Author: Publisher: Penguin Books
Year Published: 2003
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If you’ve ever looked at your to-do list, realized there was no way you’d accomplish everything on it, and felt a wave of anxiety wash over you, then Getting Things Done by David Allen is for you. The book provides a systematic approach for how you can be more organized and efficient and more importantly, less stressed about what you need to accomplish.
If you’re like me, you have a million projects going on and lots of little things you need to keep track of. Those to-do tasks pop into your head at inopportune times – like when you’re in the middle of something and can’t do anything about them – and stress you out with a nagging reminder that you forgot to do this or that project you haven’t started is due in 2 hours.
The best thing about Getting Things Done is that the underlying principles are so simple and easy to put in place. Instead of dealing with calendars, ‘ABC’ priorities, and long to-do lists, you focus on two objectives:
- Get everything out of your head and into a system you trust
- Deciding what the next step is to completing the task
As Allen states,
The vast majority of people have been trying to get organized by rearranging incomplete lists of unclear things; they haven’t yet realized how much and what they need to organize in order to get the real payoff. They need to gather everything that requires thinking about and then do that thinking if their organizational efforts are to be successful.
Getting organized is as simple as following these 5 steps:
- Collect – Gather everything that you need to do, can do, might do, or may want to do at some point in the future into one place
- Process – Think about what each item or task in your collection bin means and then figure out what the very next step you must do to complete the action is
- Organize – Set up physical locations (project lists, calendars, file systems, etc) to store all your stuff so you can find it when you need it
- Review – Look over your organization systems to remind yourself what needs done, add anything new that creeps up in, and to keep the system in check.
- Do – Determine what would be the best use of your time based on context, time available, energy available, and priority.
I’ve never been a fan of time management systems. In theory, they sound good, but they’ve never worked for me. I cringe at the idea of blocking out specific dates and times where I will complete each task. And throwing everything on a to-do list just made me anxious because I knew I’d never accomplish everything.
Yet, this system works for me. After 2 solid days of collecting everything, figuring out what I had to do with it, and filing away stuff I didn’t need, I’ve been much less stressed and know exactly what I need to accomplish. Now, whenever I think of something new to do or my mind can’t stop thinking about something, I add that task to my system. Simple. Easy. And it’s out of my head so I no longer need to worry.
The book is set up in three parts. Part 1 outlines the theory behind the system and what it will take to regain control over your workload. Part 2 provides hands-on chapters that walk you through each of the five steps. These chapters assume you’re creating your system as you’re reading the book, so they’re focused on the practicalities of setting up the system and implementing each phase. Part 3 discusses some of the long term benefits he and his clients have experienced from using the system.
Allen writes in a conversational tone, with pull out quotes and key takeaways on most pages. He also includes flow charts, lists, frequently asked questions and ways of overcoming personal objections that may creep up.
Overall, this is a wonderful book for anyone who feels overwhelmed or frustrated with their workload. It’s full of practical, straightforward advice that you can start implementing today – without any special gadgets or organizers. And though much of the advice is common sense, you’ll increase your productivity and find your life less stressful by implementing his system.