David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” – a book review

I finally finished reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. It probably tells you something about me that I’ve managed to procrastinate reading a self-help book that talks about stopping procrastination. 

But though I do think the tips contained in the book are useful, I wasn’t too fond of the book itself. I am not one of those people who dismiss self-help books out of hand –indeed, I seem to be accumulating them at a rate which will soon mean that they will get their own shelf. 

But I wasn’t fond of this one. Why? Well, it may be something to do with the fact that I read it in little snippets, but I found it incredibly boring and difficult to get into. 

It features such literary gems such as:

“A basic truism I have discovered over decades of coaching and training thousands of people is that most stress they experience comes from inappropriately managed commitments they make or accept. Even those who are not consciously “stressed out” will invariably experience greater relaxation, better focus, and increased productive energy when they learn more effectively to control the “open loops” of their lives.”

Basically what I think he is trying to say in that paragraph is “if you can’t manage your time properly, you will get stressed”. But my brain has switched off mid-way through, so I’m not really sure…? 

This book is very much into selling the “Getting Things Done” method as something special and unique and created by a person who is basically a genius (who happens to be called… you guessed it –David Allen, the author).

I am sure that himself and the greatness of his intellect are subjects that deeply fascinate David Allen, but to be brutally honest I don’t really care. All I want to know is if it will help me be more productive or not…

So if you want to avoid digging into this book, I’ve distilled some of the key insights for you: 

The 2-minute rule (possibly the most famous of David Allen’s rules) – if a task takes less than two minutes, do it NOW. It will take you longer to put it on your to-do list than to actually complete it… so just get it done with

Write everything down. Our brains are computers that are dealing with way too much information at the same time. This is why we need something which will play a role similar to that of an external hard drive to store abackup-up  basic information – a piece of paper, an iphone, a calendar etc, which will help us keep track of all the tasks and projects we are dealing with

A “To-Do” list should answer the question “what should the next action be? ” and not just consist of a vague list of ideas. So instead of writing down “dentist”, you should write down “call dentist to book an appointment”. It’s those baby steps that will help you get unpleasant tasks done

The Weekly Review  It’s important to review your list of tasks and “to-dos” weekly… you won’t get things done if you forgot you had to do them in the first place is his logic.

Categorize your “To-Do” list  It’s useful to sort your to-do- lists by different categories – there might be a list of thing you might need to do on your phone, or while you’re in town, or even a list of things to do that don’t require much brainpower do you can do them at your least productive point in the day. 

A Calendar is not to be mistaken with a “to-do” list. Only events which have to occcurr at a specific place and time belong in the calendar. Everything else should go on the “to-do” list.

A “Tickler File” is a place where you can store all your vague ideas and plans for the future which you are not keen on working on yet- but you might want to think about at some point. This need regular reviewing.

I hope this tiny summary is of some use to you. If you do really want to have a peek at David Allen’s book, I would suggest you avoid the Kindle edition. The way the inspirational quotes are formatted is annoying – and they frankly interfere with reading the text on a mobile phone.

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