Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Getting Things Done is a popular book about being more efficient. I found it overly elaborate and laboured, and thought it was more daunting than liberating. It would perhaps have been better as a short pamphlet that focused on the key concepts.

After reading this book, I have contemplated creating an efficiency system along the lines of GTD's recommendations, but one that is sufficiently reduced so as to keep the task of organisation as simple as possible. It would start with the basic the todo list and then I imagine it would evolve into something along these lines:

Precursor: Collection bucket (a dumping ground of stuff to be sorted, to be cleared each week)

(1). Maybe-Someday list: A list of things I would like to do one day, or consider doing (e.g. learn a new skill, take up a hobby, plan a trip, buy a car, clean old bookmarks, learn a language, watch movie [sublist], books [sublist], etc).
(2). Back-burner list: Things to either come back to when time or interests allow. E.g. Have I started a course of learning but am short of time at present?
(3). To do list: Actionable items.
(4). Project list: Live projects
(5). Completed log

The collection bucket, and (1) and (5) would be kept electronically but (2), (3) and (4) would need to be physical, kept not in a file but somewhere in view. I can see this level of organisation being helpful.

The key development for me would be not putting everything into one messy list, which I have a tendency to do. 

I would have to be careful about not treating the lists like wish lists or shopping baskets, that is to say, feeling like they need to have stuff in them. An empty list is also just fine. For me, it is not about doing more, just doing better. Also, the system wouldn't be a catch all for anything and everything, but would instead act as more of a facilitator to be used as appropriate. it's more suited to discrete tasks.



- New demands, insufficient resources: Work no longer has clear 'edges', which means it isn't clear when a piece of work has finished. Likewise for projects, the lack of edges make them potentially infinite.
- The 'Ready State' of the Martial Artist: martial arts teach and demand balance and relaxation. Clearing the mind and being flexible are key. 'If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything' - Shunryu Suzuki.
- Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve.
-' Life is denied by lack of attention.'
- Consider how many things you feel even the smallest responsibility to change, finish, handle or do something about.
- If your mind isn't clear, your mind isn't clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a collection bucket (otherwise it keeps popping up in your mind at random points, creating anxiety). Then you must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do, if anything, to progress toward fulfilling it. Once you have decided on the required actions, you must keep reminders of them and review them regularly (what is the next physical action required, and when you are going to do it).
- Getting everything out into the system frees mindspace.
- 'Rule your mind or it will rule you' - Horace.
- Much of the time, we haven't defined the next action steps, which keeps thought swimming in our minds. Think deeply about the required steps i.e. don't focus on the things, focus on the process and the actions.
- 'Vision is not enough it must be combined with venture. It is enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the steps.' - Vaclav Havel.
- Gather 100% of the 'incompletes' and process them in the system. Get them out of your head.
- You must have as few collection buckets as you can get away with (electronic, in-tray, folders, notepads, etc). You must empty them regularly.
- Review the system once a week.
- Think about the why's, the values driving the decisions.
- 'Only he who handles his ideas lightly is master of his ideas, and only he who is master of his ideas is not enslaved by them.' - Lin Yutang.
- Plan next actions only as much as you need to get the ideas out of your mind.
- Merely having the ability to be highly productive, relaxed and in control doesn't make you that way.
- Go for simplicity, speed and fun.
- Low tech may be better, to avoid out sight, out of mind. 
- 'Those who make the worst of their time are the first to complain of its shortness.' - Jean de La Bruyere.
- The system aims to give you a greater sense of control.
- Make it a living document by looking at it for a few seconds each day.
- How do you prevent broken agreements with yourself? (i) Don't make the agreement. (ii) Complete the agreement. (iii) Renegotiate the agreement.
- Use your mind to think 'about' things rather than 'of' things.
- The secret of getting ahead is getting started, and the secret of getting started is to break down your task into smaller tasks.
- Ask: 'So, what's the next action?'
- Keep your todo list action focused, e.g. not x's birthday, but 'buy x present'
- Talk does not cook rice - Chinese proverb
- 'Don't just do something. Stand there.'

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