on February 27, 2005
David Allen is considered to be one the top five Management consultants in North America according to a Forbes article. I now understand why.
The basic concepts in his book are simple enough and are represented by a flow chart, but there are so many other golden nuggets of "best practice" information within this book that you have to study it to get them all. I've read the book and listened to his second (audio) book "Ready for anything" four times in a row just to reinforce the great points within this book.
The result of implimenting his structure of workflow has suprisingly allowed me to act with more freedom and creativity in my job and a reduction in stress. I can even find stuff easily since setting up my folders and buying a label making machine (his recommendation).
He's really on to something big with his "next action" thinking approach (chapter 11) and his two-minute rule.
One of the best books I've read in the last three years.
on May 25, 2004
Being raised by an ADD father and a depressed mother left my siblings and I without a lot of social skills, not the least of which relate to productivity. Years ago one of my sisters asked me what I wanted out of life. My answer was simple: to be able to do something just because I decide to do it.
For decades I have studied everything I could get my hands on regarding self-improvement. Silva Mind Control, Insight, Maxwell Smaltz, NLP, countless books, tapes, seminars. Most of these left me thinking, "Well, if I could get myself to do those things, I wouldn't need your stupid book/tape/seminar."
I spoke frequently with my siblings about this, noting to them that successful people do things and think about things differently than unsuccessful people but I couldn't put my finger on exactly what that difference was.
NLP has been a big boost but nothing has matched the power of GTD to transform my life. This is the skill that sets people apart. It builds confidence, it clears the mind, it clears the backlog of projects that have piled up over the years.
For the first few weeks implementing this system I was actually on a emotional high. It was so exciting to have a simple, workable system that truly does what it claims to do. My wife and I have been working this system for a couple of months and have literally transformed ourselves using it.
My siblings are using it to great advantage also and I'm starting to share it at work. I am so grateful for this book and the opportunities it has opened up for a whole generation of under-achievers in my family. Words cannot adequately express my appreciation.
on January 19, 2004
Bottom line, read this book! Act on this book, its not as daunting as it sounds. Spending 2 days setting up this system could prove the most valuable thing you do! Make a resolution to get things done! It really is worth following the advice, even the small things which seem irrelevant i.e. buying an automatic labeler; it really does help when you want to file something! If you are a procrastinator you NEED to read this book, it will explain to why you have had so much stress in your life. Also for all those people out there who consider themselves creative and hence feel that time management and organizational system aren't for them because they fear it will stifle their creativity, well read this book and try it!! I really feel more creative since I got all this unimportant stuff out of mind!!
OK All procrastinators out there, this book really works! Let me tell you a little about myself and then you might understand why this book has been so important to me. I am a world class procrastinator, or should I say was! I had every excuse in the book for why I felt time management systems, to do lists, organization methods just don't work. I am a creative guy and I always felt that getting organized would some how decrease my creative thoughts and ideas. Some of my best ideas came from the mess of papers and books around my study and I thought if I got organized that this would somehow stifle my creativity. The other aspect that always held me back was I didn't want to waste lots of time implementing a system and then just keep maintaining the system and not have time to do the "real" work. Even though I have all these excuses, I knew deep down they were just excuses. I could not work out why I had such a barrier to these systems. I have looked at and half heartedly tried many different systems, Franklin Covey, Time Manager, I have many different organizers and PDA's that I just don't use. I didn't realize it until I read this book, but a lot of my fear stemmed from that I always felt that there was so much that these systems wouldn't catch and I would lose ideas. Most systems don't seem to cope well with unstructured ideas, thoughts, magazine articles etc... And they don't seem to mesh electronic information and paper based information. I wasn't interested in just another system that managed my schedule and to do lists, I needed something that would cope with the way that I worked and wouldn't stifle my creativity! Getting Things Done! Managed to develop a system that incorporated everything and I felt that things weren't getting lost! Wow! It feels good!
I committed to read it and start taking action on January 1st (like all good procrastinators, New Years resolutions are plentiful and always ambitious. We all have good intentions!). Well this is a resolution that I kept. I first worked through my home office and piled up everything that needed to be looked at into the "In Basket" (or pile(s) as it turned out). It took half the floor space in my study. I had purchased the labeling system; I had files, file drawers, staplers, paper clips etc... I had it all together, and I started processing. I finally had all my work papers processed. I then started in on my work email; I had a backlog going back to Nov 2002. By the time I had finished I had my Inbox down to zero!! It took 14 hours! I had purchased the Outlook Add-on that helped me setup my Outlook Folders and it even gives you an easy toolbar to process all new email. My next task was processing all Non-work stuff, which included all creative projects. This took another 8 hours over 2 days, but I finally got it processed, filed away and task lists setup! I have only been back at work for a week, but I have kept processing all incoming messages and with a little work I have kept my email inbox empty and I have all the important tasks and projects setup. This is a major accomplishment! It really has freed my mind to concentrate on creative projects, be able to tackle my work better. My worst fear of being organized has not been realized, actually the direct opposite, I have had more creative ideas since I started than I had before! My mind is clear and free to roam! It feels amazing to know everything you are supposed to be doing (and also to know everything you don't need to be doing), and it's amazing to know that something is captured and even if I don't do this now, I have an action to do it; this means my mind doesn't feel shackled.
on December 19, 2007
I used to be all over the place. My desk was a mess, papers piling upon books piling upon stacks of scribbled notes. My desktop PC had icons covering the whole screen with documents and using the search feature in Windows to find a document was the only way I could find anything.
