Greg's Reviews > Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Getting Things Done by David Allen
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's review
Sep 20, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: personal-development, professional-development
Recommended for: Nobody...there are better ideas and methods available
Read from July 14 to 30, 2011 , read count: 1

For something that is supposed to save time and simplify my life, the Getting Things Done approach (author David Allen) seems overly complicated and time consuming to me. It is replete with laundry lists” of things to do and methods for doing them, to the point that, if I adopted the methods whole cloth, I think I would be managing my time all day long rather than actually getting things done.

I still like the simplicity and directness of Covey’s “priority management” approach, as described in his book First Things First. While not strictly time management – in fact, he argues that one cannot manage time, only priorities – Covey’s four quadrants have helped me immeasurably to think about and focus on what is most important to me and to do those things in their proper order.

Nonetheless, I found some useful (to me) tidbits in Allen’s book. He describes five phases of getting organized:

1. Collection: gathering everything needed to get organized – all your “to do’s,” paperwork, project inputs, etc. – all in one place, and then placing them into some sort of in-basket. That can be physical, electronic, voice recorded, or any other means one prefers.
2. Processing: Encompassed in a few questions and actions. Question #1 is “What is it?” Based on that answer, the next question is “Is it actionable.” If so, the third (and most valuable to me) question is “What’s the next action?” (see my review of Regina Brett’s God Never Blinks for a similar idea). Another useful idea is the two minute rule – if the next action would take two minutes or less, do it now. Keep in mind, though, that many things that can be done in two minutes aren't worth doing at all! Finally, for everything else, do it, delegate it, or defer it...mostly, do them.
3. Organizing: After doing what you can, then distribute the remainder into three locations: trash, incubation, or reference storage. In my experience, most of what I would have put into reference storage twenty (or even ten) years ago is now easily found on the web or in easily accessed databases. Avoiding “compulsive keeping” (my words, not his) is my biggest challenge to staying organized and simplifying my life and office.
4. Reviewing: Simply staying on top of what needs to be done so that it doesn’t become forgotten. Many ways to do this, but the book is somewhat dated as it was published in 2001. The principle is what matters here, not the method.
5. Doing: This one is obvious…

The most useful insights to me were what I found in the section on processing, and in particularly the questions to ask yourself as you engage in daily, weekly and more long-term planning. This is one book that I think would have been better as a meaty article. In book length, it feels too much like what some of my students do...padding a paper with non-essential material to make it reach the desired length.
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