One of my goals for this month was to finish re-reading the book Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity by David Allen. Well I have managed to get through it and thought I would do a quick post about the book.
I felt that the fundamental idea behind the book is to help people take control when they are overwhelmed with stuff that they should be doing.
It helps you get a grip on exactly what your tasks are and explains that if you can just keep doing the next step then you will eventually achieve pretty much any goal.
Don’t worry I’m not going to go into too much detail I just wanted to note down a few parts of the book that resonated with me and how it has helped me to become a bit more organised.
I realise that this is going to be an ongoing process but any improvement to my productivity can only be a good thing.
This is one of the core points of the book. You must get everything out of your head and down onto paper, or into some other trusted system.
The main benefit to this is that if you can keep you mind clear of distractions it can become much better at processing more important information.
If, for example, you wake up in the morning go to brush your teeth and realise you are running out of toothpaste what do you do?
I used to try and think constantly about getting a new tube of toothpaste until I was next in the supermarket. Then you can bet that by the time I came to the actual toothpaste aisle my mind was on something else. It would only be that night when I went to brush my teeth again that I had the thought, Oh, I was supposed to buy some toothpaste.
How many times do you think toothpaste randomly popped into my thoughts while I was supposed to be doing something else?
The principle from the book is to write any thoughts or even ideas down as they come to you. This helps free up your mind to allow it to concentrate on the task in hand. The one catch to this is you need something to capture your thoughts wherever you might be.
So for my toothpaste example you should have a small pad of paper and a pen somewhere in, or at least near, the bathroom. Then the minute you have the thought I need some more toothpaste just write it down and stick it in your inbox.
As long as you go through the stuff in your inbox regularly then there is no reason to keep thinking about toothpaste. When you process the items in your tray you can just simply add it to your shopping list and then you can stop worrying about it.
Anyway enough with the example, hopefully you get the idea.
Deciding on the Next Action
This is the next big idea from the book that made me sit up and think.
I used to have loads of jobs that were not fully defined. The problem with this is that if you decide to tackle the task in question you don’t know what you can do straight away so the tendency is to put it down and look for something else that you can get on with now.
The idea is that you must spend a little time when you first come across a job to decide what exactly you are trying to achieve and then what the next action needs to be to get there.
This might sound a bit vague so lets try a small example.
Say I decide to throw a party for Shirley. I might write down something like Organise party for Shirley.
Every time I come across this note I have no immediate feel for what to do next so I will probably skip over it and look for something easier to do instead. Then as time goes on this becomes harder and harder to move on.
If I had done a quick bit of thinking up front I could have gone into a bit more detail:
Organise party for Shirley
- April looks good
- Where can we hold the party?
- Try the rugby club again
- Who to invite?
- Start making list of possible guests
So after the extra 30 seconds of thinking I can now come up with a list of Next Actions from this note like:
- Find phone number for the rugby club
- List possible guests for Shirley’s Party
- Confirm date for party on calendar
All of these are fairly simple tasks which can be completed on their own but all help move towards the goal of organising the party. If I saw these tasks on my list I am much more likely to do something about at least one of them there and then.
Anyway this was only a very brief comment on some of the points I have taken away from David Allen’s book. There is a whole load more useful information in the book to help you take back control of all your stuff.
I think it is a must read book for anyone who wants to get organised. The added bonus is that it helps you feel relaxed and in control no matter how much you have on your plate.