Then I discovered GTD. Within two weeks of applying the system, my life has completely transformed. Result? I was able to literally increase my productivity in my personal life and career by at least 5 fold.
I am not a naturally very organized person so this was a godsend. Before this I tried Franklin Covey, Brian Tracy and Anthonny Robbins Time Management stuff and none of it has worked for me.
This is the only system that has worked for me consistently, that fits the natural process of organizing.
on May 26, 2001
Too many books on getting organized tend to be, well, unorganized. Or worse, impractical. They take digressions through academic theories or offer advice which simply won't work in the real world.
Not so with David Allen's "Getting Things Done." He offers clear, concise insights on action-oriented steps anyone can implement to make their worklife more productive and stress free. (He recommends the same approach for dealing with your personal life, and while they may work in this context, I'm not sure how many folks really want to run my family like a business).
Yes, a lot of Allen's advice is simple common sense and he tends to offer lists which simply added pages instead of help. Nonetheless, he presents obvious insights in useful context by showing how they've worked with his clients and it's simple to skip the unnecessary lists. The key is (and this is why I awarded five stars instead of four) Allen's advice is aimed at folks who live in the real world. You can actually implement what he talks about and see results.
While the book may not change your life, it will certainly help you keep it organized and focused. "Getting Things Done" is an ideal gift for the colleague who is more of a "big picture"-type than a detail person.
on March 4, 2004
David Allen is a genius! A few months ago, I was looking for a way to get organized and motivated about "getting things done" on a more timely basis. I am so glad that I ran into this book at the book store!
Mr. Allen puts forth a very simple, down-to-earth approach to accomplishing more in less time and with less stress. I am absolutely hooked on his approach to organization and daily productivity. I read this book through twice because it was so helpful and full of great advice that I wanted to make sure I adapted and changed my thinking fully.
The basic plan is to get everything out of your mind and into your organizational system where it belongs. Once you have your system set up with the proper "buckets" to hold all the items you need to deal with (and some that you don't need to deal with,...yet), you can clear your mind of the stress and worry that goes along with thinking about them subconsciously every waking moment.
Throughout your day, you knock out any actionable items and place the unfinished ones in the appropriate "bucket", depending on their status and the context of how they will need to be processed later. Once these items are in place, you can forget about them until the next moment you have time to process more items.
The weekly review is a major part of this entire system. Mr. Allen covers each step with great detail and provides outstanding tips and advice on how to adapt it to work best for you.
I recommend this book to absolutely ANYONE who would like a new and fresh way of thinking about productivity and how to best accomplish it stress free. His ideas are easily adaptable too. I changed some of the methods to fit what works best for me. Overall, this book is excellent.
on December 2, 2003
Finally, I have found a concept that I can apply to everything I do.
The Five Phases of Mastering Workflow is great. It helps me deal with every item that I come into contact with no matter how little or how important. The Phases: Collect, Process, Organize, Review, and Do, allow you to not just clean the desk off, but to put things where you can find them, increase your productivity and....yes, even clean out that e-mail box. I use to have an inbox of 100-150 messages, now everyday that I go home; I have the big 0 in it. It is amazing how the simple steps that David focuses on can help create a better, more efficient life for me in the office and out of the office.
The Natural Planning Model that David Allen created has improved not only my organization, but my productivity. It incorporates all the things that you have heard from all the business speakers and brings it down to a level that you can apply to your life. The Planning Model helps you to develop a purpose, determine you successful outcomes, brainstorm, organize, and perhaps the most important part, identify what your next step is so that you can take action; the key to getting anything done.
Perhaps the most important thing that I learned from David is the "Two-Minute Rule," if you can do it now in 2 minutes or less, then do it. If not it will take longer to deal with it later. This is probably the most important rule when dealing with the overwhelming e-mail inbox.
Finally another great action that comes from David is how to clear out your mind from all the clutter in it. Not exactly something that we think of in terms of organizing. But David makes a good point that we tend to get a lot different thoughts going around in out head and we get brain overload, or as he likes to put it, our physic ram gets full. He shows you the path to empty your head. Trust me; it is a great feeling once you incorporate it into your daily life.
