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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
The second compliant is like most management books this one is read and pass on. It doesn't stay in your library to be re-read over the years. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot of management books are like that, but the ones that have the deepest impact never leave your book shelf.
Overall, I would recommend this book. It will help you become better organized. People will notice a difference and start asking you what you're doing differently. I'm amused at all the questions I get about why I have no emails in my inbox. I think the thoughts and ideas in this book will help you get things done.
The book consists of 3 parts. They are roughly: 1) Overview of GTD, 2) Same more detailed, 3) Same explained from principles. And this also shows my key comment on the book (and I believe other reviewers pointed this out many times also), the book is quite repetitive.
The first part contains 3 chapters. Of these, basically chapter 2 is the overview of the GTD method and is the most important chapter to read. The latest chapters will be mostly a repetition of chapter 2. Chapter 3 discusses project planning and the "natural way of planning" which I found myself a bit less interesting (plus a gross misuse of the term brainstorming).
The second part elaborates on the GTD method and has a chapter of each of the GTD steps: 0) preparing 1) collecting, 2) processing, 3) organizing, 4) reviewing, 5) doing. Each repeats the steps from chapter 2 and then elaborates on them. As the GTD method is fairly simple, most of the elaboration doesn't add very much. The last chapter again makes the side-track to projects (which I think could have been removed from the book).
The last part introduces 3 principles behind GTD 1) Power of Collecting, 2) Power of Next-Action Thinking, 3) Power of Outcome Focusing. Each repeat the same information as earlier chapters, but add a bit more conceptual thinking to it.
Overall, I enjoyed the book despite the repetition. I felt GTD has a lot of good things in it and it definitively tries to keep things simple. I've been at times worried with the bottom-up approach but on the other hand feel the author has a fair point that you can't concentrate on purposes when you are constantly swamped with things. Anyways, I think GTD can help a lot of people gain more control of their life and time, thus a useful book. 4 stars for its repetitiveness though. Recommended to people looking for getting their time a bit better under control.
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