A few years ago, I read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and have recently been asked about its effectiveness. Before I discuss that, let me step back and summarize my view on the genre of task/project/goal/life planning tools, books and systems.
No one system is going to suit everyone. Each individual will have some areas of valid resistance in adopting 100% of the suggestions of any system. That being said, some systems are generally more effective than others. Ultimately, those whom you see around you as very effective, organized, on-the-ball, etc., have created their own systems by fusing best practices from one or more good systems, coupled with their own intuition about what works.
Often, the best systems are those that we look at and think, “This is all common sense!”. I believe that having common sense codified, streamlined and packaged as a system has lots of value. It forces you to consistently align thinking, behaviours and action with a belief that you are following a system that actually works. When you believe in something, it often comes to fruition.
Now, as far as David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is concerned, the book is an easy read and recommended. One of the most valuable principles here is that you must, must get things out of your head and on paper (or a computer or an organizer or…you get the idea). Just getting them out of your head frees your subconscious from having to act as an intermittent alarm clock about things you need to do and places you need to be. This releases a tremendous amount of energy and mental clarity.
Now of course, this only works if your brain trusts that where you’ve recorded stuff is really a safe and reliable system – otherwise your subconscious will again attempt to be that record keeping system – having lost faith in a feeble attempt to relieve it of this duty.
Most of GTD is geared toward building a reliable set of trustworthy and effective systems for dealing with the inflow of tasks, commitments, projects, etc.
David Allen has a website and you can find his book on Amazon. If you’re interested, you should check out his website which has a five minute video on it introducing the man, some industry endorsements and so forth. You’ll also get a sense of his style.
A lot of what David Allen has to say is about building reliable, effective systems for capturing incoming events (calls, mail, to-do’s, appointments etc.) as well as re-organizing what you already have as baggage into this new system.
Another key concept of GTD is the “next action”. This simply put, is you identifying in your hierarchical list of projects and tasks, what the next action is for each little project that you have. You can also organize things by how much energy they take (for example, calls you need to make). If you have your list with you – say you’re waiting in line somewhere, you can pull out your calls list and start making some calls on your cell phone. By having things organized and at your finger tips, you can take advantage of different types of time windows that become available to you.
If you’re looking to get organized or to compliment your current system, I highly recommend the book. I believe that for most people about 80%+ of it will be relevant and at least 30% of it will be things you hadn’t thought of, but which you’ll find yourself immediately agreeing with.