Friday, March 14, 2008

Read "Getting Things Done": done.

I've finally read Getting Things Done, the famous book by David Allen. It took me six months to finish it, which is a pretty long time to read a 267-page book. There are several reasons for that:
  • The book is too long. Let's admit it: it is sometimes a bit repetitive and I'm pretty sure it could have half as many pages and still contain all the necessary points and ideas needed to understand the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. I know another writer who tends to write long books: Ray Kurzweil. I guess he and Allen, among others, are so excited about their ideas, in a way, that they feel the need to repeat them over and over.

  • I had been implementing GTD for a long time without even knowing it. At least partially. I've been making to-do lists for a very long time. I still have handwritten lists of project ideas dating back from the time when I was programming on Atari computers (i.e. when I was 12-15 years old). The result is that a lot of Allen's ideas sounded quite familiar to me ("I like lists. Don't try to convince me that lists are good."). Somehow, the fact that these concepts weren't completely new to me didn't encourage me to read Allen's book more quickly.

  • You don't have to wait until you reach the last page to actually implement GTD. You can change the way you already organize your work as you progress into the book. That's what I did.

  • There are a lot of GTD resources on the Web. I've watched videos and subscribed to blogs about GTD. A lot of these resources sum up quite effectively what GTD is about. Again, it didn't encourage me to finish the book.

  • Allen's book is starting to get old. It's from 2001, after all. Most of his examples are related to paper- or Outlook-based organizational systems. Since I hate both paper and Outlook, again, it was a turn off. Isn't it time for a new edition of Getting Things Done? Or are the Web resources I was talking about sufficient?
I will definitely post further articles about the way I'm implementing GTD. I've already dedicated almost two whole days to completely rewrite my personal to-do list, a few weeks ago. My professional to-do list is now also "GTD-compliant". Okay, here's a spoiler: I use Google Calendar for my calendars/reminders and Google Docs for all my other lists/reference documents. It's simple, but effective. Nothing original, I guess. At least, I no longer use e-mail for my to-do lists, and I've learnt the importance of clearly separating my input baskets, my "as soon as possible" actions, and my "someday/maybe" actions. You don't need complex tools to implement that. Only discipline.


Alessandro Vernet said...

I entirely agree about the book being too long! Now that you had the time to digest and implement a lot of the ideas in the book, I suggest you get the audio book and listen to it again. Yes, one more time. Even if the books is very repetitive, when listening to the audio tape I caught many things that I originaly missed when reading the book.


Olivier Bruchez said...

> I caught many things that I originaly missed

Any example?