Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting Things Done #2 - Thoughts on Chapter One

1. I don't think I'm the intended audience for this book. Its opening sentence reads:

"It's possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control."  

I think the intention was for the reader to doubt that such a happy state was possible. (Andrew wondered if it is technically possible for anyone to be faced with an overwhelming number of things to do and not feel overwhelmed. But we'll let that one go.) I don't doubt it for myself. I don't think that I feel the problem that the book is addressing.

2. David Allen likes alliteration. Elevated levels of effectiveness and efficiency. ... tools, tips, techniques and tricks...  

3. GTD identifies the problem as the new demands of this new millennium. He thinks the old methods of organisation are insufficient, as are the new programs and gadgets that are coming onto the market - Microsoft Outlook and Palm PDAs.

Perhaps this new millennium is more stressy than the last. I wouldn't want to make a call on that. But he clearly doesn't have my nice little macbook or an iphone.

4. His main thrust seems that you need to be able to efficiently capture all the things that need to get done, file them efficiently (outside your head) and identify the next step needed to push each project forward. Okay. I'll see where this goes.

5. The idea of capturing stuff outside our heads is so that we can achieve a 'mind like water' state where our heads are clear of worries and stress so that we can logically think about and do one thing at a time. I've got a few issues with this. It's not always necessary to capture everything externally to achieve a clear mind. I can achieve it geographically. (I go to a coffee shop.) Or I can just decide that some things aren't going to haunt me. (If I have some outstanding paperwork, I calculate how much not filling in the form is going to cost me and decide to absorb that cost.) And bigger things that cloud our minds and limit our productivity often aren't of the kind that can be 'captured' in an organisational system and filed away with a 'next step' instruction for later. Big time productivity killers like relationship breakdowns, griefs, addictions and insecurities aren't, I suspect, going to be helped much by a GTD capture system. (Though I find that capturing such things in a poem or song quite helpful.)

6. We need to have a system that we trust in order to get things out of our heads. I guess the rest of the book will spell out his system as the solution we need.

7. This section of the book is called The Art of Getting Things Done. I'd question if art is the right word to use here.

Okay. Over to you. What did you think?


  1. Yeah, most of that. Strange that he has a go at to do lists, prioritising things, but looks like he's heading to a long list that no doubt will involve prioritising and doing. I think he just means that we'll feel better if we're trying to procrastinate, rather than pretending not to...

    I certainly hope he'll allow for the fact that half the brain works better when it's burbling away below the surface. Forced creativity on cue ain't gonna work for me.

    But it is a quick read, it seems. As long as you avoid all those distracting pull out quotes that aren't actually pull out quotes. Is it a test that we're supposed to feel guilty about later??

  2. I'm too busy actually GTD to read that book! But of course I'm sure that he would argue that's precisely why I should read it.

  3. I read the book a few years ago and found it quite helpful - far more intuitive for me than 7 Habits, which is the only other book of this kind that I've read. I don't use the whole system, but have found a couple of his principles - especially Thr Next Action idea really insightful and helpful.
    That said, I am finding your reaction to the book very interesting! I take this kind of book as a set of helpful hints for those who feel overwhelmed by the challenge of organizing their lives. You seem to read it as a personal attack on your own lifestyle/personality and an attempt to force you to do things differently... I'm very curious as to why that is!!

  4. I haven't read the book but I've read glowing reviews of it. Judging by your posts on this up to now I'd say you're really wanting to not like it at all and are therefore actively looking for faults.

    I expect that this is the case because others have told you that you should read it. In that case TOSS IT ASIDE! because you won't get anything out of it apart from how your own systems are better. Maybe read it when you are curious about it or, for whatever reason, your current systems that suit your current purposes no longer work for you. Don't read it because someone else has decided that you should or you obviously need to when they aren't living your life.

    When I was a child / teenager / young adult I couldn't bear to part with anything. Now I happily throw out things and look for more things to toss or give away rather than keep. The turning point for me came when I decided that I didn't want to potentially kill myself by tripping over something and hitting my head on a sharp corner. Now I love reading organisational tips and tricks and have considered whether to become a professional organiser.

  5. Simone.

    I assume you've seen this:

  6. I found it very useful because I had all the ineffective defenses he lists: putting things back in the in-tray, putting off decisions. I've never had a natural interest in getting things done, and this book helped me imagine what it might be like. I still don't respect achievement, but I am no longer at a total loss about what trying to achieve something would be like.