Tuesday, January 09, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Getting Things Done

BOOK #1: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

The self-help book industry runs rampant with cliches, euphemisms and gimmicks. Allen's book is a breath of fresh air in that it consolidates the most sound approaches in a way that speaks volumes to both the high-powered CEO and the graduate student just trying to get her dissertation organized!

Allen's approach is centered around the idea that "things that have your attention should have your INTENTION." Although we know that is common sense, Allen offers a method of storing and processing the multitude of attention items, so that one can focus on one item at a time without worry about what's on the back-burner.

In addition to offering concrete ideas for organization, Allen also addresses the emotional and psychological impediments to getting things done. Unlike other authors, he does not patronize his readers or make them believe that they should aspire to be paragons of organizational virtue. He's a realist and offers many instances of "if you can't do this, try this."

Even if one does not adapt Allen's entire system for a lifetime, components like the "2-minute rule" and the "Next Action Decision Making Standard" will positively impact personal productivity and mindset. This book will NOT help those who aren't yet at the place where they want to make a positive change.

Allen has defined the "core methods that don't change with the times, and which, when applied, always work." Having read many books on organization and procrastination, I do believe this is the last book I will need to read.
(Cross-posted at LiveJournal blog, 1/50 for the 50 Book Challenge)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

GTD: Processing

After collecting my four shopping bags full of "inbox" material, I spent most of the New Years Weekend getting my filing system ready. Truth be known, I really need another file drawer. But the spatial limits of our apartment determine what I have to work with. I have three file drawers (2 filing cabinets of 2 drawers each--H has one drawer). The one closest to me, accessed by a mere swivel of my chair, contains all the 2007 files and regularly accessed files. I've created 2007 files for my bills and professional organizations. In the drawer below, I have the old files (past year's tax returns, bills, etc.) and things I don't access that often. In the farther drawer I have all my class notes, musicology papers, handouts, etc... I've listed "sort through these files" as a project, but taking Allen's advice, I resisted the impulse to sort and purge them now. (Although certain files did get purged only because of the aforementioned space issue).

Today, in a matter of 2-3 hours, I got through an entire shopping bag and a huge stack of material. I put Allen's flowchart next to me and followed it pretty much exactly. The two things that have been most helpful:

1. "The Two-Minute Rule": if it is an "actionable item" that will take two minutes or less, do it now. I expanded this to 5 minutes this morning and it was amazing to see the amount of stuff that accrued when it would have just taken me less than 5 minutes to deal with it in the first place. Once I've gotten on top of the mess, I think this rule will help a lot. Allen is smart to caution people about really understanding how long (or short) two minutes really is. He also notes that phone calls are generally not good tasks to apply with this rule because you have little control over the person on the other end of the line who may not keep to your "two minute" rule.

2. NOTHING goes BACK in the Inbox. It is hard to describe the feeling of looking at an empty inbox. Best of all, my mental inbox is also empty (I realize that sounds strange, but in Allenspeak it makes sense). I have been lifting out mini-stacks from the shopping bags and putting it in what will be my real inbox. Dealing with it in small doses actually helps a lot.

It is a joy to be in my office. I can't wait to see what happens when the Collection from HELL is all Processed and I can start a weekly review process.

DH is very excited too because this will make it easier when we move!

(Cross-posted at LiveJournal)


Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea