Getting Things Done by David Allen
Each Friday, I intend to highlight a book I’ve recently enjoyed and want to share with you. I figure that a Friday is the best time to do this as you’ll have the whole weekend to really get into it.
A note on the links: they’re affiliate links in some cases, which means that if you click on them and then buy the book, I might get a small commission. In any case the price you pay does not vary, I don’t get to know who bought what, and none of your personal data is shared with me.
And none of the recommendations are paid for: these are all books which I personally have bought, enjoyed and want to share - no-one is asking me to do this.
Time for a break from the normal format - and I’m recommending a non-fiction book for once. I do read a lot of these, probably as a result of my former life as an engineer and needing to keep skills current. This particular selection is one that really did make a huge impact in my life, reducing the stress I had keeping on top of multiple projects at once, and one I still refer to even to this day. It’s Getting Things Done (the art of stress-free productivity) by David Allen.
Want to get organised as a New Year’s resolution? Pick this up today and you’ll be ready to go!
From the synopsis:
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.
I’m not a fan of ‘self-help’ books for the most part, so I’m glad to be able to tell you that this is not one, in the traditional sense. It is short, easy to follow and doesn’t make very many demands on you in order to improve your ability to, well, get things done.
He opens with the idea of a ‘mind like water’ - and it sounds a bit Zen and wishy-washy, but stick with it. The theory is that you can’t be creative, productive or even happy with a mind running a mile-a-minute all the time. All those moment when you think ‘oh, I must remember to…’ or ‘oops, I forgot to…’ add to your stress and distract you from the present. What you need is to be able to put all these distractions aside, letting you focus on the task at hand - and be confident that it is in fact the best thing you should be doing right now.
So how do you achieve this state of nirvana? Write things down. Then do them.
OK, I’m oversimplifying - but honestly that is the gist of this book’s system. Write down literally everything that’s in your inbox, your mind, your scribbled post-its and the back of envelopes and put it in one, trusted system that you keep handy at all times. Whether that’s a notebook, set of index cards or a digital organiser on your phone or laptop really doesn’t matter. After that, there’s a simple little routine you go through to work out the next thing you need to do toward that goal, and then you are almost done.
So why buy a book to tel you to make a to-do list? We all do it anyway, right? Because the simplicity of this system and the way it is presented here makes it much more likely that you’ll stick to it when (and let’s be honest here) we never quite manage to keep it up after a few days.
It’s not a long book, I believe he wrote it deliberately to be possible to read it on a medium haul flight, something his original target audience did frequently. However it does explain why these techniques work, as well as some of the pitfalls that trap people when they’re just starting out. And don’t think this is just for businessmen or overwhelmed engineers - this can work for everyone, with a very little effort.
You will be astonished how simple it is, and yet how effective - everyone I know that I’ve told about it has gone on to be an evangelist for this system (myself included) and it’s almost a standing joke in the ‘GTD community’ at this point.
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