Customer Reviews: Getting Organized in the Google Era: How to Get Stuff out of Your Head, Find It When You Need It, and Get It Done Right
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VINE VOICEon March 22, 2010
For someone who has been striving to go paperless, this is a helpful book. The information on using specific applications is the best aspect of the book, although it takes awhile for this part of the book to start. I found the most useful part of the book did not start until chapter 8. The early part of the book feels padded with personal stories and vague generalizations about organization and memory.

It is mainly , though not totally, Google-centric, which is not surprising from a former high-ranking Google employee.The author does state that his recommendations of Google apps is because he truly feels they are the best and in a helpful epilogue, Stuff We Love, some other companies' products are evaluated. There is also a 21- point recap of principles that summarize the whole book.

The part of the book I found tedious was the author's heavy reliance on personal anecdotes, and I especially disliked the use of story of the illness and death of the author's girlfriend to illustrate organizational principles . He could have presented this information without resorting to this. Overall, the personal anecdotes detract rather than enhance the book, and the sprinkling of song lyrics throughout the text adds nothing and feels like the author is trying too hard. But if you skip the personal stuff, this is a useful book.
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on April 8, 2010
First, in full disclosure I am a GTD nut, I follow David Allen's system pretty rigorously. That said, I do read most books I can find on organization simply because it is an interesting hobby of mine, and a lot of my acquaintances come to me for advice on getting organized.

The issues I have with the book:

1. Distracting format. I don't really need song lyrics in little blurbs to help me connect with the text better. Some of these lyrics are obscure and it is unclear how they relate to the text.

2. Way too much personal content. Look, it sounds like the author has lived through some harrowing experiences in his relationships, and that if he had been better organized, some of the pain would have been lessened. I sympathize. But the way he goes into detail seems very indulgent. I didn't pick up the book to hear about your sad stories, I wanted to hear what the former CIO of Google had to say about getting organized. Instead I get all this personal history. That's probably my biggest problem with the book.

3. The author is way to narrow minded about non-cloud based applications. For example, he is not a big fan of Outlook because it is usually hooked into Exchange, server space is expensive, and so you cannot keep years worth of data on the server. Um, why not archive your files and access your data that way? I get that the cloud will eventually be an ideal place to keep all of our stuff so that you can have everything instantly accessible and search-able, but as of now, the interoperability of the various applications just isn't where it needs to be for this to realistically work for most people.
Check out the book "Total Recall" for more on this.

4. The author is way too idealistic. The author points out a ton of perceived social problems (5 day work week, summer vacations for the kids?), no solutions, but then suggests we organize ourselves toward the ideal, even though the ideal doesn't really exist for most people. Most people work for a company that uses Exchange or Domino, and so there is a clear distinction between work and personal for most people. The author would argue that there shouldn't be; perhaps. But to insist that your systems must eradicate that line may not be realistic for most people whose primary tools they will have to use at work with company resources. How about we start with what's true now instead of using some idealized vision of the world as a launching point?

Bottom line: this book adds very little to the conversation that is unique or interesting to getting organized. Borrow it from the library if you still want to have a go.
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on March 25, 2010
It's strange how a book about how to un-clutter your mind so that you can work with greater focus and efficiency is overrun with distracting sidebars and pop-up song lyrics.
The book itself is distracting to the reader. There is useful information in here for the technophobe and technophile alike (however, I assume that everything in here will be old news to someone who is already a tech-head). If you are willing to have the book open in your lap and your hands on your keyboard, you may feel emboldened to try a variety of internet based applications that can help you arrange and organize information that you are getting on the web. Through the book I was introduced to a variety of apps that I didn't know existed, and that hold out some promise. The net result, however, is that if you are someone who doesn't organically use systems and tools to organize yourself, you will find that the only thing this book has helped you to un-clutter is your wallet - of $23.00.
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on September 15, 2010
I ignored the other negative reviews and spent thirteen bucks on this loser. I deeply regret the purchase. Here are the problems:

* The other reviews were right: the song lyrics are distracting. Maybe they looked better in the print version but in the Kindle, they just interrupt the text. The connection between the text and lyrics is often tenuous or apparent only to the author.

* The title suggested I would be getting tips on how to organize using high tech methods such as Google. However, less than half the book focuses on that (40%). There was -- one -- Google tip I hadn't heard before.

* A motif throughout the book is his dying girlfriend. Again and again, he uses her as an example as her condition continues to decline. I'm sorry he lost a girlfriend but the emotional issue does not help the book.

