Getting Things Done – the book

Wondering where to start? Buy David Allen’s updated book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity and read all about it.

As mentioned in the related post, this is not where I started. However, after going through many reviews about the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, I ended up reading the book1 indeed; the revised edition, to be accurate.

Part 1 – The Art of Getting Things Done

The problem(s)

Too much
to handle
and not
    time to get    
it all done.

Most people I know have at least half a dozen things they’re trying to achieve or situations they’d like to improve right now, and even if they had the rest of their lives to try, they wouldn’t be able to finish these to perfection.David Allen

You’re probably faced with the same dilemma.

There were more issues raised in the book than the above one (e.g. the don’t-miss-the-train syndrome), but I will only share what speaks to me. Still, I would like to underscore this statement: The traditional approaches to time management and personal organization were useful in their time . . . Creating ‘ABC’ priority codes and daily ‘to-do’ lists were key techniques developed to help people sort through their choices in some meaningful way . . . And daily to-do lists and simplified priority coding have proven inadequate in dealing with the volume and variable nature of the average person’s workload.

Between the time you woke up today and now, did you think of anything you needed to do that you still haven’t done? Have you had that thought more than once?

According to David Allen, It’s a waste of time and energy to keep thinking about something that you make no progress on. And it only adds to your anxiety about what you should be doing and aren’t. These things you want to – or have to – do are open loops. Needless to say, that you should clear your mind from everything that creates open loops because any ‘would, could, or should’ commitment held only in the psyche creates irrational and unresolvable pressure, 24-7.

Open loops
Anything pulling at your attention that doesn’t belong where it is, the way it is.

Here is another important, and related, definition:

Anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven’t yet determined what, exactly, it means to you, with the desired outcome and the next action step.
Getting things done requires two basic components: defining (1) what “done” means (outcome) and (2) what “doing” looks like (action). And these are far from self-evident for most people about most things that have their attention.David Allen

As long as it’s still stuff, it’s not controllable.

The solution – a five-step method for managing your workflow

We (1) capture what has our attention; (2) clarify what each item means and what to do about it; (3) organize the results, which presents the options we (4) reflect on, which we then choose to (5) engage with.David Allen

Seemingly, we all do that already, but in a very inefficient way. Indeed, all the links must be integrated and supported with consistent standards because the quality of our workflow management is only as good as the weakest link in this five-phase chain. I did not know about these five steps3capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage – before reading about the GTD method (see Time management: Getting Things Done). Therefore, I think that I had more than major weaknesses in my system and there is certainly room to improve [my] handling of each one of the five steps.

To be continued…4

1 David Allen (2015) Getting Things Done: The art of stress free productivity (Revised edition). Penguin Books. ^
2 I have read in one of the aforementioned reviews that one of the weaknesses of the GTP system is that it provides no help with prioritization. Maybe, this is another reason why it is so attractive to me (see Time management: the elephant in the room). ^
3 You might like to know that, in the first edition of Allen’s book, the terms collect, process, organize, plan, and do were used instead of capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. ^
4 As mentioned in a previous post, my summer polls delaying tactic did not provide me with enough time to read the book. Therefore, I will have to cut this post into multiple parts – while progressing in my reading. ^

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