Saturday, December 26, 2015

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Title:  Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Author:  David Allen
Publication Information:  Penguin Books. 2015 (revision), 2001 (original). 352 pages.
ISBN:  0143126563 / 978-0143126560

Book Source:  I read this book based reading and hearing about the book.

Opening Sentence:  "It's possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control."

Favorite Quote:  "What does this mean to me? What do I want to be true about it? What's the next step required to make that happen? These are the cornerstone questions we must answer, at some point, about everything. This thinking, and the tools that support it, will serve you in ways you may not yet imagine."

Getting Things Done or "GTD" was originally published in 2001. The latest edition is "brand-new for 2015." The book's goal, as the subtitle implies, is to promote productivity. Productivity can be looked at in two ways - effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness is about what is being done. Is the focus aligned with personal and organizational goals and mission? Efficiency is about how things are being done. Are tools and time being used in a manner to maximize progress towards goals? This book focuses on efficiency - how things are done. It assumes that goals and priorities exist, and what is needed is a system to accomplish them.

The first part of the book lays out a work flow - the process of collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing - that can be applied to any goal or project. The second part of the book takes that process and presents each component in detail, with rules and guidelines for each step of the way. Part 3 explains the "power" behind the approach and why it works. Central to the approach is a one page flowchart that is repeated and highlighted through the book. It provides context as each element is discussed, providing a visual reminder of how the individual tools fit into the entire process.

The ideas of this book make sense. Once stated, many of them appear intuitive:
  • Collection - Ensure that every item you have to work on is captured and that it flows through one "inbox" such that you can prioritize your time with an accurate picture of everything to be done.
  • Processing - Go through items one at a time, making a decision on each item before moving forward. The decision may range from identifying an immediate next action to shelving it for someday.
  • Organizing - Have consistent "bucket" of works based on what is required, for example, taking proactive action, waiting for an outside trigger, planning and executing a project, or thinking about as an idea for someday.
  • Review - Adhere to a regular, scheduled time, perhaps weekly, to consciously go through the process of organizing and maintaining this system.
  • Doing - Doing becomes a natural progression from the planning. At any given point, determine your actions based on context, priority, time, and energy. Over time, level actions between immediate needs, current projects, and long-term goals and responsibilities.
Within each section, the book describes tools and techniques. My biggest concern with the book is the way in which it addresses technology. The original publication in 2001 describes a paper-based system. The 2015 "update" introduces technology.  However, it appears to superimpose technology onto what it still a paper based system rather than adapt the system to truly take advantage of the tools available today. The terminology used in the book highlights this fact:
  • "digital project support"
  • "for those who have become increasingly digitally oriented"
  • "digital technology will continue to emerge."
Warranted, the ideas can be applied regardless of tools. Many books of this genre are tool-neutral; they present the ideas and leave the choice of tools up to the individual. This book, however, is not without tools; they are just paper based. It does not just present a framework and then say find tools to implement it; it prescribes tools that do not harness technology.

To use outdated tech terminology limits its appeal to and usability by the generation taught to incorporate and use technology from an early age. At this point in our personal or professional lives, to have a discussion on efficiency without effectively incorporating all the tools available seems lacking. The ideas of this book provide value; the prescription for implementation less so.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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