* Some of the advice sounds like the guy is not focused in the real world. For example, he suggests talking to your boss about working at least part time from home or during off-business hours. My boss would ask "Who's gonna answer the phones?" and then mark my file "troublemaker." He also suggests leaving work for a couple of hours when things are slow and hitting the gym. Maybe at his executive level, this stuff works. But for most of us?

*He says he was CIO at Google. Would have thought he'd have learned to concisely present ideas. Hopefully he doesn't write this way in his business career.

*Admittedly, I have not finished the book. I'm 80% through (don't you love the way Kindle tells you that?) and having to fight to read each page. So maybe he really kills in the last fifth of the book. I don't know if I'll hang around to find out.
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on March 22, 2010
How many books have been published on the topic of getting organized? Countless. How many of these books show such empathy for the reader, offer revealing personal anecdotes from the author that illustrate his advice, provide fresh thinking about what keeps us from being organized, and, oh yeah, throw in lots of quirky musical quotes along the way? Only one book does that--this one. I've found it enjoyable to read as well as helpful. I'm going to recommend it to my life coaching clients.
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VINE VOICEon April 19, 2010
The book's rather haphazard organization (it switches around various identities - pop psych book, a biography, a Cliff's note version of how-to-search, ...) unwittingly helps make a key premise - "don't organize information, search for it". Despite this lack of focus and apparent confusion on who the target audience is, the book is surprisingly an entertaining and informative read. Throughout the book, one gets a Zen like treatment ("knowledge is not power. Sharing of knowledge is") on organizing information and down-to-earth advise on how to use "~", "-" and "..." in searches to improve the quality (I ended up being on Google trying all this for a really long time...diabolical plan from a former Google CIO!).

The nuggets of pop-psych-like wisdom on how we organize and specific suggestions on improving search alone makes this a worthy investment. The reader shouldn't expect a very smooth reading experience, though - bumping around different topics (often very tangential) and granularities.

The key principles to organize by (a list of 21 items) is an excellent way to organize/analyze one's own strategy and habits when it comes to information organization. I gained from the discussion on noting/shifting contexts and grouping tasks accordingly to aid in efficiency (perhaps, I already follow this - but this discussion clearly helped me formalize/refine my approach using some of the tools mentioned). A good read and certainly helped improve my "e-search" skills.
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on May 19, 2010
The basics of this book could have been an okay magazine article or blog post, but not a book. The personal stories to illustrate his points are long and actually depressing and really have no context to being organized. Knowing he was CIO of google made you think you would be getting high quality organization tips and instead you find out how to stay organized when remodeling your house or going to the doctor. If you know how to use gmail then you don't need to read this book.
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on August 10, 2010
Man-machine. The paperless office. Information overload. Yes, the time has arrived. The future is now. Yet with all the world's information at the tip of our fingers, how does one keep this plethora of info from overtaking our daily existence? What if you could hire someone to consult you on organizing all this data into a manageable state?

Enter Douglas C. Merrill. As the top information officer for Google, Merrill knows a thing or two about what he's talking about, including many key concepts designed to help you organize and more efficiently use the information on your computer and the internet. In "Getting Organized in the Google Era," the author explains things like how to use Google, not just to organize the web, but as a search tool for your email, your computer data and more. The book shows how to make use of less obvious Google functions like it's hidden calculators, metric converters, foreign-language translators, currency convertors, shipping tracking tools and more (movie showtimes, anyone?). He profiles addition tools around apps like Google Docs, G-mail, Outlook, and Google's contextual calendar system to make managing more information, logical, smooth and efficient.

Interestingly, Merrill admits that digitizing all one's information may not always be the best solution in every situation as a middle section of the book is devoted to demonstrating why even Google will not eliminate the need for paper anytime soon. (He explains why some tasks are still better to be handled the old-fashioned way.) Finally, Merrill devotes space to the discussion of the benefits of the omnipresent concept of cloud computing and when and how it can be useful to the reader.

Overall, Merrill's book is full of useful suggestions that can save the reader far more time than it takes to implement the ideas in the book. His background at the source of many of these concepts makes this volume worth the read.
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on April 24, 2010
The author indicates that the idea for the book came from a magazine article he wrote. There is some valuable information in the book, but it's submerged in so much wordy and distracting text that it was a bore to read. It seems to me that he took some valuable ideas and then padded them out to fill a book, including several deeply personal stories included were not appropriate, and the lyrics on the side bar were distracting, which is ironic because he teaches you to not be distracted.
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on November 13, 2010
Filled with personal anecdotes with few tips to garner from it, aside from using Gmail as a personal repository for information (a la Evernote). Highly recommended that you try other books first.
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