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Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

34 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

You WILL be able to get things done!

GTD rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.

GTD is ...
GTD rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.

GTD is based on making it easy to store, track and retrieve all information related to the things that need to get done. Allen suggests that many of the mental blocks we encounter are caused by insufficient 'front-end' planning (i.e., for any project we need to clarify what is to be achieved and what specific actions are needed to achieve it). It is most practical, according to Allen, to do this thinking in advance, generating a series of actions which we can later undertake without any further planning.

Allen contends that our mental "reminder system" is inefficient and seldom reminds us of what we need to do at the time and place that we can do it. Consequently, the "next actions" act as an external support which ensures that we are presented with the right reminders at the right time.

The core principles of GTD are:

Collect:

The notion of stress-free productivity starts with off-loading what needs to get done from one's head, capturing everything that is necessary to track, remember, or take action on, into what Allen calls a bucket: a physical inbox, an email inbox, a tape recorder, a notebook, a PDA, a desktop, etc. The idea is to get everything out of one's head and into a collection device, ready for processing. All buckets should be emptied (processed) at least once per week.

Process:

When processing a bucket, a strict workflow is required. If it takes under two minutes to do something, it should be done immediately. The two-minute rule is a guideline, encompassing roughly the time it would take to formally defer the action.

Organize:

Allen describes a suggested set of lists which can be used to keep track of items awaiting attention, including a calendar which is important for keeping track of appointments and commitments; however, Allen specifically recommends that the calendar be reserved for the hard landscape: things which absolutely have to be done by a particular deadline, or meetings and appointments which are fixed in time and place. To-do items should be reserved for the next action lists.

Review:

The lists of actions and reminders will be of little use if not reviewed at least daily, or whenever possible. Given the time, energy and resources available at a particular moment, one must decide the most important task to be done immediately, and do it. If one is inclined to procrastinate, one may end up always doing the easy tasks and avoiding the difficult ones. To solve this, one can decide to do the actions of the list one by one, following their order, just like processing an inbox.

Do:

Any organizational system is no good if excessive time is spent organizing tasks instead of actually doing them. Allen's contention is that if one can make it simple, easy, and fun to take the necessary actions, one will be less inclined to procrastinate or become overwhelmed with too many 'open loops'.

Phew! It's a lot, but it's a lot of useful information and a foolproof system once you get it all down.

Another book that I strongly recommend because it has helped me immensely when it comes to managing myself and keeping on track is: "The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book"

posted by David_Beck on January 13, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

31 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

Common Sense

Anyone who has decent organization skills should not buy this book. The whole book reiterates itself over and over and over and over and.... you get the picture. Let me summarize the book. Have a file cabinet and use it. Have a basket and put everything you have to do i...
Anyone who has decent organization skills should not buy this book. The whole book reiterates itself over and over and over and over and.... you get the picture. Let me summarize the book. Have a file cabinet and use it. Have a basket and put everything you have to do in it. Get everything off your mind by writing it down. Finally, go to your office supply store and load up on office supplies and organization products. After the first 75 pages, it becomes very redundant.

posted by 788146 on January 6, 2009

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  • Posted January 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    You WILL be able to get things done!

    GTD rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks. <BR/><BR/>GTD is based on making it easy to store, track and retrieve all information related to the things that need to get done. Allen suggests that many of the mental blocks we encounter are caused by insufficient 'front-end' planning (i.e., for any project we need to clarify what is to be achieved and what specific actions are needed to achieve it). It is most practical, according to Allen, to do this thinking in advance, generating a series of actions which we can later undertake without any further planning. <BR/><BR/>Allen contends that our mental "reminder system" is inefficient and seldom reminds us of what we need to do at the time and place that we can do it. Consequently, the "next actions" act as an external support which ensures that we are presented with the right reminders at the right time. <BR/><BR/>The core principles of GTD are: <BR/><BR/>Collect: <BR/><BR/>The notion of stress-free productivity starts with off-loading what needs to get done from one's head, capturing everything that is necessary to track, remember, or take action on, into what Allen calls a bucket: a physical inbox, an email inbox, a tape recorder, a notebook, a PDA, a desktop, etc. The idea is to get everything out of one's head and into a collection device, ready for processing. All buckets should be emptied (processed) at least once per week. <BR/><BR/>Process: <BR/><BR/>When processing a bucket, a strict workflow is required. If it takes under two minutes to do something, it should be done immediately. The two-minute rule is a guideline, encompassing roughly the time it would take to formally defer the action. <BR/><BR/>Organize: <BR/><BR/>Allen describes a suggested set of lists which can be used to keep track of items awaiting attention, including a calendar which is important for keeping track of appointments and commitments; however, Allen specifically recommends that the calendar be reserved for the hard landscape: things which absolutely have to be done by a particular deadline, or meetings and appointments which are fixed in time and place. To-do items should be reserved for the next action lists. <BR/><BR/>Review: <BR/><BR/>The lists of actions and reminders will be of little use if not reviewed at least daily, or whenever possible. Given the time, energy and resources available at a particular moment, one must decide the most important task to be done immediately, and do it. If one is inclined to procrastinate, one may end up always doing the easy tasks and avoiding the difficult ones. To solve this, one can decide to do the actions of the list one by one, following their order, just like processing an inbox. <BR/><BR/>Do: <BR/><BR/>Any organizational system is no good if excessive time is spent organizing tasks instead of actually doing them. Allen's contention is that if one can make it simple, easy, and fun to take the necessary actions, one will be less inclined to procrastinate or become overwhelmed with too many 'open loops'. <BR/><BR/>Phew! It's a lot, but it's a lot of useful information and a foolproof system once you get it all down. <BR/><BR/>Another book that I strongly recommend because it has helped me immensely when it comes to managing myself and keeping on track is: "The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book"

