on 24 March 2015
Since it was first published in 2001, David Allen's Getting Things Done has become one of the most influential self-help guides available. Now David has carried out what he calls "a sort of rewrite" retyping the original manuscript and identifying where the language and content was incomplete, outdated or not the best for keeping the book relevant for the future. Two new chapters have been added plus a very useful glossary of GTD terms. But the fundamental principles and core techniques are unchanged.
Let me get the big gripe out of the way first. The publishers have missed a great opportunity to improve the format and layout of the book - it still looks more like a novel (telling a story) than a manual (telling you what to actually do). Also the proof-reading could have been better. The names of the steps of the workflow have been chnaged in the text but not in the diagrams and some text has actually been incorrectly deleted.
The Kindle (and iBooks) versions are little better than page scans of the paper book so you get the annoying inserted quotations getting in the way (and sometimes falling off the page) and the sections headings sometimes being orphaned off the page. If you were formatting a book in Microsoft Word you wouldn't be making this elementary type of error! And, worse, some of the text from the original is actually MISSING - not edited out - just MISSING!
The 2015 edition has a new cover with David (now minus his tie) and his name the same size as the book's title as he is probably as well-known now as the book. Inside it tells us that he lives in Amsterdam in the Netherlands where he moved to from California, lock, stock and well, wife and dog (Kathryn and Susie!)
There is a foreword by James Fallows of The Atlantic. David then provides an Introduction to the Revised Edition. The main book contents then start with the Welcome to Getting Things Done. The main body of the book still consists of three parts. Part One is The Art of Getting Things Done and comprises three chapters. Part Two is Practicing Stress-Free Productivity in seven chapters. Some of these chapters have slight title changes as the Five Phases (collect, process, organise, review, do) from the first edition are now Five Steps (capture, clarify, organise, reflect, engage). Part Three now has five chapters, the two new ones covering GTD and Cognitive Science and The Path of GTD Mastery. The Conclusion follows and there is a useful glossary of GTD terms.
Subject to the publishers correcting the errors (and possibly improving the formatting) then I'd recommend it as the best, comprehensive, introduction, explanation and practice manual for GTD.
on 25 February 2007
Do you ever feel stressed because you have so many different things you need/want to do? Do you forget appointments or waste time looking in piles of paper for that one important note that you made? If you like me are disorganized and never seem on top of things this is the book for you. I love reading self improvement books. In fact I get a lot of stick from my husband about my reading habits along the lines of 'Why don't you stop reading books about improving your life and start living.' 'Getting Things Done' is the first such book to get me into action mode and start working on all those projects I've put off for so long. No longer do I feel my life is out of control; no longer do I feel overwhelmed by all the 'stuff' I've taken on board.
If you want to get organized but don't know where to start Dave Allen's book will give you the tools to 'Get Things Done.' The book recommends a set of principles, habits and a filing system which encompasses everything that you want to do from the mundane 'I must get new tyres for the car' to the important major project at work. If you have a hectic lifestyle this system will remind you that your library books need renewing or that the car is due for its MOT as well as that you need to write the first draft of a report for work or you want to email a friend to ask if they would like to go to a concert. You can concentrate on making that phone call or writing that report without worrying about all those other things that you need/want to get done. His system even finds room for long term 'dreams' which are not possible at the moment such as learning a second language, writing a book or travelling to China.
So when I'm not at my desk making phone calls, writing letters, or reading emails I can relax knowing that everything is in my filing sytem, calendar or in-tray. If I need to go into town to pick up some milk a quick check in the appropriate file will remind me I've also got some dry cleaning to pick up or whatever else needs doing in town. Setting up the system takes time and effort but it works. Dave Allen recommends clearing two whole days to clear an office and your mind of clutter and put it into a system which reviewed regularly. I didn't have two full clear days and did it over a couple of weeks but my home office has stayed tidy, organised and fully functional since and other areas of my home/life are being transformed.
This is a practical book with lots of useful ideas for increasing productivity in all areas of life and reducing stress but if you are prepared to implement the whole system it can be life changing.
on 18 February 2007
First off, I'll start by saying: "Don't hesitate, JUST BUY IT!!"
