Getting Things Done, or ‘GTD’ as adoptees like to refer to it, is indeed a productivity book. But it’s not about ‘time management,’ to-do lists, or other seemingly similar equivalents. Through GTD, Allen attempts to help the reader not only with their professional lives, but their personal lives as well.
Getting Things Done focuses on a core process that has 5 discrete components:
- Collect everything that demands your attention (and keeps you awake at night);
- Process what these things mean to you (keep, trash, put in a tickler folder);
- Organize everything;
- Review and determine options for what you want to do with each item;
- Do the Next Action.
Most of us, and it certainly has included me, have an unnecessary level of stress because of ‘all the things we need to do.’ But quite often, that stress is (particularly late at night, when you can’t do anything about it) exists because our minds won’t let go. Why? Because we don’t have a system to keep track of everything, and our subconscious knows it.
So the drive of GTD is to inventory everything that’s on your mind, everything you need to address, and consciously determine the Next Action to be taken. David Allen emphasizes the need to determine each item, or ‘project,’ next action as a key differentiator.
Consider your stereotypical ‘task list.’ It lists things like *Get the car fixed; *Take a vacation; *Clean the house. Each of those are small projects and rather ambiguous ones at that. They sort of ‘hang’ out there because its not clear just what the next step needs to be.
Instead, create clear, concise lists of next actions. So, instead of ‘get the car fixed,’ your Car Project’s next action may be, *Call service station to schedule service. That is specific, actionable, and something you can do in the next 2 minutes.
Allen takes the reader through the entire process, step, by step, by step, adding his decades of experience in the mix, with real-world examples, how to handle exceptions to every rule. He also provides structure for deciding at any point in time: are you working on the right things, right now?
If maintaining focus, decreasing stress, and making sure things aren’t being lost in the cracks, then I encourage you to read Getting Things Done. It’s not a panacea, but it is a very constructive, practical approach which can be adopted in whole or in part.