Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Review: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Paperback, 267 pages
Penguin (Non-Classics), December 31, 2002

Personal Copy

Summary from Goodreads:
In today's world, yesterday's methods just don't work. In Getting Things Done, veteran coach and management consultant David Allen shares the breakthrough methods for stress-free performance that he has introduced to tens of thousands of people across the country. Allen's premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential. In Getting Things Done Allen shows how to:
  • Apply the "do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it" rule to get your in-box to empty
  • Reassess goals and stay focused in changing situations
  • Plan projects as well as get them unstuck
  • Overcome feelings of confusion, anxiety, and being overwhelmed
  • Feel fine about what you're not doing

From core principles to proven tricks, Getting Things Done can transform the way you work, showing you how to pick up the pace without wearing yourself down.

My Thoughts:
I happened upon Getting Things Done when I was trying to spend available credits on  It had wonderful reviews and the thought of "stress-free productivity" frankly appealed to me.  Allen's book is a step-by-step guide to organizing all of the actions that you have, both professionally and personally.  I was expecting some standard, fluffy fare about personal mission statements and time management, but Getting Things Done is much more practical than that.

Allen begins with instructions for gathering everything in your life - yes EVERYTHING - into an in basket.  Every task that needs to be completed, every nagging chore that you have been putting off, even those lists of potential vacations that you think might be nice someday.  The goal is to spend dedicated time processing all of these actions, in order to develop a complete list of items that need to be completed, each placed into their proper category.  Allen admits that the idea is full of common sense, however most individuals fail to implement the approach without proper guidance.  And for those who have successfully prepared their immaculate to-do lists, they do not continue to maintain their system.

Since listening to the audio book, I have purchased the paperback version.  The steps and checklists will serve me much better in print.  While I haven't yet taken a weekend, or a few quiet days to kick start the plan from the beginning, I have already implemented a few of the recommendations:
  • I bought a label maker and hundreds of file folders.  The top drawer of my filing cabinet is now beautifully organized.  It was a great start for all of the papers that needed to have a permanent home
  • I purchased a three ring binder with tabbed dividers.  While this wasn't a specific recommendation of the book, I thought that it would be the ideal way for me to organize my list of projects, next actions, agendas, and someday/maybe lists.  This approach has already helped me stay organized for the ten (yes TEN) recurring meetings that I personally facilitate each week.
  • I am working to keep my email boxes near empty, by filing or deleting anything where I do not have an immediate action.  This has proven the most difficult task so far, because of the sheer volume of mail that I get each day.  But I'm trying.

Getting Things Done is a very practical, helpful tool to assist individuals with organization.  I plan on a reread this summer and am hoping to take the time for a start-to-finish implementation.

If you're interested in hearing more about this book, I would recommend a visit to Simon at Self-Helpless.  He has started his year-long journey through twelve popular self-help books with Getting Things Done.

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