Getting Things Done: David Allen’s Breakthrough Book

Getting Things Done, David Allen's Breakthrough Book

Have you noticed that the American school system fails to teach basic organizational skills and personal finance? I have no idea why this might be the case. Both topics have a massive impact on the course of any individual's life, and yet they don't exist as far as the modern educational system is concerned. Fortunately, both topics are not that complicated. MightyInvestor.com represents my effort to help address the financial skills part of this equation. David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) tackles how to organize your life.

Creating a Mind Map

GTD is a remarkable book. David Allen somehow developed profound insights into the human psyche, how to structure (and externally visualize) what you are doing, thinking about, and planning. By getting down on paper (or in an electronic notebook) everything going on in your life--and then organizing that information methodically with a bias towards pragmatic next action steps--the GTD system dramatically reduces the ambient pressure in your mind. Another way to say this is that the GTD methodology allows you to create an external mind map of everything on your mind, allowing you to see clearly what is going on and recalibrate your priorities.

Capture Everything, Then Process The Information

There are several key steps to creating this mind map and getting organized. First, you have to capture and record everything in your life. In short, this means writing down or funneling everything present in your life through an inbox. Once you get this information flowing into an inbox, it is processed through a decision and processing algorithm developed by the author.

GTD is basically an elaborate decision tree that forces you to look closely at what's going on in your life and make decisions, take actions, or expunge materials, thoughts, and situations. For item X, should you take action? If no, there are three next possible steps. If yes, there is another loop to go through. This link gives you a visual overview of the entire GTD process. Don't expect to understand the diagram at first blush, but this does give you a general idea.

When I first began to implement GTD, I felt queasy, excited, and depressed all at once. This is because GTD forced me to confront the many half-finished projects or situations in my life. It also forced me to let go of some emotional attachments to items or situations that had lingered well past the point that they should have been present in my life at all.

A Steep Initial Learning Curve

A word of warning. When you first open up the GTD book or search online for information, the process can appear complicated and a bit overwhelming. Indeed, when I first got the book from my local library, I read it for about ten minutes before putting it aside as simply too complicated. It was only after noticing that several bloggers that I admire all spoke well of GTD that I decided to give the book a second chance. You have to give the GTD ideas and process a while before they start to click and make sense.

If you do decide to give GTD a go, in addition to reading the first two-thirds of the book (where the meat of the process is located), here are several links where other authors write about the pragmatic implementation of GTD. In particular, these articles helped me understand how to process information from the inbox phase through the next actions and projects list phases--as well as developing a reference file, incubate file, and more.




Get Started Getting Things Done

I am at the beginning of the GTD process, but so far I love it. It is remarkable how the algorithm flushes everything through the pipeline--getting you organized, moving ahead, taking action, and clear about what projects you are working on, what you will work on in the future, or what you should simply let go of and drop from your life altogether.

What David Allen has developed is deeply profound. If you do give the process a chance, you will dramatically improve how you relate to the information, projects, goals, and dreams floating around in your life. With even the basic GTD techniques, you will quickly get organized and start Getting Things Done.

Later Addendum to this Post

In researching Dave Allen a bit more, I have learned that he is involved with a fairly esoteric religious group (that probably has personality cult overtones).  Also, he had a pretty rough start to adult life, with drug abuse and even a brief commitment to a mental asylum.

My attitude is that these unique life experiences, including the less orthodox religious stuff, probably helped him think differently and develop GTD.  Getting Things Done isn't pushing a dogma.  So, as far as I'm concerned, Dave Allen is a good guy and he is helping people get on top of their lives with what he developed.  Also, we all make some strange detours in life.  I suggest we be judged (if ever) by the preponderance of our lives and how we contribute--not by those aspects of which we are perhaps least proud.

More Thoughts On Getting Things Done

See additional suggestions from me on how to implement GTD here and here.

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