This is a great book for the person who is looking for practical application to help you get organized, become more efficient, and better prepared for dealing with anything that life has to throw at you. A definite recommended read.
on November 21, 2003
I have read many, many books on organization and productivity and time management, mostly with the goal of overcoming procrastination and getting rid of that annoying nag in the back of my mind that I'd forgotten (or consciously neglected) something important, and that it would come back to haunt me. Following the steps outlined in this book (pretty strictly, I should add) have provided an honest measurable improvement in my performance, both at home and at work, and has drastically lowered my stress. I am a happier person because I purchased this book and followed its advice.
I'm sure other books and other systems might work for others, but I tried them and they didn't work for me. There's still some good stuff in Covey and others, but my annoyance in their rigid systems put me off. The systems were "theirs" and not "mine." I had to purchase their products in order to make it successfully work, or else their systems were so basic, elementary, and generic I felt offended that they'd even pretend to have created something (see Brian Tracy's awful "Eat That Frog" as an example. Ugh.)
David Allen drew me in through creating a system, though somewhat rigid, is completely untied to any supplemental products. You can use it with a PDA, or a paper planner like Franklin or Day-Timer, or with sheets of paper and a few manilla file folders. I started just using a stack of blank copier paper and some recycled folders, and it worked.
Allen's system is also appropriate for today's world. He actually owns and uses his computer, and has a system that bears that in mind. You don't have to have a computer to use his system, but it sure feels more up-to-date than the stuff MacKenzie wrote in the 70s. Was the workplace in the 70s at all like the workplace of the 2000s? Not really, no.
Allen also has an underlying tone that says, "This is what I do, and it works for me. It's worked for lots of other people, but you might want to tweak it to make it fit just right for you." It's slightly prescriptive, but not heavy-handed. You don't get the sinking feeling that you just won't ever measure up (as with Covey).
Finally, he doesn't mess around with trying to give you a set of morals. This is a book about helping you write the performance review you needed to have done last month. Or clean your basement. Or finish your thesis. And following it long term will make larger projects seem more accessible: the successful merger, seven consecutive quarters of growth, the second-story addition, your dissertation. The language of "Getting Things Done" is projects and tasks, not roles or morality.
As I mentioned above, it works for me. I use it, and based on my enthusiasm, my wife also now uses it. I use a new Palm, and she (by choice) uses a spiral notebook. We're both rigorous about keeping our inboxes clean, our lists up to date, and performing our weekly reviews. The nature of those lists, inboxes, and reviews differs pretty drastically, but the principles work -- and work well.
on November 17, 2003
Procrasinate, Stress? Here is a CURE
The title Getting Things Done of this book is a great 'hook.' Many of us would sell our Grannies if we could indeed get things done.
A couple of things are mentioned but not spelled out.
Getting things on paper and out of your memory hugely reduces both stress and procrastination. The several hundred items that end up as paper files act as an enormous brake on productivity when they are in the subconscious. That is the 'exponential benefit' on productivity mentioned in the book. They can even produce complete stasis, but I digress.
In a nutshell Mr. Allen's system is to change (subconscious) mental lists of things to do into a paper filing system. The tasks then are simple physical actions - Move paper to a call list, errand file, discard it, etc. (read the book for the complete list ;-) ). Ask yourself the key question - 'what is the next physical action' with each In-tray item.
'If something can be done in less than two minutes do it straight away.' This really got my attention as a friend whose productivity I greatly admire described her own 'two minute rule.'
From personal experience this approach is a glorious change. I exaggerate not at all! Remember that we are monkeys. Simple physical tasks are what we have had a million years of practice at.
While the book describes a paper system, it explains that once running it can be translated to an organizer or pc. See other reviews re Outlook.
There was one snazzy phrase that risked derision - to react with 'Mind like Water' to new tasks. On using Allen's system, I unreservedly withdraw my skepticism. Though artistic, it is an understandable description of the desired approach.
Great book! My Granny is only safe because I own and use the book.
on November 7, 2003
If you are a graduate student like me, a professional, or a homemaker you probably struggle with time management. The best thing about David Allen's ideas are their simplicity. By reinforcing the good habits we already have, he moves us to a more productive state. His methodology works by keeping things simple, almost too simple for my gadget taste.
How much time to you spend thinking about what you do? How much time to you spend planning your work? I never thought this kind of thinking should be a priority, I just did things. What this book forces you to do is put all you have to do on paper. It gets those "to-do" lists out of your brain where these lingering thoughts just cause more stress and anxiety.
I bought into this philosophy 100% and it changed my attitude and my productivity. It takes work, but it emphasizes the greatest asset you have, your own mind. As a productivity junkie since middle school, I have it all: the paper based planners, the best sellers that implore you to establish rigid priorities and "habits", software based on the paper based principle, etc. The reason nothing worked is that nothing kept up with my own abilities. This book teaches you how to make yourself better.
It is not only about getting more done in life, it allows you to get more out of life!