David Allen’s Getting Thinks Done: Time Management Organization Book Review

Fifty years ago, having a simple to-do-list would put you at the top of the productivity charts. Thirty years ago, paying attention to time management would do the same. Today, looking at workflow gives us the next step in the evolution of effectiveness.

The book, Getting Things Done, is divided into three parts. The first is called “The Art of Getting Things Done.” This is where the author, David Allen, lays out the basics of mastering workflow and getting projects creatively underway.

The key to getting control of your life is mastering that workflow. Once stuff shows up in your “inbox,” what do you do with it? Allen gives you a straightforward way to process what’s in your “inbox” without getting bogged down.

His key insight is to concentrate on the next necessary action for any project you might be working on. That’s especially powerful. Procrastination often comes from not knowing what the next action to take should be. Using the action list that Allen recommends, you should cut down your procrastination significantly.

I should note here that action in Allen’s sense doesn’t mean “deciding” or any other such activity, unless it results in something visible. That keeps us out of the action list that are filled with things where you start to prepare to begin to get ready to do things, and moves you right on to the doing itself.

Allen covers this material in twenty-five pages, and it is the core and key value of this book. If you buy the book for the workflow system and the insights that Allen has into it, you’ll get more than your money’s worth.

Alas, on page fifty-four in my edition, Allen starts talking about getting projects creatively underway. I found this material to be pretty garden-variety stuff. No big insights. In fact, it suffers from what lots of other material on planning suffers from, the idea that planning is a straight-through process without an iterative looping around as you would adjust goals and plans.

Once the early material on project management wraps up Part One, you could move on to Part Two. Part Two is about Practicing Stress-free Productivity. Actually, it’s not about that at all. What it is about, in one hundred plus pages, is how to get this entire system started. We get recommendations down to the file folder level. This may be helpful to you. I found it useless padding in the book.

At the end of this section, he loops back to the workflow diagram that he’d covered a hundred pages earlier.

Part Three takes us back to the Power of Key Principles, and it’s worth reading as a review, as well for several specific tips that are embedded in it.

Now, it may seem from my comments just above, that I don’t think this book is worth the money. That would be inaccurate. This is simply one of the best, and most helpful books, I’ve ever read on organizing. For me, the value was in the workflow process and the things around it. I didn’t need the stuff on Getting Started, and I didn’t like the stuff on Project Planning.

We each come to books like this with different backgrounds and needs, and so if your needs are different than mine, you may find other pieces of this book valuable. One thing I’m sure of – if you buy the book, you’ll find value in it.

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