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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. New York: Penguin Books, 2001. ISBN: 978-0-14-200028-1

This is one of the best self-help books I've read, which probably isn't saying much, since I don't generally read in that category very much. But David Allen does have what sounds like a pretty good plan for organizing your life, and freeing up your brain for creative and thoughtful approaches to pretty much everything you need to tackle.

At the root of his method is the notion that you need a system to capture everything, and I mean EVERYTHING that you're involved in. Get it all down (on paper, or on your computer), and then put it through a process that organizes it into manageable categories, and forces you to make decisions about how to handle it. Once you're confident that your system is in place, and that it really does capture EVERYTHING in such a way that nothing will ever fall through the cracks again, supposedly your mind will be freed from the routine anxieties and stress that plague you now, and make it difficult for you to concentrate and do your work and live your life. I can't describe in one paragraph what Allen takes entire chapters to describe, so if this sounds like something you'd be interested in, you'd best read the book for yourself.

If I have any complaint at all about the book, it's that the author's system relies much too heavily on paper, writing things down on pieces of paper, setting up a filing system for organizing your paper, and just plain using too much paper. Handling paper is one of my least favorite things in all the world. The inability to make filing decisions is a big part of my personal organization problem.

I'd be much happier with a system that allowed me to go entirely electronic. I want to just scan all my pieces of paper, and use an advanced OCR and indexing system to convert everything into machine-readable format that I can keyword search. In the modern age of computer searching, everything is (or could well be) miscellaneous, to coin a phrase. I wish some computer-savvy individual would work with Allen to co-write a completely computerized version of his plan.

Oh well, short of that, this IS a good plan. The problem? I'd need about a month of uninterrupted time to put it into practice. And where am I going to get that month? Still, I do recommend this book to anyone who is looking to get better organized, and reduce stress over unfulfilled obligations or intentions.

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