2013 Book Report 14: Getting Things Done – David Allen.

One of my failings in life is that I don’t have a grand vision. It is one of the reasons that I really like my job. I don’t have a task master at my back, I get stuff done, but I do it in my own way.

But I am also very conscious that I could be more affective, more pro-active and get further. So hence my interest in this book.

Allen’s idea is pretty simple, and to a certain extent everyone who is busy does some of the things that he suggests already.

The big one is making lists. Rather than try and retain in your head the stuff that you want to get done, write it down in a safe place. The point of this is that you only have so much attention, so much brain power at your disposal, so you should make sure that you make the most of the power that you have by delegating those jobs that can best be done by other systems. Once you have your list you can work from it.

There is a great deal of consideration given to how you might prioritise various tasks. The prioritising can take many forms. Obviously, if there is a task that you have to do, but which you need to be elsewhere to do it, then it may be better to identify other tasks that require you to be at that location and then do several tasks in a single visit.

There may be some tasks which can be considered ‘quick wins’ which will only take a handful of minutes to achieve, give yourself a boost, get them done and off your list etc.

The thing that really differentiates this approach is that it is intended to be useful for much bigger tasks as well as these day to day ones.

It asks you questions about the big things that you want to get achieved in your life. It offers the opportunity to think big, and then offers schemes to begin to make these things a possibility.

The approach that is proffered is to take the big projects and begin to break them down into smaller units. For each sub-unit consider how long it would take to achieve the job, and then, if appropriate, break it down into further smaller sections. The aim is to have a list of actions, none of which is so daunting, or so huge that you can’t see your way to getting it achieved.

Even as I write this entry, I feel enthused by the idea that this book presents. It makes the seemingly impossible feel like it is manageable. That is, I guess, the magic of a book like this. When it is well written it makes you feel like, with a little application you can turn your hand to being better at what you do. Maybe I will start implementing more of the actions in the future.

It is also worth adding that the reason I became interested in GTD as a philosophy is that there is quite a lot of functionality built into some Emacs plugins which support this behaviour. My interest is still intimately bound to being able to use Emacs as my GTD tool of choice.

Books like this aren’t really a ‘read once’ proposition. While the ideas are simple, applying them, getting the most out of them is a much longer prospect. But I know that this book inspires me in ways that I still don’t appreciate. This is especially interesting because I look forward to freeing up time to do fun stuff. The idea is to create a space for yourself. Sounds good to me.


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