The Weekend Read – Getting Things Done by David Allen

gtdDavid Allen – Getting Things Done – the art of stress free productivity.

This is one of those “must read” books, an obligatory member of every coach’s reading list for their clients. The second edition, published in 2015, is just over 300 pages long and comes almost 15 years after the first edition which was hailed as “the business book of the decade”.

A long book but a worthwhile read and its almost philosophical approach to task and time management will provoke you to think about what, why, how and when you are doing what you do.

Michael Townsend Williams, in his excellent little book Do/Breathe, says, “No one teaches us the art of doing. We are thrown in the deep end at school, somehow avoid drowning in university or college, and end up splashing wildly through our working lives.” He goes on to suggest a form of David’s GTD to deal with what we have to do. We all have to do.

One of the great things about the Getting Things Done (GTD) approach is that it comes at things from a point of not having an overwhelming “To-Do” list that can stifle you to the point of paralysis. As the cover “blurb” says, “Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organised can we achieve effective results and unleash our creative potential.”

The book is divided into three sections:

  • The Art of Getting Things Done,
  • Practicing Stress-Free Productivity and
  • The Power of Key Principles.

After dabbling with all manner of organisational methods which were mostly repackaged common sense I came to this book with some reluctance, thinking, “Do I really want to be regimented by someone else’s imposed procedures?” I found it to be practical, adaptable – we all live very different lives – and effective. I was able to make improvements to the way I organised myself from the first chapter.

David starts by outlining the stages of his core process:

  1. Capture what has our attention.
  2. Clarify what each item means.
  3. Organise the results which presents the options we..
  4. Reflect on which we then…
  5. Choose to engage with.

We all have “stuff” coming into our in-basket (whatever form that takes), so start with the questions, “What is it? & Is it actionable?”

If the answer is no then bin it, put it into a someday/maybe review file or a retrievable/reference file.

If the answer is “yes” ask the next question, “What’s the next action?” from here will either go to projects (anything that will take multiple steps) or it’s for immediate action.

Next question, will it take less than 2 minutes? If yes then do it. If not either delegate or defer. Delegation is of course an art in itself. If deferring then decide either when (diary needed) or if it’s an “as soon as I can” action. (“This Two-Minute rule will free up your mind tenfold” as one reviewer put it) 

That really doesn’t do even that one page justice.

It truly is a thoroughly useful read  for an effective life – you will take lessons away that will help you each and every day.

Obtainable from The Book Depository.