Getting Things Done - David Allen

GTD is a rather popular time management book, and I rceived a copy from my sister for my birthday. This could have seemed offensive, but I had it on my Amazon wishlist!

Summary: I love it. This is mostly because it describes a formalisation of where I seem to be going with how I organise myself! I already have comprehensive TODO lists, but the book identifies how to decouple the steps of how to manage all your open projects and items. It also has concrete advice on how to spruce up your filing...

To me, it reads like a really good piece of software architecture, for human beings to execute to be efficiently productive. There are decoupled stages and efficiently structured queues and wotnot. Indeed, I'd even recommend it to software engineers as an example of a well-designed event processing system.

The process i've used while working over the years has grown organically.When I started I was simply handed the next item by my boss when the previous was inished. I graduated to a piece of paper with my outstanding requests on it, through to several notebooks tracking everything outstanding over a few years. I have recently become a convert to emacs's org-mode, which certainly makes me feel more productive (reality, of course, being another question).

So, I've been tying GTD into my org-mode usage, and it works pretty well. I have a bit of a backlog to clear, and I'm still playing about with the process, but I'm feeling very positive about it. Why am I playing about with the proess when it's so clearly explained in the book? I have discovered I'm not that busy. Rather, I've got plenty to do, but not actually that many loose ends compared to top executives, so the full process is overkill. I'm changing my process slowly to keep it under control and minimise unnecesary overhead.

I guess the key thing about the book is that it's pitched at a different level to so many others I've read. Other books either focus on high-level values and the big picture, or are a collection of incoherent hints. This book forms an effective low-level but coordinated system.

So much for the content, how's the presentation? The text is highly readable, and structured to allow a quick start - it skims everything to start, and then covers the ground with increasing depth. The only downside is that it can feel a bit repetitive and draggy towards the end. All in all, though, highly recommended.

Posted 2011-06-03.