Getting Things Done, by David Allen – Book Summary

Getting Things DoneGetting Things Done is a book that explains a well-formulated method for time management – the book partly provides tools and techniques, and partly explains the psychology behind it. Its author, David Allen says that mastering your time enables you to live in the present moment. The book is divided into 3 parts:

Part 1 (The Art of Getting Things Done) provides an outline for getting control of your life through the five stages of mastering workflow: collection, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing.

Part 2 (Practicing Stress-Free Productivity), which is well over half the book, repeats a lot of what is said in Part 1, but provides much more detail on the application of Allen’s methodology.

Part 3 (The Power of the Key Principles) explains why Allen’s methods work and the benefits to be gained from using his approach.

The entire process, including inputs, processing/thinking, and outputs (actions and action lists), is conveniently summarised in a flowchart provided in Getting Things Done. Allen’s philosophy is that to be one’s most productive self, one must be able to think clearly. In order to think clearly, one must have completely downloaded from one’s short-term memory or RAM (like computer RAM) all the ‘open loops’ – unfulfilled commitments one has made to oneself. This frees the mind to do naturally what it does best – think about things rather than of things. Allen gives pointers for using one’s critical thinking skills, including three methods for making decisions about what actions to take.

Once one has everything off his mind and written down, in paper or electronically, one has to decide, “What’s the next action?” This is the critical question! Once this is decided, the action must be completed or tracked in a trusted system, such as a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).

Allen also has a two-minute rule, which states that as one goes through their inbox and determines next actions, any next action that can be completed in two minutes or less should be completed immediately. In this way, a lot of items are touched only once and are forever cleared from their ‘psychic RAM’.

Allen outlines a process for getting RAM cleared in the first place and then for keeping it clear on a daily basis, as new things come into one’s inbox. The “What’s the next action?” question must be asked on the front-end, when the item from the inbox is first reviewed.

Applying Allen’s system is put forth as a way for today’s knowledge worker to have a competitive edge in the new millennium. Allen’s system is as applicable to one’s home environment and projects as it is to one’s work. He also claims it can help procrastinators.

Below is the management process described in Getting Things Done. Click anywhere on the image to expand it, and implement this simple-yet-effective system to develop your time management and organisational skills.

Getting Things Done Process

More information can be found on the Official Website of David Allen and Getting Things Done and Wikisummaries.

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