Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity Info

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Reviews for Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity:

2

Mar 20, 2008

I like reading about organizing my life and being more productive, but I think the major lessons of this book could have been condensed in a page or two. Here are the things I remember:

- 2 minute rule: if you remember to do something and it takes you less than two minutes to do it, just go ahead and do it
- write things down in lists so that they don't float around your head and nag at you all of the time
- check your lists frequently and often, actually doing the things on the list (or delegating I like reading about organizing my life and being more productive, but I think the major lessons of this book could have been condensed in a page or two. Here are the things I remember:

- 2 minute rule: if you remember to do something and it takes you less than two minutes to do it, just go ahead and do it
- write things down in lists so that they don't float around your head and nag at you all of the time
- check your lists frequently and often, actually doing the things on the list (or delegating them, or archiving the info), otherwise you will lose faith in the system and it will never work
- get a filing cabinet, label-maker, and shredder; create a simple filing system and use your filing system often
- "tickler system" is a series of files for each day of the year. You file stuff away to be reminded or "tickled" on that specific day (i.e. magazine subscription renewal, buying tickets to a play, etc) ...more
4

Aug 15, 2008

Ironically, looking in to the GTD (Getting Things Done) system has been bouncing around in the back of my head as something to do for quite some time now. This approach to maximizing productivity is popular among the nerdegalian, probably because of its minimum bullshit approach to actually processing, classifying, and executing what the author David Allen calls "stuff to do." This book discusses the GTD system in its entirety and, more importantly, teaches you how to put it in place.

What I Ironically, looking in to the GTD (Getting Things Done) system has been bouncing around in the back of my head as something to do for quite some time now. This approach to maximizing productivity is popular among the nerdegalian, probably because of its minimum bullshit approach to actually processing, classifying, and executing what the author David Allen calls "stuff to do." This book discusses the GTD system in its entirety and, more importantly, teaches you how to put it in place.

What I really liked about Allen's work is that it's very straight forward and focused on implementation. It seems like other self-help books in this vein that I've perused are all about inspiration, defining values, motivating yourself, getting in touch with your inner being and letting loose the full potential of you. To those authors I'd like to say the following: No. Stop it. I don't need nor want that, so you can cram it with walnuts, buddy. GTD, in comparison, is prescriptive. Allen gets touchy-feeling in a few places (such as discussing prioritization or project definition) but the vast majority of the book takes a very practical approach to digging yourself out of whatever mountain of commitments you've gotten yourself under and how to stay on top of it once you get there.

In short, GTD focuses on getting "stuff" --commitments, to do items, reminders to gather information, requests for information or actions, etc.-- out of your short-term memory and into a physical, highly organized system that will remind you of the right stuff at the right time. Dumping everything out of your short-term memory allows you to do something that's very critical to productivity: focus on one thing at a time. If you're confident that your other commitments or to-dos are safely stored away somewhere and will not be lost or buried out of sight, you can devote all your attention, time, and mental energy to one thing before knocking it out and moving on to the next. I like to think of the system as an artificial, external, and infinitely scalable attention span that you can connect to and disconnect from as needed.

That's all well and good, but it's probably not beyond the ken of your average retarded monkey. The tough (and in some places nonintuitive) part is the implementation. Again, there's tons more detail, tricks, and tips in the book, but I'll try to capture the gist of it. There are four major parts to the GTD system:

1. Collecting incoming stuff
2. Processing the stuff
3. Doing the stuff
4. Regularly reviewing your system to make sure your action items and project lists are up to date

Collecting stuff is easy. That's just letting stuff accumulate in your physical or virtual receptacles like inboxes, voice mail, or e-mail.

Processing stuff is more involved. It requires sitting down with your inboxes and emptying them. That doesn't mean immediately doing the work associated with each piece of stuff as you pick it up --prioritization is important. It means taking a piece of stuff --an e-mail, a document, a voice mail-- and doing something with it: act on it right then, file it, trash it, delegate it, or create what Allen calls a "Next Action" item associated with it. Again, the book is replete with practical tips, hacks, tools, and rules of thumb for deciding which of these things to do and how to keep it all straight. Therein lies some of the book's best value, but it's too detailed to go into here.

Doing the stuff is self explanatory, but again I'll emphasize the value of being able to focus on one thing at a time without worrying that other things will be forgotten. It's much more productive and much less stressful.

Regularly reviewing your system is also important, and comes in two flavors: as needed and weekly. You may review your action item list (a.k.a., your "to do list") several times a day as needed, if for nothing but that endorphin rush that comes with checking things off as "done" and deciding what to tackle next. Weekly reviews are also important, and are different in that you take the time to check on your list of active projects and make sure you have a Next Action item for each and every one.

