November 15, 2018

Getting Things Done

For many, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is the handbook on being organized and accomplishing tasks and projects.  For others, it is a life philosophy.  I am probably somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.  David Allen (@gtdguy) has spent his life focusing on the belief that your brain is a powerful tool that should be used for complex and creative purposes.  Too often, people track mundane details like grocery lists in their head.  Piling big ideas like your life's purpose on top of trivial items like, "do not forget to pick up milk" works fine until one day it all becomes too much.

Getting Things Done or GTD for short is about getting the minutia out of your head and into a "trusted system" thus freeing up your brain for worthy activities like being creative.  It is also about reducing the unconscious worry that is inevitable when you have more work than you can accomplish in an eight hour day.  In the book, David walks you through the steps to devise a trusted system, load it up, and start getting things done.

This is my personal copy of the audiobook that I ripped from CD back in the day.

Who will like this book:
A common misconception is that stress comes from having too much work to do and not enough time.  A real source of stress is that you are overwhelmed with work and fear important things are slipping through the cracks.  This is a compounding problem that gets worse each and every day.  If this sounds at all familiar then you may want to check out this book.

My take:
In 2003, I found myself in a Tampa Bay hotel room.  I could not sleep because I was stressed, overwhelmed, and stuck.  It felt like there was so much work to do yet I could not figure out where to start.  I came across an audio interview online (I do not think podcasts were invented yet) with David where he gave the broad strokes of GTD.  He also went into why many feel so stressed out and stuck in the face of a lot of work.  This was a major lightbulb moment for me.  At the time, I was juggling around twenty projects.  All involving travel to a different city, hence Tampa Bay, and I was basically tracking everything in my head.

It sounds obvious now but you really need a trusted system to track twenty projects.  The audio interview turned into listening to the whole audiobook (3 CDs) which turned into a simple Word document per project that tracked the actions and status of the project.  Getting all of this stuff out of my head was a huge relief and to my surprise, I was making great progress on the projects.

The idea of a trusted system being anything that works for the individual fascinated me.  Mr. Allen had clearly spent a lot of time thinking about productivity and teaching techniques to executives.  Hell, he had turned the whole thing into a consulting business--his primary job.  With all that time and effort, why not put the best notebook, binder, piece of software into the book and solve it for everyone?  The keyword is trusted and since trust is a very individual feeling, it makes sense the individual would have to choose the solution.

What do I use?  That could and should be another post for another day although I will point out that I wrote about tools back in 2014 with an aptly named title, "Getting Things Done".

While there are times I really slip on GTD habits, I keep coming back.  It is hard to say if GTD has made me more productive but I am confident that it has reduced the stress in my life and allowed me to focus on more creative aspects of both my professional and personal life.   And for that, I'm grateful.

4.5 out of 5

Amazon Kindle and Audible (reviewed) and others

Still not convinced?  Hear a much better description of Getting Things Done right from David.

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