contact information in case someone has an emergency.)

As you go through your inputs, you should identify each item and decide what action is necessary. The first step in doing this is determining if a given item is “actionable” or “non-actionable.”

Items that are not actionable are inputs that require no further action. If you don’t need to maintain a record of these, either file them where they belong or remove them.

Inputs that require action from you or another party are known as actionable items. These could be emails requesting your attendance at a meeting, for instance, or project ideas you wish to expand on.

It usually makes more sense to undertake tasks immediately rather than scheduling them for a later time if they are necessary and will only take a short while to finish, say less than two minutes. This is probably going to be the case for emails that only require a brief reply or for regular duties that you can assign to others.

Action items that will take longer than two minutes should be postponed. If a task needs to be finished by a specific date, plan it properly (in your calendar program or diary, for instance) and file it. specified tasks might have deadlines, while other tasks might require you to attend to them at a specified hour on a given day.

You can put actionable things in your Action Program or To-Do List that don’t have a time limit or deadline. Set these things in order of priority and assign projects and tasks to others as needed.

Step 3: Reviewing

The majority of this procedure consists of the first two processes, but it’s also crucial to go over the inputs you’ve gathered and processed. Thus, assess your impending commitments, update your lists, and remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished by going over your calendar and lists every week.

You can examine your short- and long-term initiatives and goals with this weekly review. You can add tasks and responsibilities to your calendar in addition to action items pertaining to these objectives. This is crucial because, without breaking these objectives down into manageable steps — the fundamental idea of Action Planning — they may appear impossible to achieve!

Key Points

The Input Processing Technique was created by famed productivity expert David Allen and published in his 2003 book, “Getting Things Done.” In order to make the best use of the content you receive, the tool assists you in organizing it.

There are three key steps in our version of Allen’s tool:

  1. Collecting.
  2. Processing.
  3. Reviewing.

The most crucial aspect of this tool is Stage 2, where you choose whether to act on your inputs immediately or later. This part of the tool is important because it makes sure you handle all of the information that comes in efficiently.

February 15, 2024
7 min read
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