So I really like the book and its system. I'd recommend it to anyone who feels like they're not being productive enough or getting buried in work. Allen only gets mushy and non-specific in a few places that make it seem like he's trying to pad the page count, but the majority of the book is specific, direct, and practical. I also like that Allen is in tune with the modern technology that most professionals encounter. He spends appropriate amounts of time discussing things like e-mail, Outlook and voice mail. He also talks about implementing GTD with high-tech tools like PDAs, Web 2.0 systems, and palmtop computers, but while GTD lends itself well to these kinds of toys, at its heart it is technology agnostic. You could do the whole thing quite effectively with a pen, some paper, and a bunch of file folders. Indeed, some parts of the system, like the tickler file work best that way. ...more
1

Aug 20, 2007

I bought this book, and I read some of it. It sat on a shelf unfinished. I read some more. It sat in my car unfinished. I eventually made the decision to never finish it.

I think this is self-explanatory.

[Later...]

Now I'm reading 26 Reasons Not to Use GTD, and it does a good job of articulating the "ehhhh"ness that I felt while reading this.

[Even later...]

And if you think GTD's followers are a little cult-like (see, for instance, the comments on this review), check this out: When David Allen I bought this book, and I read some of it. It sat on a shelf unfinished. I read some more. It sat in my car unfinished. I eventually made the decision to never finish it.

I think this is self-explanatory.

[Later...]

Now I'm reading 26 Reasons Not to Use GTD, and it does a good job of articulating the "ehhhh"ness that I felt while reading this.

[Even later...]

And if you think GTD's followers are a little cult-like (see, for instance, the comments on this review), check this out: When David Allen says in the acknowledgments "deepest thanks go to my spiritual coach, J-R", he's talking about a man named John-Roger "the Mystical Traveler", who believes he is a reincarnation of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, and Abraham Lincoln. Allen is a minister in his Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness church. Yup. ...more
5

October 10, 2015

Thoughts on Allen's Getting Things Done - Build a structure for tasks, use it & clear your head. Great advice!
Overall I found the book a very good read. It helped me crystallize a number of ideas about how to organize tasks using simple lists and structures. The over arching theme I took away is that it is important to have a good organized structured to put ideas immediately into and to trust the structure so that one can free one's mind from constant distractions.

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.
5

Jul 29, 2007

I'm a big geek, and here's proof (if you needed it). I learned about GTD from Merlin Mann's 43 Folders site, and became an instant convert. Because I love folders, lists, diagrams, flow charts, of course, but most of all because with GTD, you have to have a labeller. I love my labeller. I love making labels for my files, and admiring them in their serried ranks, all neat and labelly.

And I do actually seem to be getting more done, even when I factor in all the time I spend labelling.
4

December 26, 2014

very good system, but way too long for the content
David Allen’s Getting Things Done describes a very powerful system for controlling the long list of to-do items we all carry around in our heads. I have been using parts of this system since 1985.

The basic principle is straightforward – write down everything you want to do – or might want to do – and keep those lists orderly and accessible. Get everything out of your mind and into this system and clear your mind, which, in theory, should make you more peaceful and consequently more effective. Your increased effectiveness, in theory, should make you more peaceful. And so on.

Also, to become more peaceful and clear, get EVERYTHING off your desk. Unclutter your office, too.

You might wonder why an entire book would be necessary to learn how to do this. You would be right to wonder, as most of the book is, in fact, an explanation of why it is better to not be anxious and what happens when your office and life are messy. Then much of that is restated in different words.

Nonetheless, I encourage you to buy the book, because it will increase your commitment to using a system, perhaps this one. After all, you have known since you were 14 years old that is it better to be organized, and it may be possible that you haven’t lived that way.

Here are the basics from the book:

Get every possible item off of your desk and out of the pile on your windowsill and from the top of the filing cabinet. Everything.

Write down every single possible thing you might ever want to do, see, look up, accomplish, plant, complete, give away, or build. Here is the key principle of the entire book and the entire system (it may actually be the key to life, the thing the guru on the top of the mountain should tell you): FOR EVERY SINGLE THING YOU THINK YOU NEED TO DO, DEFINE THE NEXT SPECIFIC, SINGLE ACTION STEP NEEDED TO ACCOMPLISH IT.

Not “buy a car.” Not “look at Consumer Reports for car reviews.” Not “keep your eyes open for good looking cars.” Instead, “go online to Consumer Reports to learn which issue has the latest car reviews.” That’s it. If you can do that, everything else is easy.

Write each of these next action steps on one of these lists: next action, projects, calendar, waiting for, someday/maybe. Except, if the item would take less than two minutes, do it right now.