This is one of the best investments you'll ever make. I've read "Getting Things Done", got hooked, then proceeded to read D.Allen's other book "Ready for Anything" as well as source and listen to the CDs "Getting Things Done fast". I can honestly say that this book and the whole "GTD" way of thinking has changed my life.
Before this book, I was a procrastinator who was almost always late for deadlines and often unreliable with commitments. I read a variety of books on time-management, productivity and procrastination-motivation, but none as influential as this.
I have been using GTD for about 2yrs now, I am highly organized, productive, with all my commitments outlined in an organized and trusted system - nothing slips through the cracks any more. I've set everything up in Outlook, have my categories such as @home, @computer, @out etc and just keep ticking away Next Actions and completing projects. I synchronize everything with my smartphone (HTC S620) and have the whole system (calendar, tasks, contacts, notes) portable with me wherever I go. My inbox remains empty and all my emails are correctly processed. Finally, I've introduced the habit of the Weekly Review and now look forward to blocking the outside world, once a week, to take stock and reorganize myself and prepare for the week ahead.
Since I got this book, besides being productive and organized, I find myself meeting all deadlines and feeling much less stressed.
Like I said, JUST DO IT and buy the book! What you'll get is one of the best and most practical books on personal productivity!!!
on 14 May 2005
This is a life-changing book. I was drowning in paper, felt constantly anxious about things I wasn't getting done, was missing deadlines, finding it hard to keep on top of my various commitments and projects. I thought I was just a disorganized person; this book has changed everything for me. I now have a clear idea of my commitments, an easy-access and reliable filing system, a simple way of capturing all my necessary actions, an empty inbox, and freer weekends. I should add that I have always been very cynical about these kinds of books and in fact I still am: I have looked at several other books on 'personal organization' and find them (a) ludicrous, pumped-up, pop-psychology books full of jargon and power phrases but signifying nothing, or (b) obsessed with making you a more productive little unit at work. This book is about making you a happier person - and makes it clear that the result of his simple techniques might be that you actually do less, by realising how your schedule works and refusing to take too much on. I can't recommend it enough.
This book is for all those who are overwhelmed with too many things to do, too little time to do them, and a general sense of unease that something important is being missed.
Everyone has experienced times when everything seemed effortless, and progress limitless. David Allen has captured ways for you to achieve that wonderful state of mind and consciousness more often.
His key concept is that every task, promise, or assignment has a place and a time. With everything in its proper place and time, you feel in control and replace the time spent on vague worrying with effective, timely action. As a result, the accomplishments grow while the pressure to accomplish decreases. As a result, the book contains many insights into "how to have more energy, be more relaxed, and get a lot more accomplished with much less effort."
The key psychological insight of this book is that rapid progress occurs when you take large, unformed tasks, and break them down and organize them into smaller, sequential steps for exactly what to do and when. The book provides lots of guidance and examples for how to do this.
The book is organized into three sections. The first gives you an overview of the whole process for how to get more done in a relaxed way. The second spells out the details of how to implement that process, in a way that a personal coach might use. The third provides subtle insights that help you appreciate the benefits that follow from using the process. Like all good coaches, Mr. Allen understands that appreciating a subject from several perspectives and getting lots of practice with it are critical steps in learning.
The process advocated by this book is described with lots of systems flow charts that will appeal to all of the engineers and left-brained people. The right-brained people will find lots of discussions about emotions, feelings, and stress. So both types of thinkers should do well with this material.
The essence of the process is that you write down a note about everything when you take on a new responsibility, make a new commitment, or have a useful thought. All of this ends up in some kind of "in" box. You then go through your "in" box and decide what needs to be done next for each item. For simple issues, this includes identifying the action you should take first and when to take it. For tougher issues, you schedule an appropriate time to work the problem in more detail. You organize the results of this thinking, and review your options for what you should be doing weekly. Then you take what you choose to do, and act. Think of this process as the following five steps: (1) collect (2) process (3) organize (4) decide (5) act.
