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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2010
This book comprises a densely packed 259 pages of advice on time management, aka, as I am sure David Allen would prefer, productivity management, and that might prove a major obstacle to anyone who feels that they have, as Allen writes in the first sentence, "an overwhelming number of things to do". Reading the book, however, is but the first step in what would, at the very least, be an administratively demanding approach to time management - one that starts with "capturing all the things that need to get done - now, later, someday, big, little or in between". And he means all - professional, personal, everything.

Allen uses the metaphor of "psychic RAM", and suggests that we should not burden our working minds with issues that should be safely stored elsewhere. His approach is based on the assumption that if any task is "on your mind" then "your mind isn't clear", and therefore any task that is "unfinished" must be captured or collected in a "trusted system outside your mind" - in short, written down, whether on paper or in an electronic system. This, I suggest, is quite questionable as a universal assumption: there may be many people who can order their most important thoughts, prioritising in their heads, so that they can safely write down only those things that need to be written down and worked on actively. For those who have poor memories, or are always worrying that they will forget one key thing that will drop them in the soup, then this all-encompassing system may be worth the effort.

While I do question the universality of Allen's initial assumption, however, I don't doubt that this system would work if you devoted enough time to setting it up and getting into the habit of doing it. (His company provides software and other materials to help you, although pen, paper, traditional filing systems and simple software like Outlook or Lotus Notes are all you need.)

The second thing to do, having written down all of your tasks and wishes, is to decide which the active ones are. (The others should be consigned to a "someday/maybe list".) You should then to be clear about - and write down - the next action on each of those active projects. Actions should be specific, measurable way time bounded in SMART fashion (although he doesn't use that acronym). While that makes a great deal of sense, he doesn't balance that working forward in time, action by action approach with a plan back through time from the desired completion date to make sure that you will be able to complete it on time. I was taught that invaluable technique a long time ago as "time appreciation".

Even if you decided not to try to collect all of your thoughts, all of the other methods, techniques and "tricks" that he recommends in the rest of the book seem eminently sensible. Allen provides us with lots of techniques around envisioning, maintaining focus, natural planning, team alignment, using your diary/calendar, etc. There are, in my mind, some significant omissions, however. Allen says about one fifth of the way into the book, "Let us assume that you're not resisting any of your "stuff" (i.e. tasks/projects) out of insecurity or procrastination". He doesn't really come back to address this problem directly - productivity is often impaired by a general lack of will or determination or plain bravery to do the difficult, uncomfortable task. There is, for example, no equivalent to "eating the frog", which I personally found to be a most useful new approach to productivity a few years ago - possibly because Allen believes such tricks would be unnecessary if everything is completely ordered.

David Allen ranges from detailed practical advice on one page, e.g. prefer a simple A-Z general filing system, make sure filing cabinet drawers are no more than ¾ full, to theoretical or broad overview on another, such as the "six level model for reviewing you own work. I found that this maintained my interest quite well, although some might not like that style and wonder whether it might have been structured differently.

So, to conclude: this is a great book if you are interested in how best to use your time and how to be more productive. Whether his all-encompassing idea collection system will be right for everyone I doubt, but I don't doubt that anyone who did manage to apply it systematically would gain great benefits. That probably depends on the type of person you are - and I think that I might be someone who would find it useful and I might give it a go. There is, however, a great deal of good material here whether you adopt the "full system" or not. One last thought - it is probably not a good book to make a start with if you are already in over your head, as it is just too dense and the recommended system has too great an overhead to be usable unless you do have some coaching support to get you through it. Allen refers several times to spending whole weekends coaching clients, in their offices, as they collect all their "stuff"!
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on 5 June 2016
I really enjoyed and learned a lot from this book. I am happy to recommend it.
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on 20 March 2017
Getting organised by getting ideas.
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on 15 March 2017
Very usefull. Met my expectations and then some. Freeing up my mind and lowering my stress level. Thanks. Kr / Lars
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This is a seminal book, which has in some ways been superseded by its own children. If you survey the Mac and PC software applications that offer help with time management, by far the most popular system implemented is Getting Things Done, or GTD for short.

GTD has been criticised for being no more than common sense. In a lot of ways this is both untrue, and unfair. More accurately, it's two simple ideas put together, and supported by a collection of useful ideas borrowed (with appropriate acknowledgement) from elsewhere. The two ideas are the idea of 'stuff', and what you do with it (collect, process, organise, review, do), and the idea of using (and relying on) a reliable filing system. It's backed up with other good ideas like brainstoming, mind-mapping, the 50,000 feet perspective, and other notions that you may have encountered in their original contexts, or in programmes like TQM.

GTD is less revolutionary than the 4th generation time-management that Stephen Covey introduced in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. However, it's more powerful for most of us in the sense that you can implement it easily on a computer or a PDA. David Allen makes the most of the power of easy storage of information. If you're a computer user (and if you're reading this on Amazon, then chances are that you are), then this is by the far the most practical system, whether you use a specialist piece of software like Omnifocus, or just make the most of the built-in functions of Outlook or iCal.

