Book Review: Getting Things Done (David Allen)

I’ve always been impressed by those people who have a sprawling, lifelong passion for a subject — be it venomous snakes, antique telephones, Celtic history, or blimps — and who are then able to communicate this passion in a way that makes the information approachable and that gets OTHER people excited about it.  David Allen has such a passion.  His chosen field of study is personal productivity, and in 2001, he wrote Getting Things Done to share everything he had loved and learned about how people can organize their workspace and work habits for maximum effectiveness.

Having had a number of people I trust recommend this book over the past few years, I finally picked up a copy to see what all the fuss was about.  And while I’ll confess, the organizational system I currently have in place tends to work pretty well for me, I was still impressed by the depth in which the author treats the subject — and how he not only teaches people a system for getting their affairs in order, but also explains the psychology behind his recommendations, which really brings the material to life.  This layer of underlying rationale is particularly useful in those cases when his suggestions are somewhat counterintuitive, like when he recommends against the use of hanging file folders or says that computer-printed file labels tend to become an obstacle, not an aid, in getting one’s office whipped into shape.

I also enjoyed the fact that this book included both high-level, strategic advice, such as a four-step process for deciding what projects to tackle first, along with very tactical tips such as not filling your file cabinets more than 2/3 full, lest you start resenting (and avoiding) the filing process.  This last point, in particular, rang especially true, since it exactly describes the love/hate relationship I have with my home filing cabinet!  Additionally, the author presents a “master plan” for getting organized that includes a step-by-step workflow chart and a set of seven final categories that ALL of your saved information should fall under.  Again, it’s pretty fascinating to watch somebody make a formal science out of an activity that most of us take for granted or tend to perform by the seat of our pants.

So at the end of the day, if any of you out there are struggling to tame your to-do list or to set your job search regimen up for optimal efficiency, Getting Things Done might be a worthwhile investment.  I can’t imagine there’s been a more thorough book on the subject that’s been written, to date, and I guarantee you’ll walk away looking at your daily task list in a whole new light!  And while we’re on the subject, those interested in getting more organized should also check out the highly-acclaimed 43 Folders website by Merlin Mann, or consider hiring local organizational expert Debbie Rosemont of Simply Placed (hi Debbie!) to come crack the whip and get your home and office workspaces running like clockwork.  Great resources, both!

Any organizational tips that any of you out there would care to share, especially that might relate to running a methodical, uber-productive job search?


3 Responses to “Book Review: Getting Things Done (David Allen)”

  1. Elena Aroustamova March 2, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I have been an avid follower of David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done)system for several years and found him one of the most interesting and impressive speakers. Dave’s most recent book “Making It All Work” (see David’s website addresses: “How to figure out where you are in life and what you need; How to be your own consultant and the CEO of your life; Moving from hope to trust in decision-making; When not to set goals; Harnessing intuition,spontaneity, and serendipity; And why life is like business and business is like life”. BTW, those interested in David’s tips can subscribe to his weekly newsletter and blogs on his site.

  2. Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

    Don’t pay for your electricity any longer…
    Instead, the power company will pay YOU!

  3. Hi Matt. Here is a quick one for you and your readers – if you use Firefox as your browser, there is a plugin called Morning Coffee that I use and love. This plugin can be configured to open specific websites on specific days that you choose. So, for example, you can have it open your Linkedin profile on Mondays and Wednesdays, and your Google Reader account on Fridays, and your Meetup page every day of the week. I use this every morning – it opens up the pages that I want to check or update for the day, and I know I’m done when all of those tabs are closed. Very efficient!

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