Put everything in an accessible and obvious place. (Rule of Jenny: Everything has a place, and it’s not “out.”) Buy a label maker and label your files at the moment you create them. On your desk, you are free to keep only these things: supplies, equipment, decoration, and reference. That’s it.

Go through your lists regularly. Weekly reviews work for most people. Monthly may be better for you.

To recap, for every single thing you think you need to do, define the next specific, single action step needed to accomplish it. The rest is icing on the cake.

Buy the book. But feel free to skip over any sentence, paragraph, or chapter that seems to be explaining the benefits of getting organized. There are many such paragraphs.

If you want to save some time, here are the most valuable sections (page numbers from the Penguin paperback edition of 2001):

The Principle: Dealing Effectively with Internal Commitments (p. 12-18)
The Major Change: Getting It All Out of Your Head (p. 21-23)
Getting Control of Your Life: The Five Stages of Mastering Workflow (p. 24-53)
Brainstorming (p. 70-74)
Getting Started: Setting Up the Time, Space, and Tools (p. 85-103)
Processing: Getting "In" to Empty (p. 119-137)
Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets (p. 138-180)

As I noted, I have been using some of these tools since 1985, when I attended a David Allen time management seminar. The tools have been helpful. I am committed to getting the rest of my time organized, thanks, in large part, to this book. I hope it helps you.
2

Jul 09, 2013

If you find yourself turning a little moist and your pulse quickening with pleasure when you read words and phrases such as:

-High-performance workflow management
-Family commitments
-Priority factors
-The ability to be successful, relaxed, and in control during these fertile but turbulent times demands new ways of thinking and working
-key work tool
-assembly-line modality
-workforce
-values thinking
-desired results
-ups the ante in the game
-deal effectively with the complexity of life in the If you find yourself turning a little moist and your pulse quickening with pleasure when you read words and phrases such as:

-High-performance workflow management
-Family commitments
-Priority factors
-The ability to be successful, relaxed, and in control during these fertile but turbulent times demands new ways of thinking and working
-key work tool
-assembly-line modality
-workforce
-values thinking
-desired results
-ups the ante in the game
-deal effectively with the complexity of life in the twenty-first century

as well as quotes around "colloquial" phrases, such as "ringing your bell" (which I think he uses incorrectly, at least according to MY understanding of a what a "bell" is and what it means to "ring" it)

then not only is this the book for you, this is also the society and era for you, because these things are inescapable and even more so in this book. If such terms instead have you thinking wistfully of the sweet, enveloping darkness to be found at the bottom of your nearest 300-foot drop onto rocky crags, then you have, like me, found yourself woefully living in the wrong universe. You want to be three branes over, where there is still all this awesome new technology and decentralization of art and science and society but nary a hard-charger to be found. In that universe, if someone wants to help others to be more productive, that someone wouldn't expect their readers to slog through a 400-page book that contains about 370 pages of enthusiastic self-congratulation on the startling effectiveness of the method outlined in the remaining 30 pages. Writers in that universe also don't get bored of their own choking newspeak every two paragraphs or so, needing to take a break for a witty and apropos quote, one-sentence summary or reminder of the previous two paragraphs that passed as ephemerally through their own mind as it will through that of the readers, or to just start a new section on either the same or a new topic, either one, it doesn't matter, no one will notice, it's just the same randomly-generated buzzwords bouncing off their eyeballs.

However, in that universe as well as our own, the general concept outlined in this book of turning yourself into an automaton of your own design is still valid. Only in that universe when someone wants to get more done in their life by exporting their brain to external resources, it's done matter-of-factly and with little fanfare, since that universe has also failed to create an entire race of creatures that can't figure out how to function without following explicitly outlined methodologies taught to them by highly paid professional consultants. People in that universe have external brains because it's obviously the thing to do, not because it'll make them more effective entrepreneurs, more successful businessmen, more highly admired community leaders not to mention better partners and parents. Half those things aren't taken seriously in this other universe and the other half are taken even less seriously but still done well. There, they learn how to be alive while they're being alive, by being alive, not from a book they read in middle age in desperation after having already failed miserably at living and this is the thing that'll finally get their shit together, I swear to high heaven this is it, for real, everything's gonna be different from here on out. God I wish I was in that universe. ...more
2

Apr 18, 2007

This book should have been a 3,000-word article. It was full of useless details (e.g. listing the types of materials out of which an inbox might be made), redundant to the point of making me crazy, and overflowing with multi-step systems for this, that, and the other (seriously, keeping the 3- or 4- or 6-step filters straight would require flashcards).

