Book Review: GTD, finishing Chapter 1

Okay folks, time for the rest of GTD’s first chapter.  

There’s a very interesting part of Chapter 1 that, try as I might, I couldn’t include in the first post with any sort of cohesiveness–that’s the main reason for the split posts covering the intro.  Fair warning: this post will be more useful as a supplement to the book than as a true review.

Allen tells us to think of all the tasks we have to do in two ways, “vertically” and “horizontally.”  This brought a neat image to mind, and I’d like to share it.  It helps me grasp what Allen means by “vertical” and “horizontal,” and it might be of some use to you as well.  Let’s say that you have sixteen tasks you want to handle.  Now, think of these tasks as straws from your favorite fast food restaurant (I chose Taco Bell).  Got it?  Good.  Arrange these straws so that you have a 4-straw by 4-straw square; looking from the top down, you should be able to see down the holes of each straw.  

We’ll tackle horizontal first.  Let’s pretend that we’re cutting each of the straws in half to make them shorter.  As our blade hits each straw, our mind sees a glimpse of each task we are to do, at some stage in its getting done.  It’s more or less like trying to list everything you have to do at the moment.  Not so hard, eh?

Next comes vertical, which I think is even easier.  We said that each task was a straw, right?  Imagine that, as you looked up and down the straw, you could see the sequence of actions that needed to be performed in order to accomplish that task.  That’s thinking vertically.

I’ve probably done no more than confuse most of you, but for those who like to think in pretty images and understand what I’m talking about, you can see how this way of looking at your “to-do” list can be beneficial.  It compliments the GTD mindset incredibly well, for it’s another way of communicating that merely making a list of items isn’t enough to be productive–you have to examine each task and figure out all the actions that lead to productivity–in this case, crossing the task off your list.

That’s all I have for Chapter 1.  When I can, I’ll try to prevent splitting up chapters.  This was just a neat idea that felt too out of place with the first Chapter 1 post, so it got special attention.  


EDIT:  This was supposed to auto-post, but didn’t.  I’ll assume it was an error on my part.  Sorry to those who were expecting to read this and watch their favorite cartoons at the same time.


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