Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

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The book I chose to read is Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. David Allen is considered by Forbes Magazine to be in the top five executive coaches in the United States. He has over thirty years of experience in coaching some of the highest ranking executives in some of the biggest businesses in the United States. Time Magazine called this book, “the defining self-help business book of it’s time."
The book is broken down into three main parts and thirteen chapters and sub-sections. The first part is titled The Art of Getting Things Done. It contains information on societal shifts in the workplace and ways to manage work. Among his tips, he believes everyone should physically write down every task they must accomplish on a daily basis, whether they write it on paper or electronically. They must then make decisions based on length and importance and decide which tasks to accomplish and when to accomplish them. His main point of emphasis in this first chapter is that the mind becomes too cluttered and that short-term memory should be used to focus not store things. In chapter two, the author introduces his five keys or stages to controlling/managing workflow. They are (1) to collect, (2) process, (3) organize, (4) review and (5) do. He points to these five steps as a way to organizing work that needs to be accomplished and successfully completing it. The last chapter in the first section is about vertically focusing on the thought process to complete projects. Allen outlines five more steps to accomplish any task. They are (1) defining purpose and principles, (2) outcome visioning, (3) brainstorming, (4) organizing, and (5) Identifying next actions.
The second part of this book, which is well over ½ of the entire book, is somewhat of a repeat of the first part but a much more detailed perspective of the methodology of David Allen. He recommends taking two days at the start of his process just to get organized. Within these two days, one should set up private workspace not only at work but at home also. In chapter five and six, Allen refers back to his five keys to control workflow, he points out to accomplish the collecting phase completely before moving onto the processing and organizing stages. This will eliminate distractions. During the processing phase, a person is not really completing any items but rather identifying what needs to be done with each one.

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Allen points out that this will get rid of unneeded tasks and he also recommends completing any less than two minute tasks right away. In his next chapter, the author focuses on the organizing portion of his five keys. Among his recommendations, he points out seven categories to make for all outputs. They are: a "Projects" list, project support material, calendared actions and information, "Next Actions" lists, a "Waiting For" list, reference material, and a "Someday/Maybe" list.
In his next chapter, Allen goes over the review portion of his five keys. His main point of focus in this section is to trust the system. He also points to always review daily tasks and to make sure to review weekly tasks/accomplishments at the end of every week. In his ninth chapter, the author focuses on the “doing” stage. He introduces three models that he uses when deciding what “to do”. First off the Four-Criteria model for choosing actions in the moment uses the criteria of context, time available, energy available, and priority to make decisions. Next, the Threefold Model for Evaluating Daily Work uses three categories and they are doing predefined work, doing work as it shows up, or defining one’s work. Lastly, he uses an altitude reference in his Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work model. He breaks down work into each of these categories; 50,000 + feet: Life, 40,000 feet: Three- to five-year visions, 30,000 feet: One-to two-year goals, 20,000 feet: Areas of responsibility, 10,000 feet: Current projects, Runway: Current actions. In wrapping up his next chapter and second part of his book, David Allen refers back to his vertical process for completing projects and points out that he prefers pro-active, creative thinking as opposed to formal training tools.
In the third and final part of his book, David Allen explains to the reader why his methods work and some benefits that could be attained from following them. He delves into the psychological aspects of human nature that lead to his methods being successful. He also tells stories of success that he has witnessed through previous clients of his in the business arena. In the opening of his last part he writes that people should focus more on, “think[ing] about things, rather than of things.” Allen also writes about the power of The Next-Action Decision model. He believes that at any meeting, approximately twenty minutes before its completion, someone should ask the question, “So what’s the next action here?" He writes that this will help collaboration, clear up any misunderstandings that employees may have, and put everyone on the same page in terms of what needs to be accomplished. In his final thoughts, Allen writes about the importance of always envisioning successes, even when the ways of attaining aren’t always clear at the time. Also, the ability to continually generate new ideas whether they are good or bad is an extremely important tool that executives must be able to harness to fully capture creative intelligence. Lastly, David Allen writes that, “Choosing and taking next actions are the essence of productivity.”
Although the book is aimed at CEO’s and other high-ranking business officials, it seems like this book has the chance to be extremely helpful, especially for any business person who find themselves overwhelmed and unable to organize their workload.

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