While it had some useful tips, I can't imagine anyone having the free time to implement the system fully. Clearly, though, I am wrong in this, This book should have been a 3,000-word article. It was full of useless details (e.g. listing the types of materials out of which an inbox might be made), redundant to the point of making me crazy, and overflowing with multi-step systems for this, that, and the other (seriously, keeping the 3- or 4- or 6-step filters straight would require flashcards).

While it had some useful tips, I can't imagine anyone having the free time to implement the system fully. Clearly, though, I am wrong in this, just google "getting things done" or "gtd" and check out the millions of results.
...more
0

Sep 11, 2007

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 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/ ...more
5

Oct 19, 2016

Probably the best self-help book I ever read - in any case the one I most adapted to the organization of my life. It does not have an annoying religious aura to it like 7 Habits or the selfish haberdashery spirit of How to Win Friends and Influence People, but is down to earth and highly practical. I was able to get to Inbox Zero and have held on to that principal for years now. If folks are interested, I can repost here my own adaptation of the techniques. Still for me a reference!
5

February 9, 2016

Get this Book!
There is a lot people seem to miss with this system. Maybe the name is just to easy to replicate. There are maybe 2 Apps I've seen that work well with what David Allen describes in his book. One is ThinkingRock the other I forgot because I didn't like it. I don't know how many people really appreciate the natural way ideas come together that Allen highlights (Purpose, Outcome, Brainstorm, Organize, Identify Next Action). Allen shows how people either go against the grain or when they bring someone along on the through their thought process, the brought along person doesn't get the essential information (Purposes and Outcomes) and has to work backwards before they can work forwards. He shows why many meetings are a waste of time. Etc. Etc. Etc.

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.
2

Aug 21, 2007

David Allen's smirking white male face on the cover of this book may convince that he's successful...but the man should reserve his smirk for one on one business dealings. The biggest issue with this book is, I couldn't get it done. Getting Things Done is written for a non-existent audience: a procrastinator with enough motivation to actually plow through Allen's dry instruction manual.
5

Jun 16, 2008

I have not had much success applying strategies from productivity gurus. I am referring to books like "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Steven Covey, and other books which share use top-down strategies to order our lives. There are two reasons why these have not worked for me. The first is technical: day-to-day life happens on the level of "stuff". The myriad of small tasks of varying importance and in multiple contexts hampers the effectiveness of top-down approaches. The second I have not had much success applying strategies from productivity gurus. I am referring to books like "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Steven Covey, and other books which share use top-down strategies to order our lives. There are two reasons why these have not worked for me. The first is technical: day-to-day life happens on the level of "stuff". The myriad of small tasks of varying importance and in multiple contexts hampers the effectiveness of top-down approaches. The second reason is a personal one. The entire mindset of these books is very unappealing to me. Books which simplify and systemize our entire lives, such as Covey's books, seem to suck the imagination and life right out of living. Peter Pan would barf and toss these books to his crocodile buddy.

Incredibly, one productivity book has managed to overcome my objections: David Allen's "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" has succeeded where other books failed. "Getting Things Done" (from now on I'll refer to it as GTD) has made quite a splash since its release in 2001. It's influence is already pervasive and some of the most useful blogs on the internet swear by it. I probably see it randomly mentioned every week. So for anyone who doesn't know much about it, I'd like to summarize the book and at the same time show how beneficial Allen's method has been for me.

First of all, GTD is not a top-down approach. Allen explains that "...most people are so embroiled in commitments on a day-to-day level that their ability to focus successfully on the larger horizon is seriously impaired. Consequently, a bottom-up approach is usually more effective." Allen is dead on. I already do plenty of big-picture thinking, and it really hasn't helped me deal with the nitty-gritty details of whatever messy projects and tasks are on my plate. Allen admits that a lot of times what is needed are a few tricks. GTD has equipped me to better deal with my responsibilities, and in some cases gave me some trick that helped make all the difference.

The second problem I've had with productivity books is more complex. I believe it is important to maintain a little bit of a child-like disposition in life. My impressions of the professional world are that it creates uniformity and kills creativity. It's very easy to figure out where my attitudes come from: I grew up watching Mary Poppins and Peter Pan, and Peter Pan was the first "big book" that I owned and read. I think I got that book out of my grandpa's library after his funeral. Both of these stories portray growing up as a very dangerous thing to do, and I've never stopped worrying that I will become old, dry, boring, and bored. But whether I like it or not, life happens, and responsibilities accumulate. And here is how "Getting Things Done" succeeds where others fail: without wasting time suggesting a cookie-cutter pattern for my life, it aids in conquering mundane tasks and responisibilities so that my energy can return to the activities that excite me. As I've implemented Allen's method, I've found myself able to mentally relax and in general am feeling a lot more creative again. That's pretty much fantastic!

