Dec 012008

Ever read a nonfiction book about self-improvement filled with all sorts of actionable items? Have you, after reading that book, not taken any action whatsoever?  If your answer to the second question is no, then you are a better person than I am.  Or at least a person better at implementing ideas.  Or maybe you are just more action-oriented.  Like an action hero.  Without the hero part.

All ramblings aside, about a year ago I read a book by David Allen called Getting Things Done.  It’s (surprise!) a book on productivity.  And it’s much more than concept.  It is chock-full of ways to be more organized and productive, and contains detailed instructions to implement David’s very well thought out system, known as GTD (getting things done.)  

What makes the system in the book so appealing is that it present a way to organize all of one’s projects and “to do’s” into a comprehensive system that allows you to free your mind from the mental burden of worrying about projects all the time.  The idea is this: write every single thing you need to do down in one place, think about the desired outcome, plan the next actionable step, and then figure out what is most important to do next.  Once everything is down in a list you can refer back to on a regular basis and update, the “open loops” of worrying about things in your mind can be removed, and a person can get into a zen-like state of working on only what is most important right then, without having to be concerned about what isn’t getting done.

At least that’s the idea.  I never did any of the things in the book the first time I read it.  But I’m changing all that with my second read-through, and I have to say that after just a short session of listing a few things that have been on my mind, thinking about what the best possible outcome is and then writing the very next step I can take to get to that outcome, my spirits were lifted and I felt better about things.

So, for anyone who ever has forgotten a bill, who has ever stayed awake at night worrying over something, I recommend this book to you.

Sometimes I get confused about what to do next too, Mr. President.

Sometimes I get confused about what to do next too, Mr. President.


Just don’t follow my lead by reading and forgetting.  Read and do.

 Posted by at 3:21 pm

  2 Responses to “Getting Things Done”

  1. Yeah, to-do lists are a good way to look at what you gotta do in list-form.

  2. Writing every single thing I need to do down is the first part of that I fail at — I can’t begin to list them all. All of my lists are inevitably incomplete. I’ve spent hours before trying to make one list until it’s time to go to sleep. Then comes problem #2 — it takes a special state for me to do anything at all. And so if I spend one of my special productive states making a big list, then that’s one special productive state down and who knows when the next one will be. One thing is certain — by the time the next one comes, there will be new things that need adding to the list!

    GTD has worked for a lot of people and so anyone who thinks it sounds like it could work for them do it, believe it, zen it, and it may well be just the thing. But I have a strong suspicion that the motivational, intertial, belief, and emotional barriers to me following through with a system like that are really 90% of my problem to begin with, so if I could do GTD then I wouldn’t need it in the first place!

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