Thursday, May 21, 2009

'Gettings Things Done' by David Allen

I heard of it a few years ago but wasn't planning to read that book, until it somehow ended up in my hands and after reading its subtitle, "The Art of Stress-Free Productivity", was ready to give it a try. After reading Dalkir's Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice and Jones' Keeping Found Things Found, I guess I was ripe to get more things done!

For over a decade I've been trying to fine tune my way of actually accomplishing projects. Even if I don't think I'm bad at it, I know there's a lot of room left for improvements and that stress is a serious recurrent issue to me (added to the fact that I'm a father now meaning there's even less time available for personal projects). Obviously, no book you read can directly change your life unless you do something about it yourself and keep doing it. On the other hand, reading Getting Things Done can hardly do much harm, at worst, it will make you think about how you deal with your life: time, hopes, projects, priorities.

From page 18:
"Before you can achieve any of that, though, you'll need to get in the habit of keeping nothing on your mind. And the way to do that, as we've seen, is not by managing time, managing information, or managing priorities. After:
* you don't manage five minutes and wind up with six;
* you don't manage information overload - otherwise you'd walk into a library and die, or the first time you connected to the Web, or even opened a phone book, you'd blow up, and;
* you don't manage priorities - you have them.
Instead, the key to managing all of your "stuff" is managing your actions."

Later in the book, M. Allen reminds us that we don't do projects, we can only do action steps related to them.

The main sections of the book explain in detail the GTD methodology to go from the ideas to their realizations. It may be a little technical and one needs to adapt the proposed methodology to his liking, that said, there's still a lot of interesting bits to make these sections worthed. I wasn't rebutted, like I've been in other books, by Allen's discussion of how technology can contribute to our personal organization schemes - sophisticated and complex tools does not necessarily mean improved efficiency, often, it's the contrary.

The book, despite focusing on getting you organized from A to Z to get things done, also provides a pertinent discussion on the vertical integration of our goals and objectives in life - from actual ground-level activities to your contributions to the Grand Scheme of Things. Life is a journey, not a destination, and it's important to be able to see both the tree and the forest at the same time. The book can help you achieve this too.

Allen ends the book with the power of three key principles: (1) the collection habit, making sure we don't forget anything dear to us and that our mind stays free of disturbances, allowing us to fully focus on the present task, (2) identifying next-actions, in order to do small steps towards to completion of anything, we must clearly identify what's the next practical and physical action that must be accomplished, and (3), outcome focusing, making sure you don't forget the big picture and the smaller pictures of your personal and professional life.

Here's the Getting Things Done book at Amazon and the informative entry on Wikipedia, where you'll learn a lot more on the actual GTD methodology and associated principles than in my enthusiasm-sharing pseudo-review! This is a book I recommend for everyone. I haven't yet fully implemented my personal version of what the book proposes, but undoubtedly, it has already positively changed my attitude and way of doing things.