Here is a quick summary of the GTD method. Allen describes a five-stage workflow: collecting anything that commands our attention, processing, organizing the results, reviewing the options, and taking action. Going through these steps for the first time is a huge project; Allen suggests taking several days to do this. It took me quite awhile to get all the papers and "open-loops" collected or written down, and several hours of work to organize them. Fortunately, Allen does plenty of hand-holding through this. If someone as absent minded and flighty as myself can do it, anyone can. Allen also includes chapters on developing and tracking projects (really excellent stuff) and deciding what to do next at any given moment. As a manual, it is very well written. It gives brief overviews of everything before going into greater detail. By the time you are implementing it, you already have a decent grasp of the material.

Allen sold me in the early chapters, so I dived in with both feet. It took awhile, but the results are wonderful. I have no loose unorganized papers anywhere. Before I did GTD, my mind felt like it was completely in knots. It's felt that way for years. Now that I don't carry the anxiety of lots of unidentified mental baggage and millions of unsorted papers, my mind feels relaxed and focused. GTD also helps me keep a clear picture of any tasks in front of me, and it's much easier to decide what to do next. Tackling a "next action" list feels a bit like a game. I hope to get one down to zero someday. I am more productive and am feeling more energetic. The method is also somewhat flexible: everyone's implementation will vary a bit. I use a clipboard with next-action divded by context, big wallets to hold file folders in place of a file cabinet, basic office supplies, a paper calendar, and four trays for "inbox", "next action / outbox", "data entry" (for business cards and such), and "waiting for". Very low tech, which is how I like it.

Only time will tell what effect all this will have on me. Increased responsibilities will be the real test of GTD's effectiveness. Although GTD will hold special appeal to workaholics and productivity worshippers, it is potentially beneficial to anyone who struggles to keep track of all the little tasks we need to get done. Check it out! ...more
5

Dec 29, 2016

Time-Management
This is the best Self-Help Productivity book ever written. Well, I think so and I’ve been using it for 13 years. It has had such a profound impact on my working life that to this day, it is a part of my daily practice. I have the GTD apps on my phones and tablets, and it is a default webpage I load automatically in my browser. The greatest fear we have when we’re dealing with so many projects or issues or people is that item that we forget because our brain is maxed out with Time-Management
This is the best Self-Help Productivity book ever written. Well, I think so and I’ve been using it for 13 years. It has had such a profound impact on my working life that to this day, it is a part of my daily practice. I have the GTD apps on my phones and tablets, and it is a default webpage I load automatically in my browser. The greatest fear we have when we’re dealing with so many projects or issues or people is that item that we forget because our brain is maxed out with everything else that is flying at us. We need to get it out of our heads and into a trusted system so we can function clearly – today’s modern technology makes this easier. Plug for Toodledo.

I have read the typical time management books and if I hear the ‘big rocks first’ story one more time I’ll hurl one of them at someone. What struck home with me in this book was the recognition of things constantly coming our way throughout the day and more than probably from our bosses, or customers who don’t take kindly to being considered anything but a large rock. This book, therefore, deals with a very pragmatic and defined workflow for managing things we need to get done and understanding the priority. The workflow proffered here is 1. Collect
2. Process
3. Organise
4. Review.
The book is well written with a style that is easy to read and provides margin notes and images where appropriate. He tends to use bullet points and flowcharts which help illustrate important concepts. If you can take on-board just some of his concepts you’ll notice the difference immediately.

I would highly recommend this book and process for managing the To-Dos in your life. ...more
0

Apr 11, 2011

I'm listening to this because I need to get a grip on my life.

I can't even focus enough to listen about how to get my life together, much less do it.
3

Nov 05, 2015

2.65 stars.
I've used a mutated version of this for years, but thought I'd try the original text. I was disappointed. I felt it gave equal weight to parts of GTD that are a cakewalk (emptying your mind onto a page) with parts that sound easy but are complex (deciding on next actions).

Also I thought the weekly/quarterly review needed more focus. Allen talks about the 20,000/50,000 foot view, but without enough detail on how to accomplish these.

I'd recommend reading through a summary instead of the 2.65 stars.
I've used a mutated version of this for years, but thought I'd try the original text. I was disappointed. I felt it gave equal weight to parts of GTD that are a cakewalk (emptying your mind onto a page) with parts that sound easy but are complex (deciding on next actions).

Also I thought the weekly/quarterly review needed more focus. Allen talks about the 20,000/50,000 foot view, but without enough detail on how to accomplish these.

