Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity Book Summary

In today’s world, yesterday’s methods just don’t work. In Getting Things Done, veteran coach and management consultant David Allen shares the breakthrough methods for stress-free performance that he has introduced to tens of thousands of people across the country. Allen’s premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential. In Getting Things Done Allen shows how to:

* Apply the “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” rule to get your in-box to empty

* Reassess goals and stay focused in changing situations

* Plan projects as well as get them unstuck

* Overcome feelings of confusion, anxiety, and being overwhelmed

* Feel fine about what you’re not doing

From core principles to proven tricks, Getting Things Done can transform the way you work, showing you how to pick up the pace without wearing yourself down.

In short, GTD focuses on getting “stuff” –commitments, to do items, reminders to gather information, requests for information or actions, etc.– out of your short-term memory and into a physical, highly organized system that will remind you of the right stuff at the right time. Dumping everything out of your short-term memory allows you to do something that’s very critical to productivity: focus on one thing at a time. If you’re confident that your other commitments or to-dos are safely stored away somewhere and will not be lost or buried out of sight, you can devote all your attention, time, and mental energy to one thing before knocking it out and moving on to the next.

There are four major parts to the GTD system:

1. Collecting incoming stuff

2. Processing the stuff

3. Doing the stuff

4. Regularly reviewing your system to make sure your action items and project lists are up to date

Collecting stuff is letting stuff accumulate in your physical or virtual receptacles like inboxes, voice mail, or e-mail.

Processing stuff is more involved. It requires sitting down with your inboxes and emptying them. That doesn’t mean immediately doing the work associated with each piece of stuff as you pick it up –prioritization is important. It means taking a piece of stuff –an e-mail, a document, a voice mail– and doing something with it: act on it right then, file it, trash it, delegate it, or create what Allen calls a “Next Action” item associated with it. Again, the book is replete with practical tips, hacks, tools, and rules of thumb for deciding which of these things to do and how to keep it all straight. Therein lies some of the book’s best value, but it’s too detailed to go into here.

Doing the stuff is self explanatory, but its important to understand the value of being able to focus on one thing at a time without worrying that other things will be forgotten. It’s much more productive and much less stressful.

Regularly reviewing your system is also important, and comes in two flavors: as needed and weekly. You may review your action item list (a.k.a., your “to do list”) several times a day as needed, if for nothing but that endorphin rush that comes with checking things off as “done” and deciding what to tackle next. Weekly reviews are also important, and are different in that you take the time to check on your list of active projects and make sure you have a Next Action item for each and every one.