“Getting Things Done”—Book review

Getting Things Done by David Allen

“You have to think about your stuff more than you realize but not as much as you’re afraid you might.”
~ David Allen

Warning
I’m going to gush over this book, Getting Things Done by David Allen.
It is fabulous.

Who’s it for?
The disorganized who need to get organized.
The organized who want to be more so.
The professional. The personal.

Because I stamped myself organized already, I wasn’t sure I could use this book. Wow, was I wrong!

What’s its point?
Get all those “things I need to do” out of your head and into a usable format. Stop wasting valuable brain power and energy to store tangled bits of information. Put hard edges on your projects.

Then you can mentally relax and feel confident about what you’re choosing to do and what you’re choosing not to do.

How do you do it?
One of the simplest tools that has already made a huge difference for me: for each project, ask yourself, “What’s next?” Instead of viewing my projects as one big jumbled mess that will take forever (like, “Redo Morgan’s room” aack!), all I have to do is decide on the very next step (gingerly open the closet door to assess what’s hiding there). And write that step down on the appropriate list.

If you’re not already a list-maker, you’ll want to become one after reading this book, although list-making is just one skill to use. Don’t just use a single “Projects” list, but make appropriate smaller lists for “next actions” according to location, such as when I’m “At computer” or “Phone calls” or “At Mama’s house.”

Then when the mood strikes to sit at the phone and make calls (which rarely happens, I admit), I can work through my call list instead of sorting through my generic “To do” or “Projects” list to see if they may or may not require the phone.

And if an action takes less than 2 minutes to do, just get up and do it now instead of thinking about it and trying to remember to do it later. (A little flashback for me of Fly Lady days…)

Why should you read it?
Because it’s so practical and it works and it’s liberating.
I’m not as overwhelmed anymore by all the ideas swirling in my head that I need/want to do (like, transfer VHS home videos to DVDs), and those projects that I’ve started but haven’t finished (like, finish Jenna’s 9th grade scrapbook).

It’s already inspired me to clean out two file cabinets (say “Ahhhh” with me), start (again) organizing photos, and revamp my e-mail folders into a more workable system. I’ve collected loose papers and post-it notes and made appropriate file folders and computer files for them. I’ve created a “Someday/Maybe” file to empty my head of things I’m not ready to do now (or maybe ever?), but I don’t want to keep carrying around in my head in the meantime.

It has come with a price though. Allen strongly encourages you to get your physical area properly set up first. I felt compelled to buy a label maker (finally—and I love it!) and I’ve turned into quite the pen snob (although I really blame that on Matt Perman). I’m also less patient with rambling planners and want to get to the “next action” agenda quicker (I’ll have to work on that nasty attitude).

I’ve really just begun the process, but already I’m impressed with the decrease it’s made in my mind-clutter. I’ve still got a long way to go—things continue to slip through my mental cracks—but I’m less overwhelmed now by what I need to do next and how it’s going to get done.

* * *
For more ideas inspired by Getting Things Done, visit Matt Perman’s blog “What’s Best Next.” He’s responsible for pushing me over the edge to buy the book, to stop checking e-mail so often, and to write in moleskin journals with Uniball Vision Elite pens.

4 comments:

Deanna said...

As a constant organizer, I am always looking for ways to be more efficient. Think I'll have to look into this book! Oh and I envy your label maker...how I long to buy one! :)

Lisa notes... said...

Deanna,
As beautifully organized as you already are, you should write your own book! And I'll let you borrow my label maker anytime. :-)

G said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Lisa. I added it to my wish list on my eReader account as 'must have.' I'm reading a book on speed reading now; I suspect that one will be next.

I had a roommate in college who organized files in quads. The system made pretty good sense. You break everything down into a group of 4 or less. If you go to 5 items or definitely 6, then you break that down. e.g., My top 4 (actually cut it at 3) were Personal, School, Work. Then School (as an example) broke down into Hatton, UAH, Kansas State, and UA. Then if it grew too large (it isn't so it stands alone at this point) Hatton could break down into elementary, high school, and maybe alumni or post-graduation.

Lisa notes... said...

G,
I love your friend's quad idea. May have to try that out...

Let me know how your speed reading book turns out. I've read some way back when, and learned a few little tricks, but I rarely practice them except when I'm intentionally skimming.

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