I'd recommend reading through a summary instead of the whole book. There are people who explain Allen's system better than Allen. ...more
5

Aug 18, 2017

nicely done & read - wish he'd bring out an updated edition ...
4

Dec 27, 2008

I'm really glad my wife and I read this book together. It's already been very helpful in getting us to look at the reason so many things never get done on time or sometimes not at all. The book is well written. The writing is very clear, with lots of examples, though it's a bit dry in the middle and a little flowery on the ends. (That sounds like a description of a scone or something.) We're still working on getting our system set up (I mean filing cabinets for reference material) so I might I'm really glad my wife and I read this book together. It's already been very helpful in getting us to look at the reason so many things never get done on time or sometimes not at all. The book is well written. The writing is very clear, with lots of examples, though it's a bit dry in the middle and a little flowery on the ends. (That sounds like a description of a scone or something.) We're still working on getting our system set up (I mean filing cabinets for reference material) so I might need to add more to this in a month's time. I'll let you know then if we're getting more things done. As a matter of fact, that's one test to see whether things are still slipping through the cracks. Read, go!

Update: one month later, I can say that I do feel less stressed about things, and I'm getting things done like never before. Mind you, I'm not perfect, but I feel there's been a noticeable upswing in how aware I am of what needs to get done. Just having an organized filing cabinet and inbox and next actions list allows me to see at a glance the things that used to just float around my mind, fighting for attention. My wife and I look forward to our weekly review (Sunday nights at 7:30), when we get to go over every project and make sure that everything's on track. I've been implementing this system in my classroom, too, and that helps with the stacks and stacks of papers I collect as a teacher. I'd love to find some way to teach this to my high school students, who can never remember to do their homework or study for tests. Anyway, I highly recommend this book. Unless you already feel that your system is highly efficient, give it a shot. ...more
5

Jul 17, 2012

Before I justify the five-star rating, there are a couple of qualifications:

1. This book is written toward a certain audience: well-to-do people, mostly business executives, mostly men, mostly older. The large majority of examples mentioned are male corporate leaders. There is the occasional nod to a housewife using the system to get her chores done (I kid you not), and a single reference that I can remember to someone whose work is purely creative. I feel that if you know this coming in, it Before I justify the five-star rating, there are a couple of qualifications:

1. This book is written toward a certain audience: well-to-do people, mostly business executives, mostly men, mostly older. The large majority of examples mentioned are male corporate leaders. There is the occasional nod to a housewife using the system to get her chores done (I kid you not), and a single reference that I can remember to someone whose work is purely creative. I feel that if you know this coming in, it will be easier to peel the husk and get to the tasty nougat center.

2. The system advocated here will not help you with amorphous creative projects. If you're a writer, Allen offers nothing in the way of how to parcel out a book into attackable chunks and bang out the pages. What it MIGHT do is help you get a clean brain in order to venture into the fog with confidence. If you're the kind of person who has a hard time focusing on creative work because less-important undone projects are nagging at you, this is a great system.

I usually dislike business books for exactly the reasons above. But what Allen does is something more applicable to knowledge workers in general. He recognizes that the amount of potential work is infinite, and then says, "Okay, you'll never get it ALL done. Let's talk about how you can at least put everything in its place, so you can feel good about what you're NOT doing." It's way simple, and after using the system for about a month, I can say that it's way effective, at least for me.

The essence of Allen's strategy is this: Develop a method for capturing everything you have to do in your life on an ongoing basis, periodically break it all down into actionable steps, arrange those actions in order, and then go to town on them. Let's say you realize one day that you need to get a new computer. In practice it means you should write down "get a new computer" in a central repository, and then your brain should be doing something like this:

"Okay, I need a new computer. But first I need to figure out whether I'm getting a Mac or a PC. My friend Dana has a Mac and loves to talk about it. My next action on this should be to call Dana."

It was a transformative experience to sit down with all the clutter in my life and break it down into next actions. Last night, I strung my guitar because it finally rose up to the top my big list of things to do. Right now I'm taking the time to write a review of this book because I feel on top of all the other things in my life. I am confident that writing this review is the best thing I could be doing at this exact moment. For the first time I can remember, the miscellaneous open loops in my life are not tugging at my attention. I've closed the ones I can close, and I'm okay with the ones I haven't closed yet. I'll get to them when it's time.

In short, if you're a creative person who has any kind of outside commitments (i.e., you don't get to lounge about all day writing or painting or watching the stars), then GTD may be a way to give yourself a clean mental slate when you want to do personal creative work. ...more
0

Mar 03, 2012

This is one of those optimistic books in which YOU THE READER can gain control by your own unaided (well almost unaided, you are meant to delegate) efforts, and which doesn't take account of that your workflow might very well be determined by things entirely outside of your control.