This is the strength, and the weakness of this book: get one of the many software packages, read the help-file, and you may not need to read the book at all.

Just one more thing about Getting Things Done. As the author points out, this is really a book for people on the fast-track to improve their personal organisation. It's not going to make a great gift for someone else who you _think_ should get organised.
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on 5 May 2016
The concepts in this book are simple and even a partial read has enough advice to make small changes which give you that little more organisational agility and ultimately more time allocated to projects that matter. It's easy to see why so many to-do apps are now designed with these ideas in mind.
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on 7 August 2017
While the overall concept of GTD is as solid and useful as anyone could ask for, there simply is no amount of money you can pay me to finish this book: the concept is repeated ad nauseum chapter after chapter, giving the reader minute instructions on how to implement GTD in daily life. It's main problem is also that it completely ignores the multitude of digital tools and smartphone apps we have been using the last 10+ years. Instead, the author meticulously instructs you how to put pen to paper and keep track of all your projects and to-dos. No thanks! The book also lacks any abstract reflection on how to realize what actually needs to get done. It should be pretty obvious that GTD is nearly worthless if you place equal importance on everything life throws at you and if you don't know why you want to get things done in the first place. I hope you don't fall for the nice layout and the promising title and waste any time reading a book that could easily be written and explained on one or two pages.
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on 14 September 2006
There are so many books on Time Management that it's hard to know were to start, ultimately you know if a book like this has worked because you are either getting things done or you aren't. Unfortunately no matter how well a book is written there really is no simple answer to a problem like this. You don't go from a badly organised person into a beautifully time managed one overnight, old hibits do die hard even if self help books tell you otherwise. To be fair to this book it's about as effective as it can be and for that reason I would recommend it to people. I read the book about a year ago and then again 6 months ago and I've now applied a few core ideas into my daily life and they have made a big difference, so on that fact alone this book has earned the cover price. My only gripe is that it is way too long and it repeats itself, perhaps this is by design in order to drive the message home but to me a lot of it is stating the obvious and acts as padding to a very simple technique.

If you want a bit of order and clarity in your life then this book might help but don't be under the illusion that you will get everything done and your life will be a stress free cluster of joyfull events,it won't. You have to put the work in and apply self discipline to get results and if you can do this the advice in this book is great. I found myself doing a lot of work to get my 'system' set up and it took months of personalising it for it to be truly effective, it makes me wonder exactly how much of it was the book and how much of it is just me being my usual anal self. So, on balance I think it's worth reading if you apply critical thinking to see past the piffle and get to the core which I believe to be very useful and it ultimately you will get 'more' things done.
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on 12 October 2012
This books puts forward David Allen's 'Get Things Done' (GTD) framework for managing all your 'to dos' based on the context of the task and the time. As a concept/model, GTD has a lot of potential, particularly if you're managing multiple projects and have a busy personal schedule too. But...

1. Allen needs to update the book to contend with how you organise your to do lists and time if you use phones/iPads/computers to manage your diaries. The GTD model in the book pushes (or rather rams down your throat) an archaic paper-based system. He even advocates carrying this paper based system in your "satchel".

2. He complicates what should be a very simple system by proposing list after list for almost every task (and then having sub lists within those lists) - and then how to set up and manage those lists. Consequently, the book is more of a mechanical read than a pleasure. Those 'aha' moments are few and far between because they're buried in dry and long-winded prose. If this was any other type of book, I'd have binned it after the first 40 pages. He admits much of the book is common sense, but leaves the execution of when to do what to the reader's 'intuition'.

3. There are no summaries or checklists at the end of chapters - given how long-winded the book is, a simple one-pager asking the reader 'Have you done the following" at the end of each chapter would have been nice. Instead, you're forced to go back and re-read swathes of text just to get to the couple of lines of explanation that have any resonance.

4. The book would have been better off as a whiteboard/overview book, which could have been a fraction of the size. I really don't need to be told how my life will change after implementing GTD - what I want is a simple explanation of how to implement it and something short enough that I can easily refer back to. Then I'd have given it 5 stars.

Overall, a poor read. If you're keen on exploring GTD, then YouTube and Google are your friends here. Plenty of people have explained Allen's methodology better than he has. There's a a good YouTube video that explains it all in about 7 minutes [...]
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on 4 January 2007
I just LOVE this book. I read it once, listened to the CDs once, and am working on implementing some of the techniques. I think I will listen to the CDs again soon...this is an iterative process. The first time around, I didn't use some of the ideas. But now that I've seen how well some other others work, I can't wait to go back and pick up more ideas.

I have definitely modified David Allen's instructions to fit me - and it's resulted in my becoming "unstuck". I'm more effective at work, using Outlook as my catchall for all my to-do's. I am starting to do that more at home, too. It's been liberating, and by taking care of the little stuff, I really have been able to clear my mind all to be creative about bigger stuff!

I've even been tackling some deep clutter areas in my house, not just the filing cabinet. This book is amazing - so simple, yet so powerful - I would give it more stars if I could. :-)
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