Customer Review

1,384 of 1,452 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas in a terrible package, June 5, 2006
This review is from: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Paperback)
David Allen presents an awesome organizational system in this book. With just a little up-front effort, anyone really can become much more in control of his or her life. I wouldn't say that GDT has changed my life, but I'm definitely less stressed now that I follow the system.

The only problem is, Getting Things Done is terribly painful to read. The problem stems mainly from the fact that there are about fifty pages in the book that contain real information. The other two hundred pages are--no joke--almost word-for-word rehash of those fifty pages. If I had a dime for every time Allen wrote, "Your brain is like a computer. If you fill up its RAM with the things you have to do, you don't get anything done," I seriously would have recouped my investment in this book. I didn't appreciate that I had to search through the entire book to find just a few pages of original wisdom.

If you're interested in this system--and, again, the system really is great--I recommend you check the book out at your local library. If you later feel as though you need the book as a reference, you can always buy it. And if you do read this book, don't feel bad if you skip most of the introduction and all of the last section (which read almost like a fifty page ad for David Allen's consulting services) and if you skim most of the rest. I promise: You're not missing much.
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Tracked by 8 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 24 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 8, 2008 12:59:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 8, 2008 12:59:56 PM PST
AVB says:
I would think that this book would be weak without his intro and final part yet you should consider them nothing more than an advanced level. I would read the book all the way through. But just pull out as much of his tips and tricks that you can turn into a system that you trust. If it works for you, you will welcome the pain of reading the rest of the book when the time is right. It is so painfull to read because the enormous brain dumps that result are exhausting to get out and you will not really get the importance of his discussion until you have everything out of your head from a real mundane action list standpoint.

I have read the book four times and the last section points, while they seemed wordy the first couple of times, are rather motivating once you are strongly understanding the function of his system. I like the marketing tone because it is catchy. And as I give advice to those friends and family who vent management issues to me, his word choices are catchy enough to remember. I find I always have an answer now on the tip of my tongue to empathize with other's gripes on productivity issues.
For example:
His take on Multi-tasking;
-Well, at first I implemented the system to my disadvantage at work in a one item at a time way, and other's around me did not like it. In my head I resisted changing, because I believed I could get it all done with my system. Yet since my job was somewhat secretarial, that did not fly with my superiors.
-Then, after reading the book again, I realized I did not understand precisely. You can not choose your next actions just by any intuition. You need to assess constantly many variables in choosing your next action. And should those variables change in an instant, you need to "refocus rapidly" and your intuition will assess and reevalute your next action.
-In essence, while you are not mult-tasking because you are still only going to do one task at a time, you have renegotiated your next action. And no one in your world needs to know except yourself that you are not multitasking. You bookmarked your next action so you know where you left off in what project you thought was the best thing to work on then. But you renegotiated your next action for whatever your reason. Do what you need to do now, but at least you know what your next action is on that other project so when you return, you do not even have to ask, "Now, where was I?".

Posted on Sep 14, 2009 7:23:51 AM PDT
Dan says:
I would agree with your assessment. I have not actually finished the book yet. I heard from friends and reviews that his system is great. The author keeps saying his system is great and goes into excruciating detail explaining why it is great... but he has yet to tell me how to do it! I'm 100 pages in and only have a brief overview what this system is. He has mentioned "tickler file" about a dozen times and has only explained it as a way to store papers for future retrieval. I keep thinking to myself, "I don't need another analogy as to why this system works"; just tell me how to do it and I will find out on my own!

Posted on Sep 23, 2009 6:06:01 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 23, 2009 6:06:48 AM PDT
Jenna Moon says:
I have to agree. I think it is the less-than-stellar package that results in the poor reviews. I love Getting Things Done (GTD) because of the increases in productivity that have seen. However, after reading this review, I realized that what I have essentially done over several years is "rewrite" the book; I created my own notebook of "How to Get Things Done" by photocopying and highlighting certain passages, printing out suggestions from GTD forums on the web, writing my own processes,etc.

The concepts and some of the concrete suggestions in the book are fantastic -- common sense, but with fresh insights. Teasing out how to make those things work on an individual basis takes some effort.

Posted on Jan 17, 2011 10:16:24 AM PST
Michael T. says:
Couldn't agree more. This book would be 100 times easier to read if it weren't so full of fluff.

Posted on Apr 19, 2011 6:50:43 PM PDT
J. Strauss says:
I also am both a fan of the GTD system and in agreement that there is a lot of repetition in this book. For anyone eager to get to the "meat" of the book, that's almost all in Part 2, especially Ch5-9. Obviously Allen, the author, repeats his main points so many times because he thinks they're important enough not to be forgotten, and in all fairness, that repetition of a concept increases the chance of it being retained. I think someone who entirely skipped Parts 1 and 3 would miss some useful insights, but yes, it could certainly be condensed.

I find the recommendation about getting this book from the library a bit odd, since I highly doubt anyone who speeds through this book once and moves on will follow through with any semblance of a thorough implementation of its methods. For someone in the process of thoroughly implementing the suggested methods across their work-life spectrum and/or trying to develop good habits for maintaining it, Part 2 of the book needs to be re-read and referenced frequently. My copy is heavily high-lighted, annotated and bookmarked. Thorough implementation of the GTD system, for people with a lot of things they want to keep track of - which is presumably everyone who would be attracted to such a book, is a time-consuming process. I've made a lot of progress, but I'm still working to get where I want to be with it, experimenting with integrating various software/apps and different variations of details like filing systems as I go, and frequently reference the "meaty" parts of the book. In my opinion, if you have any intention of making much use of the ideas in this book, you gotta own it.

p.s. No I don't have any financial stake in more copies of this book being sold. Go ahead and buy a used copy or what have you.

Posted on Jun 12, 2011 7:37:09 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 12, 2011 7:37:36 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2011 11:21:14 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 17, 2011 11:21:23 AM PDT]

Posted on Jan 18, 2012 3:59:42 PM PST
Jean says:
I agree with you. It was very painful going through the introduction. I wish he were more succinct.

Posted on May 14, 2012 1:14:09 PM PDT
James C says:
this book is so painful to read. It is just like having a GPS that tell you how great its system is for the first half of the trip while you waste all that time driving around town. I bought it due to the great number of positive reviews but it remains one of the worst book I regretted purchasing. Should have just gotten it from the library first.

Posted on Jul 1, 2012 1:23:13 PM PDT
Sophia says:
Do you know (does anyone know)
1) if the CD version of this book (abridged) does a good job getting the "painful details" out?
2) I was looking at the diagram & wondering if there is anything different (or more) from what has already been said in "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"? (from looking at the seems very similar..).
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