Not to mention if your working space isn't under your control at all (for example with hot desking) or is very limited (if you are in a drone-zone) then physically some of the ideas here will be impossible. And of This is one of those optimistic books in which YOU THE READER can gain control by your own unaided (well almost unaided, you are meant to delegate) efforts, and which doesn't take account of that your workflow might very well be determined by things entirely outside of your control.

Not to mention if your working space isn't under your control at all (for example with hot desking) or is very limited (if you are in a drone-zone) then physically some of the ideas here will be impossible. And of course everything in this book is best suited to someone with a secretary or personal assistant.

But there are some practical bits and pieces to take away, I've found it useful to not just write a to-do list but also to write by each item what I'm waiting on or what has to be done next to progress the item and the book inspired me to use the email calender feature to pop up reminders of things to do and people to chase.

Beware however, just because you can deal with something within two minutes doesn't mean that you should do so!

For an absolutely different vision of how a business can work its worth reading Toyota Production System Beyond Large-Scale Production or anything by W. Edwards Deming.

In a wider context this is an entirely depressing and soul destroyingly negative book. It's implicit message is that the modern corporate workplace is a meat mincer. Fresh employees are thrown in at one end, the dead and burnt out, ground down and generally used up ones removed and thrown out on to the scrap heap. A functional view of the workplace might be so bold as to posit that people are employed to do a task which contributes towards the achievement of the overall goals and objectives of the organisation. Allen is writing for readers you have experienced something that is very different, in their world nobody cares. If you are struggling to deal with the task you have been employed to do, nobody will notice let alone step in to assist. Your only possible salvation is the life raft of books like this one, offering salvation from the threatening seas of an unlimited workload. Of peculiar interest is that the book is pitched to persons relatively senior - senior enough that they have secretaries or personal assistants. Bizarrely in Allen's world one is appointed to do a job, but there is no reliable way of knowing if you can cope with it or indeed if the job as defined by the organisation can be done by a single person, nor despite the money spent on the employee and their Personal assistant will anybody check or exercise oversight over one's performance.

The workplace in Allen's vision is not rational but the site of a particularly lawless gold-rush. Interestingly to my view enough purchasers agree with him to keep him out of the hamster wheel.
Like so many 'business' books it ought to be an A4 or A5 laminated card rather than a book hundreds of pages long but apparently there is no money to be made from people in a hurry or who are struggling to achieve stress free productivity. ...more
4

Oct 23, 2016

A bit too detailed for my taste, but there are some magnificent principles involved here. I learned a lot.
5

Feb 09, 2009

Recall the last time you went on a significant vacation from work: before you left you cleared all your to-dos, emptied your inbox, tied all the loose ends, and organized the things you'd tackle when you came back. Felt pretty good to leave that last day, right?

David Allen teaches you how to live your life this way: take all your to-dos, projects, etc. then organize them out into Projects, Next Actions, Someday/Maybe projects, Read and Review, and more if you want. Take the Next Actions and Recall the last time you went on a significant vacation from work: before you left you cleared all your to-dos, emptied your inbox, tied all the loose ends, and organized the things you'd tackle when you came back. Felt pretty good to leave that last day, right?

David Allen teaches you how to live your life this way: take all your to-dos, projects, etc. then organize them out into Projects, Next Actions, Someday/Maybe projects, Read and Review, and more if you want. Take the Next Actions and either do them, defer them, delegate them, and/or delete them. It's really that logical and that simple. Now, make a weekly habit of reviewing all those categories. Now you're "GTD".

Just like it ought to, the book starts out broad, then each chapter goes into more detail of the system. Unless you're some crazy detail-loving mogul, you only need to read about to the half-way mark. I went a bit further just because I loved it so much. For about three weeks now, it's worked for me both at work and more loosely at home.

The chapter on organizing your email and keeping your inbox empty is BRILLIANT! If you want to see this book in action, I'll show you my email and desk. I recommend this book to just about everyone.

Read the first chapter. I probably only buy 3-4 books a year -- usually because the library doesn't own it, but I bought this one after reading the first chapter in the library's copy. I knew I'd want my own.

...more
3

Jun 25, 2008

I'd heard about David Allen and his "Getting Things Done" system in the past, but I never paid it much attention. I decided to investigate further a little while back, and finally picked up the book two weeks ago. And now I've read it; and I expect I'll go back and re-read this book in a couple months. I may revise my rating at that time.

The things that irritate me in this book are exactly the things I expected might irritate me. There are plenty of the obligatory breezy anecdotes about the I'd heard about David Allen and his "Getting Things Done" system in the past, but I never paid it much attention. I decided to investigate further a little while back, and finally picked up the book two weeks ago. And now I've read it; and I expect I'll go back and re-read this book in a couple months. I may revise my rating at that time.

