This month’s Book of the Month post is brought to you by guest author and fellow Professional Organiser, Alison Jobling from UN-STUFFED Organising, Simplifying, Decluttering.
“Getting Things Done”, by David Allen has tens of thousands of devoted fans, who’ve spawned dozens of blogs and forums, where devotees discuss the finer points of implementation and interpretation. Fans often refer to Allen as “The David”, and refer to the system as GTD (we geeks do love our acronyms).
GTDers are mostly executives, geeks, and other busy people. Although the enthusiasm of fans may sound like a cult, GTD doesn’t promise that The Wishes Fairy will make all your dreams come true if you only believe (and donate).
No, GTD is actually quite mundane. The subtitle of the book is “How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity”, and that doesn’t sound like anybody’s cult. So why the devotion? Well, it’s mostly because implementing GTD makes you feel much better. It lets you get on with all your Stuff-To-Do without lying awake at nights worrying about it. It lets you make sensible decisions about whether to file or go fishing, and, if you choose fishing, you get to do it without nagging guilt that you should be filing instead. And it explains why the system works, using analogies taken from martial arts – not in the ‘kicking the stuffing out of people’ sense, but in the ‘mind like water’ sense.
In short, GTD provides a way for busy people to manage their Stuff without feeling overwhelmed, and that’s why folks take to it so eagerly. It’s also very practical, setting out the system step by step in detail. No airy-fairy nonsense here – GTD is all about lists and routines. If you can write a list and know what an In Tray looks like, you can do GTD.
Mind you, the book is so chock-full of useful advice that you need to read it several times just to get it straight in your head. And, unlike many other productivity and Stuff-managing systems, you can pick and choose – adding just one or two ideas will help. The explanations may be complex, but the underlying rationale is simple: get the Stuff out of your head and into a trusted system that will manage it for you, so you can use your head for more creative and interesting stuff.
My only criticism is that Allen doesn’t do so well at explaining how to stop the system from falling over, and much of the talk on the forums is about getting back on the wagon. I suspect this is because it requires a large change in habits, which doesn’t stick as well as small changes over time. But that’s a small criticism, and we can’t expect The David to do everything for us.