Saturday, June 28, 2008

Getting Things Done

I just finished reading the National Bestseller, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. The book is a basically a strategy guide to personal productivity and efficiency. The tag line on the cover says: "The ART of stress-free productivity"... and trust me, the way Allen describes it, an ART is definitely what it is. He uses metaphors like "a mind like water" to articulate the state of mind one should be in to fully take advantage of his strategies. Although there were times during the book where I felt Allen was dragging on his points for way too long, there are some great tangible take-aways that anyone can benefit from. I've listed a few below:

  1. Get all of the shit out of your head. Anything that requires more than one action is a project, and should be written down or documented in a central place where you will be able to read/review it. When "open loops" live in your head, they will take away from your focus, thus making you less productive. He describes many strategies and process flows for gathering and filing tasks at any time of the day, but I won't get into that.
  2. When something you have to do is eating away at your brain and you're completely stuck and don't know what to do next, write down the problem. Then ask yourself, "If I could do only one action to make this problem better right now, what would it be?" As soon as you figure out that ONE action... do it. This could be something as simple as making a phone call.
  3. Use the 2 minute rule: When at work or at home, if a task comes up, ask yourself if the task will take less than 2 minutes... if so, do it. If not, file the email (or make a note if it's not an email) in a TO-DO or Read/Review folder.
  4. Train yourself to conduct a weekly review.  When you start implementing personal productivity strategies, it is very easy to get so engaged in current activities that you forget about upcoming events or long-term goals.  Put some time aside every week (typically on a Sunday), where you will review your current projects, upcoming week's calendar, and anything else you feel is necessary for you to re-focus and align with your goals.  I think this is a vital component to Getting Things Done.
I definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking to take that extra step in personal productivity.  Since the book was written, there have been many arguments against Allen's strategies.  But, any idea geared towards making our lives easier will always receive it's fair share of controversy.  The best way to find out though, is to try it out yourself. Read the book.