The things that irritate me in this book are exactly the things I expected might irritate me. There are plenty of the obligatory breezy anecdotes about the clients Allen has worked with and how impressed they were with the system; the margins of every page are filled with quotes; there are lapses into business motivation jargon; and there are numbered lists in droves. I skimmed some parts. But at the same time, there is something I didn't really expect: very concrete advice about organizational tricks and tactics, introduced with the words "let me assure you that a lot of the value people get from this material is good 'tricks.'" Recognizable meat! No wonder there are so many technical readers who have latched on to this guy.

Of course, I still have to see whether I can get the meat to work for me. It's possible that I'll char it into unrecognizability, or that it will give me food poisoning. But I think I've decided to try some of it anyhow. ...more
4

Nov 07, 2009

This is my go-to productivity book. Since reading it a few years ago, I’ve followed GTD in much of my professional and personal life. I highly recommended it to those who want to regain control of their time and become efficiently productive.

It teaches how to be “maximally efficient and relaxed” by avoiding “the so-called urgent and crisis demands of any given workday.” Allen says that “if we planned more about our projects and lives, we’d relieve a lot of pressure on our psyches and produce This is my go-to productivity book. Since reading it a few years ago, I’ve followed GTD in much of my professional and personal life. I highly recommended it to those who want to regain control of their time and become efficiently productive.

It teaches how to be “maximally efficient and relaxed” by avoiding “the so-called urgent and crisis demands of any given workday.” Allen says that “if we planned more about our projects and lives, we’d relieve a lot of pressure on our psyches and produce enormous creative output with minimal effort.”

Summary of GTD:
1. Get things out of your head and into a trusted system.
2. Clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do.
3. Set reminders for the actions you need to take.

Notes
A New Practice for a New Reality
“[M]ost of the stress people experience comes from inappropriately managed commitments they make or accept.”

“Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined.”

5 Stages of Mastering Workflow
1. Collect things that command your attention
2. Process what they mean and what to do about them
3. Organize the results
4. Review as options for what you choose to do
5. Do

Workflow Diagram - Processing

Image from frankcrum.com

Use your calendar only for things that absolutely must be done that day. Putting things that don’t have to be done that day is distracting and demoralizing.

Use the Weekly Review to “clean house.” Don’t try to stay “squeaky clean” all the time, as it distracts from work at hand.

5 Phases of Planning
When a project is stuck, think of your purpose. Think of specifically what a successful outcome would look like. Brainstorm potential steps. Organize your ideas. Decide on the next action.

The “why” of a project: Ask “why” to understand the purpose of what you’re doing. What are you really trying to accomplish?
The “what” of a project: what will this project really be like when it’s successfully completed?

Processing
Is it actionable?
- No: trash or keep for reference
- Yes: decide what the next action is:
-- Do it if it takes less than 2 minutes
-- Delegate it if others can handle it
-- Defer it if you must do it, but it will take more than 2 minutes
-- Identify and list any projects (more than 1 action step)

The action step needs to be the next physical, visible activity.

Organizing
Create an email folder named “Action” for emails you must act on. Create an email folder named “Waiting For” for emails you need to track because others are acting on them.

Collection
End every meeting, discussion, and interaction with asking, “What’s the next action?” ...more
4

Dec 27, 2018

I don't know how I missed this productivity classic in all the years since it was published. Turns out there's a GTD cult to go with the book, it's SO popular.

The book is all practical, all realism. It has nothing to do with thinking about your goals; it leaves that up to you. It's all about how to organize your stuff and your lists to get them done.

It's been criticized for being both too general and too detailed, but the generality accommodates complexity, and the details are an essential I don't know how I missed this productivity classic in all the years since it was published. Turns out there's a GTD cult to go with the book, it's SO popular.

The book is all practical, all realism. It has nothing to do with thinking about your goals; it leaves that up to you. It's all about how to organize your stuff and your lists to get them done.

It's been criticized for being both too general and too detailed, but the generality accommodates complexity, and the details are an essential component of the system.

On the whole, I'm a fan. If I weren't already pretty tooled up with mental, emotional, and practical productivity skills, I would not think it worthy of the cult. I don't think it comprehensive enough to be a sole source of a system. What I got out of it was an essential suite of concepts that really filled the gaps in my process, and I'm looking forward to finding more efficiency refinements from it.

What was truly life-changing for me, though, was processing all my paper in the prescribed method. My filing system is a functional beauty, and I save SO much time just being able to reach straight for something. THAT was worth every minute. ...more

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