For the tougher problems, you start with identifying your purpose and principles so you know why you care how it all turns out. Then you imagine the potential good outcomes that you would like. Following that, you brainstorm with others the best way to get those outcomes. Then you organize the best pathway. Finally, you identify the first actions you need to take. Then you act, as in step 5 above.
From this outline, I hope that you can see that this is not rocket science. It is simple common sense, but with discipline. The critical part is the discipline because that is what focuses your attention where it will do the most good. For example, rather than sitting on something you have no idea how to get started, you can decide right away to get ideas from others on what the purpose and principles are that should be used in selecting a solution. So, you are in motion, and you have saved much time and anxiety.
What I learned from this book is that many people allow a lot of time to pass without taking any useful steps because they cannot imagine what to do next. This process should usually overcome that problem by showing you what to work on, providing methods to accomplish that step in the process, and guiding you to places where you can get appropriate help. As a result, this book should help overcome the bureaucracy and communications stalls that bedevil most organizations.
This fits from my own experience in helping people solve problems. If you simplify the questions and make them into familiar ones, everyone soon finds powerful alternatives drawn from a lifetime of experiences and memories. Keep things broad, abstract, and vague, and peoples' eyes glaze over while they struggle for a place to begin.
After you have finished reading and applying this book, I suggest that you share your new learning with those you see around you who are the most stressed out. By helping them gain relaxed control of their activities, you will also be able to enjoy the benefits of their increased effectiveness in supporting your own efforts.
May you always get the tools you need, understand what to do next, and move swiftly through timely actions!
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 [...]
on 16 March 2007
I've always thought of myself as a reasonably well organised individual. However, after reading David Allen's `Getting Things Done' I realised that there were areas of my personal time management that could benefit from applying the GTD system.
Dave Allen's GTD is a solid, well-written and sensible guide to improving time management. He describes his book as a `compilation of more than two decades worth of discovery about personal productivity'. Indeed, throughout the book there are snippets of information from Allen and thoughtful quotes on all aspects of time management from setting time aside to getting the basics of a filing system together: `You increase your productivity and creativity exponentially when you think about the right thing at the right time and the tools to capture your value-added thinking'.
Because GTD does not favour any particular technology, you are free to adapt the system to your own needs. So, whether you prefer to build your to-do-list using a low-tech notebook and pencil or to capture them using the latest Blackberry device, then you are free to do so and the system still works.
But there are areas of GTD where the lack of advice on incorporating technology into the system is a little too sparse. I found this to be particularly true on the topic of dealing with email about which the book barely mentions. Given that we spend so much of our time managing email and we depend upon it for much of our workflow, I thought more discussion on the subject would have been justified. I have subsequently incorporated some of the GTD techniques into my own methods for tackling email management.
Still, I'm a convert to the concepts and techniques described in the book which I have found to be very effective.
on 31 October 2005
Excellent method of improving time management and prioritisation. Very clear to apply; based on about 6 or 7 simple principles which I found well described - in summary and detail; and easy to apply. I have been applying time management methods for 20 years and I found more benefit from this method in 2 weeks than in any other methods I have used. Introduced it to another member of my company who said the same as I felt two weeks later - felt much more in control, therefore less stressed and more in control. Great stuff. This is nice and simple, easy to apply, and in a well written book. Strongly recommended if you want to keep on top of multiple responsibilities - including home and family and also just as useful if you want to stay on top of others who have responsibilities to you. I'm so glad I stumbled across this book. It really has changed my life (pause for vomiting, but it is true.)
on 4 December 2004
This book contains some great ideas, even if it is not greatly written. The book is pragmatic, giving ideas you can use every day - even if some of them do take a bit of practice before they become habit. The main ideas the book covers are
1) Collection Habit - how to collect all your "to do's" and why it makes such a difference if you collect all of them and not just most of them
2) Next Action - the idea of always deciding on the next action to take on a piece of work, the moment it comes into your life.
3) Outcome Focusing - this covers a very practical and productive method for envisioning and planning all the projects in your life, so you can start to make them happen before you start stressing about them.
The book also gives a few interesting insights into why you may feel stressed and what to do about it.
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.