    34 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2009

    Common Sense

    Anyone who has decent organization skills should not buy this book. The whole book reiterates itself over and over and over and over and.... you get the picture. Let me summarize the book. Have a file cabinet and use it. Have a basket and put everything you have to do in it. Get everything off your mind by writing it down. Finally, go to your office supply store and load up on office supplies and organization products. After the first 75 pages, it becomes very redundant.

    31 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    It's just not right

    What's the reason for me to have NOOK if paperback is $9.52 and ebook is $13?

    26 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book / Lousy Editing

    This is a great book. It came highly recommended by a friend who is an astronaut and has a very challenging work schedule.

    I've nearly finished reading it - for the first time, and I think I'll read it again and take better notes. But the editing in the ebook version is HORRIBLE. The editor may not realize you need spaces between ALL the words, not just some of them. There are sentences where you have to delete or add a word for it to make sense. I'm sure this isn't how the book was written, but the publisher needs to issue us an update.

    I'd give it five stars for content, but 1 star for editing - so I'm splitting the difference and calling it a three.

    18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Practical, wise, and applicable to modern life

    Since reading this book about six months ago I've implemented the GTD system. Immediately when reading, I sensed the deep wisdom and soundness latent in the pages.

    I have a utilitarian and pragmatic personality (INTJ) so naturally I have great affinity for material of this sort. I especially value the flexibility of this workflow system. It can be applied with paper and folders, PDA's, Outlook, Excel, and other applications as well. Each individual can customize the general framework to suite his or her own needs and taste.

    I found the material theoretically sound, useful, and easy to incorporate into my life. I don't feel stressed despite engaging in many responsibilities. I've discovered from using this material in my life so far that it frees my mind to think more on the things of others and reach out to more people in my life. It has also helped me to realize what I'm truly capable of doing in a given period of time. I also don't let "small" details seep through the cracks in life (such as paying a credit card bill on time, or remembering to buy a card for my friends birthday.)

    I also am intrigued by how GTD seems to dovetail nicely with a spiritual side of life.

    I highly recommend this book! It has helped me live my life with greater richness and fulness.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2009

    Exquisitely well thought out, very fresh and different

    He speaks against making to-do lists! this time mgmt book is the only one I've ever re-read, and put to use so thoroughly. The big difference between this and every other similar title is the peace of mind I now have that I never felt before. His methods get it all out of my head so I close my eyes at night trusting my system so I can sleep. His martial arts analogy is apt and has made me more able to catch and make full use of every twist in my day. I AM NO LONGER UP TO MY A** IN ALLIGATORS. Thank you Mr. Allen.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    Great System for Those in Need of an Organization Assistant

    Yes, file it under "Stuff You Already Know," but with a footnote: "That Most of Us Need to be Told Anyway." I've been using the system for about 6 months now and am genuinely surprised that the promised improvements in efficiency and the freedom to think clearly about big-picture issues are real. I originally borrowed this book from a colleague who had recommended it, but decided to splash out on my own copy once I became a devotee.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2008

    Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

    If you don't have time for one more thing in your life, read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. While that advice may seem counterproductive, and a little crazy, (where will you find time to read it?) this book will assuredly give you some realistic advice about getting all those projects completed while staying sane. This first thing that's apparent about this book is the author's enthusiasm. He presents workable solutions with this contagious 'can-do' attitude. He uses a basic premise that everything we do¿whether it's an assignment or work-related task¿has a specific place and time. Once that's understood, it's easier to put those activities into the right slot in our lives. This provides a sense of freedom even though deadlines are mounting. Time is no longer the enemy it's merely the container. By having all these tasks in their proper places, it's almost like opening a filing cabinet, working on a specific project, then replacing the file and closing the drawer. There is a start and finish time and everything gets done. That terrible overwhelming feeling vanishes. Another interesting aspect the author develops is how to achieve those wonderful moments when we are so in tune with our work, that it's really effortless. His strategies for managing time actually open up the unconscious mind by freeing it of negative stress. In other words, when our work is properly scheduled, we are cut loose of time constraints and are able to grab hold of maximum creativity and productivity. Even though there are still deadlines to meet, we would have already dealt with them before starting the project. Time is put in its proper place as well. While author David Allen's advice is really on the mark, at times his system gets a little complicated. He coins some fancy terms and sub-terms that make these principles seem complex. But the gist of his ideas is presented on a one-page flowchart that makes the price of this book worthwhile. This single page is a terrific review of the key concepts. Although some of his ideas may seem like good old- fashioned common sense, the author takes these thoughts and puts them within a system that operates in the contemporary workplace. Readers should be prepared to actually try out these ideas and not just read the book and put it on a shelf. Have a notebook handy to start organizing your thoughts and begin prioritizing your actions based on the advice presented. One of the best pieces of advice, and one that can be immediately put into action, is the Two-Minute Rule. This states that if you need to do something and you can do it in two minutes or less, do it now, and therefore free up your mind and time. Ultimately, by completing these smaller, quicker tasks, you will gain an enormous amount of time and freedom of thought for those larger assignments. It works! These pages have the power to unlock you from the chains of time that limit your actions and thinking. When you are finished reading this book, you will have learned some genuine principles that can be put into your life right now. The investment of time you put into reading this book will increase your productivity level and decrease your stress.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2007

    Disappointing

    I was optimistic about the title, so the marketing works. I suppose I was looking for a magic bullet. Since I was already doing what is in the book, I found no new answers there. I may be slanted in my view, but the book seems to assume its target audience are people who are not already performing the steps are outlined in the text. Whereas, I would expect people who find this book by title are already trying various methods and not succeeding, and are the people who look for book that may provide new direction. In my view, the book shoots down traditional methods, and then offers the same traditional methods without even repackaging. It just did not work for me. Scan the book before buying, I had not. It may be right for others, but had little to offer me.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    Very useful tool

    Excellent system & tools. Yes the concepts are simple, yes you probably could have thought of each of them on your own. But you didn't and neither did I because we are too busy. This simple approach has been very helpful in managing workload and sanity. The challenge is the discipline to keep up with the system.

    If you are struggling to keep up with tasks, projects, emails, personal goals etc. I highly recommend this book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2007

    Absolutely Excellent!

    I have studied various organizational and time management methods for 20 years. I have found nothing that compares to the liberty and effectiveness of this method. I've been using this method for over 1-1/2 years now. I also highly recommend David Allen's book, Ready For Anything. It has many tips, thought-provoking ideas, and methods to reduce stress and accomplish more with your work time as well as your own time. I highly recommend both books and their audios. I use the audio CDs when I am not able to take the time to read, but have the time to listen. I have made their audio CDs into audio MP3s, and I have put them on my iPod for use whenever and wherever. I find that an occasional review of these tips and methods helps put me back on track when I have let some portion of the method slip. When I started using these methods, I found that I first had to implement a portion of his method, and when I had that working, then I added in another portion. If you do not review and upkeep the steps he suggests, you will not see the same amount of good results as you do when you use his methods. David Allen's website offers free tips and gives a location to sign up for free emails with productivity tips. I have recommended and have purchased these books for others, as well as myself.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    Changed the way I live

    GTD, with a few small personal modifications changed thee way I live, plain and simple. I work, play, and live right out of my system now and nothing falls through the cracks.

    The lessons on how to deal with tasks, writing everything down, and reviewing and following up regularly are what propelled me from Systems Administrator to Technical Manager at my company.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    IBM Competitive Edge Book Club Selects Book in Q4 2011

    The IBM Competitive Edge Book Club, open to all Sales, Marketing, and Communication professionals at IBM, voted and selected "Getting Things Done" as the Q4 2011 book selection. Overall feedback from the members was very good. In the feedback from the members, we ask them the question - "What will you do differently in your job since your study of this book?" Some of the replies directly from the members included:

    - "It has given me renewed enthusiasm to re-establish my use of GTD concepts."

    - "Apply and revisit GTD best practices consistently."

    - "Evaluating my time management techniquest to be more effective in 2012!"

    - "Better organize my in-box and track my activities/goals via the electronic calendar."

