Book Review: Getting Things Done, Chapter 1

Here we are, folks–the debut of the Book Review!  Not as timely as I would have liked, but it’s here anyhow.  As discussed in the intro post a couple of days ago, I’m going to be taking a look at Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen.  I won’t cover the whole book in this post–there’s too much information.  Rather, the book is going to be broken up in chunks, mostly determined by chapter breaks, sometimes aided by how much information I think is actually worth covering.  Sound good?  Great.  

Getting Things Done (GTD) is divided into three parts and contains thirteen chapters.  As would seem obvious, we’re going to start with the first part, “The Art of Getting Things Done,” which opens with a chapter titled “A New Practice for a New Reality.”

In this chapter, Allen stresses that we already know how to do all the things we need to in order get things done, but that we need to be more efficient in our methods.  This sounds like common sense, and Allen acknowledges that, but he also points out that most people don’t always take the common sense route, which leads to a massive back-up of work, emails, etc.  His system, at its core, is based on two very simple goals: putting all things that need to be done into some sort of physical (outside the mind) system, and then using that system to streamline work.  

“I consider “work” in its most universal sense, as meaning anything athat you want or need to be different than it currently is.  Many people make a distinction between “work” and “personal life,” but I don’t; to me, weeding the garden or updating my will is just as much “work” as writing this book or coaching a client.  All the methods and techniques in this book are applicable across that life/work spectrum–to be effective, they have to be.” (pg. 4, GTD)

Allen’s language is very plain, which is perfect for this sort of writing; after all, someone who doesn’t have enough time to do their work efficiently might be turned off by a jargon-filled instruction manual.  While the karate similes and Zen mindset come off a bit forced in his writing–which I found particularly ironic–the ideas there are valuable, and add to the goal of helping the reader visualize the relaxation that would come with a better system for completing tasks.  

One of the most important ideas to take away from this part of the book is that the “new era of work” has a certain blurriness to it; that is to say, very few people in the work force do only what they were hired to do originally.  Allen also states that, while helpful for organizing some things, calendars and to-do lists are not the proper tools for the “average professional’s workload”–that a more complete system is required.

There are a couple of exercises included in this part of the book that can’t be easily conveyed in a review, but are worth doing.  The book is also divided into small sections for easy browsing, and is full of numerous quotes that help communicate the basic idea of the sections in which they are included.  There’s more of note in Chapter 1, but that will have to wait until next week.  In that post, I’ll cover the rest of Chapter 1, and we may get to Chapter 2 as well.   


2 responses to “Book Review: Getting Things Done, Chapter 1

  1. For implementing GTD you might try out this web-based application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

    As with the last update, now Gtdagenda has full Someday/Maybe functionality, you can easily move your tasks and projects between “Active”, “Someday/Maybe” and “Archive”. This will clear your mind, and will boost your productivity.

    Hope you like it.

  2. Mike Robinson


    Thanks a lot for the website. I’ll definitely give it a shot. I’ve been trying to use more web-based apps lately–this seems perfect. I appreciate the suggestion, and thanks again!

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