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Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity Paperback – 2001
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Getting Things Done : The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. Penguin Books, Inc.,2001
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Books like Allen's always start with the same little conceit: "My book advocates something new; it provides real solutions by not being just another _______." For this book, fill in that blank with "simple to-do list."
Great, you think, I've had enough of to-do lists. What you'll soon discover, though, is that Allen advocates a COMPLEX to-do list, incorporating a series of distinct FLOWCHARTS, of all things.
Ugh. Robots are meant to operate off flowcharts, not people.
The other conceit in this book plays into the American lifestyle of accumulation. Allen suggests the best way to keep track of all your stuff is to buy even MORE stuff to organize it all in. Buy more filing cabinets, more Post-It notes, more folders, more labelers, more, more, more!
Our problems with organization are systemic. They need systemic answers. A person who is suffocating should expect a doctor to treat the airway issue, not call for some makeup to fix their blue skin color. Sadly, Allen applies foundation and blush to people who are drowning.
We have too much stuff. Our lives are too hectic. That's all because the system we live in is broken. A smart man like Allen should be teaching business leaders how to make work easier for their employees rather than employees how to deal with the massive load of work their company leaders dump on them. He should be telling us how to drop out of buying more and more stuff that requires more and more of our time to manage rather than endorsing a consumptive lifestyle.
_Getting Things Done_ addresses only the symptoms. That's a shame because the disease isn't in the symptoms, it's in the system. Fix the diseased system and the symptoms clear up.
Beyond that, there are a couple helpful hints here:
1. If you have little jobs you can do quickly, do them.
2. Break the big jobs down into little jobs you can do quickly.
That's about all there is to _Getting Things Done_. Doesn't seem worth the cost of buying yet another book to add to the pile already overflowing your desk, does it?
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.
The book covers just about the same material that I learned in the tape series. The tapes have more anecdotes and 'real-life' examples in them, but the book has a few new pearls and tricks that tells me David's been refining and polishing this system since the tape series.
Two last quick points: first, it requires no special binders or refills. You could use a cheap spiral notebook if you want. Personally, I use a palmpilot, which works well. Second, (IMHO) the Weekly Review is the cornerstone of making this system work, and its worked for me for two years. Remember that; it'll make sense once you read the book :) Now if I could only get David to come up with a system for procrastination....