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Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity Paperback – March 17, 2015
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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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Top Customer Reviews
This new edition goes into more theory, but that makes it much harder to use as a concise guide of how to get things done.
I loved the first edition, but the 2015 edition was tedious to read and I didn't have the patience to get through it. Too bad he ruined a good thing. It would have been better if he'd added a companion book with all the non-actionable theory, or separate chapters.
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.
If the book had been cut by 75 pages it would be phenomenal.
The added quotes and page notes were not needed either.
Getting Things Done, or GTD, is a productivity methodology based on a few deceptively simple concepts. Now, I’m still very new to GTD, but this is how I see it. One of the fundamental ideas behind GTD is that the human brain is excellent at processing ideas and being creative, but not a great storage facility. A key part of GTD is getting all ideas, projects and commitments out of your brain and into a trusted system or external brain.
There are five activities to GDT: Capture, Clarify, Organise, Reflect and Engage. If I can take from the GTD website, this translates to:
Capture: Collect what has your attention. For me, this means adding all my ideas, commitments and to-dos in my list manager application of choice, Todoist. I really love this application and regret that I don’t have it at work. I try to capture everything from my doctor’s appointments, to buying cat food for Lushka to a reminder to ask my husband if we have picture hooks. I’m planning a trip to Europe this summer, so any time I think of something like oh, I must remember to get Swiss francs, into Todoist it goes.
Clarify: Process what it means. Here I can’t be any more concise than or as clear as the workflow diagram on the GTD website:
Honestly, if I take away nothing more from my experience with GTD than the two minute rule (if you can do it in two minutes, do it now, otherwise delegate it or defer it) and the discipline to define the next physical action to move a task along it will have been worth it.
Organise: Put it where it belongs. This is probably the area of GTD that’s least intuitive for me – I’m not very organised! At the very least, I try to put any appointments on my calendar, any tasks in the appropriate section of Todoist, and potentially relevant non-actionable information in Evernote. One interesting aspect of GTD is the use of contexts. This means organising your tasks not by priority but by the tools, location, and/or person you need to be able to complete them successfully. So, for example, in my Taxes 2016 list I have an item; pick up tax receipt from pharmacy. I tagged that as “pharmacy” along with other items like pick up Polysporin and drop off new prescription. So when I go to the pharmacy I just check that tag to be reminded of all the things I have to accomplish while I’m there. Similarly, while planning my trip to Europe I have a context of Susanne, the friend I’m visiting. Any time I think of something I need to ask her, I add it to that list of things to discuss next time I call or email her.
Reflect: Review your to do list and calendar frequently. The idea here is to keep your “external brain” current with everything that you need to accomplish. If you don’t add to it or clear our stale items, your real brain will no longer trust your system and it will break down. Most GTDers do a review at least once a week.
Engage: Simply do. Pick the tasks that are available to you based on your contexts and get cracking!
The book itself is very well written and the edition I have was updated in 2015 to include discussion of new technology (not specific applications) and how it impacts the GTD workflow.
if you are interested in improving your productivity and generally getting things done you could do a whole lot worse than to check out this book.
I gave Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free productivity five stars out of five.
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