Dec 122009

gtdGetting Things Done is the phenomenal best-selling book on organization and time management by  David Allen. Among fans of this time and project management system (actually more of a LIFE management system) it is known simply as GTD. The book has been around for a few years, and I ran into it in an office supply store, while shopping for some software.

At the time, I had been attempting to use Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits” system, which urged me to think about roles, responsibilities, values, etc. This is certainly a critical thing to do. But there just wasn’t enough of things getting done in my life, hence my interest in Getting Things Done.

Allen’s is basically an organizing “geek”. He leaves the values and roles to the other teachers. In his experience, what helps people out are basically “tricks”. Little techniques, systems and rules of personal productivity and organization that make the difference between accomplishing your tasks and getting buried by them.

Among the tricks:

Arrange your tasks by context, not by importance. That is to say, if you are writing emails, and have another email to write, don’t shut down your computer and go on to another task just because it’s theoretically the next highest priority. Write your emails while you’re at the computer. If something MUST be done, and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it the minute you process it from your inbox. This saves you the time of trying to file and retrieve it later. Use a label maker for your file labels (I’ll let him explain this one). Keep your inbox empty.

The genius of these tricks is that they form part of a complete personal productivity system to make sure that nothing gets lost between the cracks. Allen will guide you through taking all the ideas, all the floating pieces of paper lying around – and capturing them in a system that will bring them to your attention when they are needed – but not have you worrying about them before.

Part of his system for time management includes a simple system of project management – since most of us have to deal with “projects” in the form of a goal that requires multiple steps and tasks performed in order.

Allen’s system is so popular and so successful that it has inspired user groups, special products based on the system and countless spin-offs. There are even browser plugins to make Gmail into a system for Getting Things Done.

If your time and organization are a mess and you want a no-nonsense approach, try David Allen. His system will bring it all together so you can rest easy at night knowing that your personal system has everything under control.

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