- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 31, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0142000280
- ISBN-13: 978-0142000281
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2,164 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity Paperback – December 31, 2002
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With first-chapter allusions to martial arts, "flow," "mind like water," and other concepts borrowed from the East (and usually mangled), you'd almost think this self-helper from David Allen should have been called Zen and the Art of Schedule Maintenance.
Not quite. Yes, Getting Things Done offers a complete system for downloading all those free-floating gotta-do's clogging your brain into a sophisticated framework of files and action lists--all purportedly to free your mind to focus on whatever you're working on. However, it still operates from the decidedly Western notion that if we could just get really, really organized, we could turn ourselves into 24/7 productivity machines. (To wit, Allen, whom the New Economy bible Fast Company has dubbed "the personal productivity guru," suggests that instead of meditating on crouching tigers and hidden dragons while you wait for a plane, you should unsheathe that high-tech saber known as the cell phone and attack that list of calls you need to return.)
As whole-life-organizing systems go, Allen's is pretty good, even fun and therapeutic. It starts with the exhortation to take every unaccounted-for scrap of paper in your workstation that you can't junk, The next step is to write down every unaccounted-for gotta-do cramming your head onto its own scrap of paper. Finally, throw the whole stew into a giant "in-basket"
That's where the processing and prioritizing begin; in Allen's system, it get a little convoluted at times, rife as it is with fancy terms, subterms, and sub-subterms for even the simplest concepts. Thank goodness the spine of his system is captured on a straightforward, one-page flowchart that you can pin over your desk and repeatedly consult without having to refer back to the book. That alone is worth the purchase price. Also of value is Allen's ingenious Two-Minute Rule: if there's anything you absolutely must do that you can do right now in two minutes or less, then do it now, thus freeing up your time and mind tenfold over the long term. It's commonsense advice so obvious that most of us completely overlook it, much to our detriment; Allen excels at dispensing such wisdom in this useful, if somewhat belabored, self-improver aimed at everyone from CEOs to soccer moms (who we all know are more organized than most CEOs to start with). --Timothy Murphy --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Allen, a management consultant and executive coach, provides insights into attaining maximum efficiency and at the same time relaxing whenever one needs or wants to. Readers learn that there is no single means for perfecting organizational efficiency or productivity; rather, the author offers tools to focus energies strategically and tactically without letting anything fall through the cracks. He provides tips, techniques, and tricks for implementation of his workflow management plan, which has two basic components: capture all the things that need to get done into a workable, dependable system; and discipline oneself to make front-end decisions with an action plan for all inputs into that system. In short, do it (quickly), delegate it (appropriately), or defer it. While an infomercial for the author's consulting practice, this road map for organizational efficiency may help many who have too much to do in too little time, both professionally and in their personal lives. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top customer reviews
What should be put down in this structure are immediate things that are actionable, what one can do next -- as opposed to generalities, which require more thought. A key aspect of course is breaking down a larger task into these smaller actions.
Allen describes a structure of immediate lists to look at, calendars, todo lists, reference lists and so forth. Other bins include an incubator list for long term tasks and a “waiting for” list, which has tasks that are pending from other people to be completed. This seems like a sensible arrangement but I suspect that other people will have somewhat different structures. My impression is that the important idea is not letting immediate short term distractions cloud one's focus on a task, and tackling things sequentially in little chunks.
Allen talks a lot about avoiding infinite loops. He mentions that a long term plan is not something that goes on someone's tickler list but rather something that is broken up into many actions as opposed to only a few. Practically he discusses how in meetings, before the end of the meeting one really should bring up the question of what is the immediate next action that is a follow up from the meeting rather than just talking in generalities.
In the book Allen talks about the importance of having few distractions to really concentrate on the task at hand and one way of achieving fewer distractions is by designing a system to capture all of one's daily input into a well-designed inbox format. He talks about how if this is well done one does not have the guilt of constantly thinking about things that have to be done nor does one have to have the mental load of things constantly popping into one's mind -- given ones assurance that everything is captured in this universal inbox. He contrasts a company that has a way of capturing day-to-day tasks as smoothly running without people being interrupted with one that is constantly crisis and event driven.
I read this book before the new 2015 edition came out. This new edition of course needs to be much updated for the new digital reality. The 2001 edition seems quaint, with its discussion of the correct file folders to use and how to organize things correctly in a close by file cabinet. It makes reference to a Palm Pilot but this seems almost prehistoric in today's age.
That said, I really felt that the lessons in the original 2001 edition were quite timeless. One could easily see how they morphed into using email programs such as Gmail and perhaps even influenced the design of these systems. In fact, it is fascinating trying to connect a lot of the concepts in this book with the modern world of cloud computing, gmail and various online task sites. Many of these online productivity tools mimic very closely a lot of the ideas in Allen's work, particularly gmail's immediate function for archiving things from your inbox and putting various tags and stars on them. It fits very well into a system of de-cluttering your inbox quickly but then coming back to selected bits.
Overall I would highly recommend this book, I think it is a good read.
To address a few complaints posted by other reviewers:
Complaint: "It only helps if you're already organized."
Counter argument: I'm by nature very organized, and this system has me getting more done, more quickly, with less stress, than I ever imagined possible.
Complaint: "It only helps if you AREN'T already organized."
Counter argument: If you think you're already organizezd and super productive, you wouldn't have bought this book. I challenge you to TRY the program before you knock it; reading about the program isn't enough basis for judgment. Seriously.
Complaint: "It's repetitive."
counter argument: IMO the book is repetitive because it mimics sitting down with David Allen and having him walk you through the process as though you were a client and he was sitting in your office coaching you. Some of his ideas are new and run contrary to what we've been told all our lives (e.g. we've been taught by Franklin Covey to do Daily To Do lists -- which never works -- and David explains why). It takes time to write out a cogent argument for why GTD is better in these areas.
Complaint: "It doesn't teach you how to prioritize what to do."
Counter argument: No book can teach you whether it's more important to call your kids' teacher right now, or to answer a customer service e-mail. Sounds like one of hte excuses I used when I was procrastinating and trying to justify why I wasn't getting things done. Allen puts you in the driver's seat. If you need help figuring out what's most important to do, you need more help than a book can provide.
Complaint: "It reads like an advertisement for his consulting services."
Counter argument: I've read the book three times, and I really don't get that complaint. He tells you exactly what to do, how to make the program work for you; if he was advertising his services, he'd keep some of his solutions close to the vest.
Complaint: "It doesn't motivate you do actually do the things on your list."
Counter argument: It doesn't claim to make you WANT to do your commitments. And he has a good discussion in the book of how to only put things you want to do on your list (by evaluating your long-term desires and objectives periodically).
This is a great system that is revolutionary in its simplicity. It's easy to remember, easy to follow on a daily basis, and has fulfilled the goal of its title: Stress-Free Productivity.
You might have to read it twice before all the pieces fit together, but isn't a system that can give you peace of mind in your work life worth that investment?
If you're tired of making to do lists and never finishing them, this book will tell you pretty much every mistake you've made and are going to make if you keep your pattern. Learning to use Allen's system is worth it but very difficult. If you wish you were more efficient, this book will give you a system that you can base yours from. If you wish... stop wishing and get this book.
Most recent customer reviews
Worth every penny