Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Getting Things Done!! I’m a Convert!

I promised a review of David Allen's book "How to get things done: the art of stress-free productivity" (GTD). Now I have to admit I haven't really finished yet. I have approximately 50 pages to go. My perspective though is it is quite a brilliant book, and if I can keep up the discipline required to maintain the approaches proposed it will make a drastic difference to my life.

It's not brilliant in a literary kind of way. It isn't brilliant in an aesthetic sort of way. It is brilliant in the ease with which David presents a solution to a common problem most people have in today’s environment. Quit simply put this problem relates to how to get things done in an environment where information comes at you from all directions and in all shapes and forms.

The initial premise that David explores is the nature of our work today, how it has changed from a task driven environment to one of knowledge work. He quotes Peter Drucker "In knowledge work the task is not given; it has to be determined". I’ve been espousing this difference for some time, but naturally it has taken Drucker’s wisdom delivered via this book to give me a good way of stating it.

It is this principal and what he subsequently does with it that makes this book an absolute asset for today’s managers. Old school time and task management isn't really written off entirely, just that it really isn't directly applicable for today’s environment. Definitely these techniques still have some great ideas and principles; it is just that David builds on them superbly.

So as you can see from my rant above I am quite impressed. One reason for this is that my inbox on my mail client (at work and home) is at zero and has been for weeks. I've completed 133+ tasks in the last ten working days. My team is benefiting from this as I am more present when talking with them, and my wife, LOVES IT!! I have less on my mind and am more present for her on a day to day basis.

As I have pointed out I haven’t completed the book – so how is it that I can rave about it so much. This is because of a very simple outcome I have finally achieved from reading this book. That is the idea of contextualising my tasks. By grouping or categorising tasks into a context relative to your life you can better manage and close off on an item at the appropriate time.

I know it’s surprisingly simple, and you’re probably doing it already. It is the way in which David presents this concept and the process that you go through to achieve this ‘Nirvana’. GTD clarifies the point that we humans can really only manage a number of things internally at anyone time, and it is this small buffer or retention that causes most of us our stress.

Advice guiding you to recognise the need to develop a personal process, and then go through the activity of building and complying with the process is all part of the learning. The tools and catch-all’s that you create become quite a central point to ‘Getting Things Done’.

All of this has lead me to correctly establish my own process, and trusted catch-all’s. I am not entirely happy with how it all works. My partner still picks me up on some things I forget but I am getting better.

Second to this I am already starting to talk to people around me in regards to GTD and will start to toy with introducing this as one of my coaching tools going forward. I can already see it’s applicability in my workplace and coaching sessions I already run.

To close out my very first attempt at a book review I better tell you about my perspective. In a nutshell, a good read, very applicable and most definitely one of the best task/time management books I have come across over the last couple of years.

If you'd like to learn more here are some of the sites I have been gathering information from:

43 Folders: Pretty good site all-round. Merlin Mann the author of this site is in fact one of the reasons I started to hear about and eventually plugged into 'GTD'. his article Getting Started with 'GTD' is a good read.

Of course there is also the official David Allen Site. I've not been around this site to much so far, of course it is on my list of to do's.

And finally - a combination of the two Merlin Mann & David Allen got together for a brief podcast series on 'GTD'. It's worth a listen, I'm going back for a second time round.

You could also click on the link in the top right of this page and buy the book through Amazon.

I Hope you have found this article of interest.



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