Like the creators of shvoong, David Allen begins his
productivity manual by pointing a changed reality. The
primary challenge that confronts individuals and
organizations is information overload. The proliferation of
information favors those who define their desired outcomes.
Another challenge emerges from the changes in the
workplace. Today, more people are employed as, what Peter
Drucker calls, “knowledge workers.” This means that they
are employed for the knowledge they possess. Employees are
given projects with no defined borders and with flexible
guidelines. The dilemma is clear: With a proliferation of
knowledge, or information, how can “knowledge workers”
organize themselves to produce efficiently? How can they
manage information, determine projects, and define tasks in
order to get things done? In “Getting Things Done,” David
Allen provides a simple and systematic method that gets
results. Allen argues that there is no single-solution to
getting in control and becoming more efficient. Buying the
latest gadget or fanciest calendar will not produce results.
Allen provides a method -- a set of systematic practices --
that can bring greater control and relaxation.
Allen advocates the use of multiple to-do lists that
should adhere to two rules. (1) The items on the lists
should not be prioritized in any way. There should be no
ABC or 1, 2, 3 priority codes. (2) The lists should be
organized by location. For example, there should be a
different list for phone calls (@Calls), for reading
(@Read/Review), and for writing (@Write). In addition to
these to-do lists, there should be one master projects list
(@Projects). Also, he suggests using a Someday/May Be list
to capture things that you want to do but cannot do right now.
Allen gives two rules for using these lists. (1) When
people have discretionary time, they can consult one of
their lists depending on where they are and what tools are
available. For example, if people are next to a phone, they
can consult their calls list. Lists are prioritized in the
individual moment based on a person's location, available
time, energy, and priority. (2) Allen recommends a weekly
review to ensure that the lists capture everything on your
Allen's method is simple. Everyone can create a list of
things they have to do or want to do. By avoiding priority
codes, people do not have to rewrite, reorganize, or
reprioritize their lists every day. Priority is dynamic; it
always changes. So, Allen's method saves time and
frustration because people do not have to rework their lists.
A Bottom-Up Approach
Most productivity/management books begin by telling you
to focus on your values before writing to-do lists. Allen
provides a bottom-up approach to getting organized and
getting things done. Instead of starting with goals (the
top-down approach), Allen advocates getting control of the
everyday stuff that get us stuck. The bottom-up principles
1. Get everything off your mind by writing it down on
2. Decide the next action (if there is one) on
everything as soon as it crosses your path.
3. Review the lists for actions to get done in the moment.
4. Maintain the lists every week by making sure that
they capture everything that is on your mind.
If an item does not have a next action, it can be thrown
out, kept for reference, or put an a calendar so it can be
revisited in the future.
Allen’s Getting Things Done has been criticized as
simplistic and rudimentary. However, it provides a much
needed alternative to the dominant approach to getting
things done (the top-down) approach advocated by such
writers as Stephen Covey—The Seven Habits of Highly
Effective People. Allen’s method is worth examining and his
suggestions on how to get in control of all the stuff that
clutter our lives are especially useful. Using Allen’s
method, every single ea you have can find a home in your
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