    - "Remind myself of what is the outcome of each action."

    I would like to personally thank David for being apart of the IBM Competitive Edge Book Club experience and for "Getting Us Organized" for 2012!

    Best Regards,
    Brien Convery
    IBM Business Operations Leader and Competitive Edge Book Club Leader

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2007

    Not worth the money

    The excerpt I read before buying the book adequately described the overwhelming workload I face, but the book lost me at about page 27. I was looking for new strategies but this book simply overstated the obvious concepts that anyone who's had more than a job flipping burgers or working construction would already know. On page 27, 'The following can all serve as versions of an in-basket...physical in-basket, paper-based note-taking devices, voice recording devices, email.' Well, duh! It doesn't get better. On page 37, 'I define a project as any desired result that requires more than one action step.' What??? That doesn't even make sense. If that were true, than 95% of the tasks on my to-do list would not be tasks, they'd all be 'projects'. There's a workflow diagram that looks promising, but at closer look the logic is flawed. It maps out 'stuff' in your inbox and what to do with it. If it can be taken care of than less than 2 minutes, then 'do it'. If it's more than 2 minutes, it's either a project, or you should delegate it or defer it. Well, if you simply send an email to someone telling them to do it (delegating it) isn't that a 'less than 2 minute' action? If it's longer than 2 minutes, then the workflow points to 'projects', but stops there. There's no workflow for projects, just a long, convoluted narrative on planning phases. The worst part is the section on implementing the author's system. It lists 'the basic processing tools...paper-holding trays, a stack of plain letter-size paper, a pen/pencil, Post-its, paper clips, etc...' Then describes each item on the list in a seperate paragraph. Instead of posing this book as 'Getting Things Done' it should have been called 'Getting Things Done at Your First Job.'

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2007

    Great Concept---Poor Presentation and Delivery

    The book¿s title is a winner. Allen¿s premise is excellent: ¿Our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts organized can we achieve effective results and unleash our creative potential.¿ Allen has spent more than 20 years as a business trainer and coach in the field of productivity. He likens the brain to the random access memory (RAM) of the computer. The more tasks it works on simultaneously, the slower and less productive it becomes. In the book, he describes the productivity system that he has developed to remove brain clutter. His system does not put much emphasis on prioritizing. Nor does it give much weight to a lack of time being a restraining factor. Instead, he focuses on the issues of ¿lack of clarity and definition.¿ Allen concentrates on mastering the flow of work so that your brain will not become cluttered with non-essential subjects. By doing so, he wants his readers to escape lower level thinking and concentrate on a higher level of thinking. Allen states that ¿physical organization must be better than mental organization for that to happen.¿ One caveat of that line of thinking is to have multiple lists or folders or online software whereby you can list categories of tasks ¿according to locations and functions.¿ The thrust of his presentation is found in Chapter 8, ¿Processing: Getting ¿In¿ to Empty.¿ His method involves putting all tasks in an ¿In¿ basket, and then examining each one individually. If the task can be accomplished within two minutes, it is to be done immediately. If not, it should flow into one of three categories which are self-explanatory: 1) Trash 2) Incubate 3)Reference. Allen¿s definition of a project, the ultimate productivity goal, is rather novel---an ¿outcome requiring more than one step.¿ Also, his use of the calendar for an entry is rather interesting. His viewpoint of a calendar entry is that it should be done that day or not all. It is not to be moved under any circumstances. The book is liberally sprinkled with quotations on productivity to leaven his rather boring, flat, and meandering presentations in each chapter. The book concentrates on paper flow, and does not address practical issues, such as handling phone calls, appointments, work overload, distractions, and other productivity issues.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2011

    Half Baked

    It's no joke, there are no page numbers in the index. Maybe some one forgot to put it on their to do list.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2011

    What good is an index...

    With no page numbers AND no interactivity?

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2010

    Good

    Good.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    Great for getting your act together

    I am involved in so many activities and my desk was an utter mess. But this book really helped me get a grip on my clutter and set up a system that really works. The book is an easy read and the author has a really friendly tone. Would I recommend this to my friends? Yes! I already have.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Very Practical Manual

    David Allen's "GTD" (Getting Things Done) system is excellent. It's a process that you go through over a period of time. You won't be able to implement the whole system "in one sitting" - but this book definitely helps in several ways:
    - You can implement specific tips (i.e. one of his tips on setting up internet folders is awesome)
    - You can implement specific practices (i.e. examples of lists, agendas)
    - You can try to implement the entire system (would recommend doing in phases)

    Given the amount of info most professionals have to contend with today, this book is an awesome manual of how to stay on top of things - both personnaly and professionally.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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