Getting Things Done, by David Allen

Getting Things Done, by David Allen

Title: Getting Things Done
Author: David Allen
Pages: 288
Originally Published: 2002
Format I Read: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: [rating:5]

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So, I’ve apparently been living under a rock. I did not hear about this book until a couple of months ago, as I was Googling ways to be more organized. I had a crazy December at work, which was made even crazier by the fact that a few things fell through the cracks. In an effort to keep things like that from happening again, I ordered Getting Things Done. And I love it.

Here is the publisher’s peppy synopsis:

In today’s world, yesterday’s methods just don’t work. Veteran coach and management consultant David Allen recognizes that time management is useless the minute your schedule is interrupted; setting priorities isn’t relevant when your e-mail is down; procrastination solutions won’t help if your goals aren’t clear. Instead, Allen shares with readers the proven methods he has already introduced in seminars and at top organizations across the country. The key to Getting Things Done? Relaxation.

Allen’s premise is simple: our ability to be productive is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve stress-free productivity. His seamless system teaches us how to identify, track, and-most important-choose the next action on all our tasks, commitments, and projects and thus master all the demands on our time while unleashing our creative potential. The book’s stylish, dynamic design makes it easy to follow Allen’s tips, examples, and inspiration to achieve what we all seek-energy, focus, and relaxed control.

So, I loved this book. It has really revolutionized the way I organize my life. It’s a very simple concept. We can’t be truly organized, productive, or relaxed, until we develop a trusted system to handle things. Allen argues that we spend a lot of energy letting things roll around in our minds. How many times have you laid awake in bed with thoughts running through your head? (I need to pick up milk. Oh, I need to return that phone call. Yikes. I really need to talk to my boss about that.) Getting Things Done teaches you how to empty your head and inbox into a trusted system so that you don’t have to stress about forgetting things and, when you do have time to get things done, all of things you could be doing are listed before you to enable you to pick the best thing to do. Here are a couple of quotes from the beginning of the book that really struck me as profound:

More and more people’s jobs are made up of dozens or even hundreds of e-mails a day, with no latitude left to ignore a single request, complaint, or order. There are few people who can (or even should) expect to code everything an “A,” a “B,” or a “C” priority, or who can maintain some predetermined list of to-dos that the first telephone call or interruption from their boss won’t totally undo. (8)

Intellectually, the most appropriate way ought to be to work from the top down, first uncovering personal and corporate missions, then defining critical objectives, and finally focusing on the details of implementation. The trouble is, however, that most people are so embroiled in commitments on a day-to-day level that their ability to focus successfully on the larger horizon is seriously impaired. Consequently, a bottom-up approach is usually more effective. (19-20)

It’s genius. And, shockingly, it’s very readable. I generally avoid business books like the plague, because they’re all the same. Five pages worth of ideas spread over 200 pages. Eck. But Getting Things Done is actually filled with useful information. I’ve even gone back recently and reread important chapters.

Finally, it’s a bit of a tradition with “GTD”-ers to post about their set up. So, here’s a brief description of mine. Keep in mind, I’ve been honing this for a month or so, and it’s still being refined. Also, I work from home most of the time, while keeping an eye on my one-year-old, and I’m physically in the office only once a week. Thus, I need a system that I can use wherever I am. I have an iPhone, a personal laptop, and a work desktop. While I love paper, I came to the conclusion that an electronic system was going to be the most efficient.

For calendaring, I use Outlook for work items (required by my office) and Google Calendar for personal items. These two calendars sync to my iPhone.

For next actions (GTD lingo for tasks), project lists, waiting for list, and someday/maybe list, I have been switching back and forth between two applications: Toodledo and Nirvana. They both have their strengths. Toodledo is established, has an iPhone app, and interfaces with dozens of other applications. But the user interface leaves much to be desired. Nirvana is still in beta and has only a mobile internet interface, but it is beautiful and handles project-based planning better than Toodledo. Both of them are web-based, which means I can access them from anywhere.

For my project support materials, I use good old-fashioned file folders. I also have a limited physical filing system. So far, I have opted not to use a tickler file or contexts for next actions.

See what fun it is? You get to develop a system! I highly recommend this book.

Getting Things Done, by David Allen [rating:5]

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