If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that productivity books are either a hit or a total miss for me. So, when I found a copy of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, I was hesitant but curious to read it. As I was reading it, I had some mixed feelings about it so I thought I’d share the tips and tricks I learnt from it and my thoughts!
About the book
Getting Things Done is fundamentally a productivity and time management book. It offers lots of advice on how to deal with the overload of tasks, activities and projects we have in the 21st century. It was written in 2001, so much of it is outdated by now, but the principles are transferable. I found the first and last quarters of the book the most helpful but skimmed through the middle of the book. A lot of the content in the middle was just entirely out of date and repetitive, which made it tedious to read and entirely skippable.
That being said, I did learn a lot from this book.
The Getting Things Done System
The system introduced in the book is all about being efficient and capturing all the “open loops” we have to deal with. The book talks about having an “in” box or pile, creating a list of “next actions” to get you moving on your projects instead of thinking vaguely about them and using the “two-minute rule”. These principles were the most useful for me! They’re easy to incorporate into my bullet journal and, in fact, this whole in pile, capturing everything in one place system sounds really familiar…it reminds me SO much of the original bullet journal system. Let me explain them in a bit more detail!
Capturing your “open loops” and creating “next actions”
This is what reminds me the most of bullet journaling. It’s about having one place where you store everything that you’ve got going on. Your appointments and meetings, your projects of all kinds – basically, all of the things that you need to plan and organise in one place. Once you’ve got everything down, you generate a list of “next actions” for each project. For example, if you’ve got “declutter” as a project, your next action would be “declutter bathroom cupboard” as the next physical task you have to do. It’s an amazing trick to stop you from procrastinating and stalling. Captuing all the open, vague things you think about in one place (like my bullet journal) really helps my anxiety so if you’re not doing that in some form, I would highly recommend it. It’s a way of clearing up your mental clutter so you can think clearly.
The Two Minute Rule
The two-minute rule is one of those popular productivity tricks that you’ve seen around. What it means is that, if you can do something in two minutes or less you should do it immediately and get it out of the way. This is a really great motivator for things like sending off an email or making a quick phone call. If it will take longer than two minutes – you schedule it immediately.
This part of the system was a bit too analogue for me. Basically, it’s a system of dated files that you check every day to remind you of things you want to do. It’s kind of like a waiting room for papers and stuff you’ll need at some point in the future. I think you could easily digitize this by setting reminders appropriately on your phone or calendar or download an app that works as a tickler file for you. With so many of our documents and events happening online, it’s difficult to keep track of a physical paper filing system. In fact, Facebook does part of this for you by reminding you of events you’re interested in within a reasonable time frame.
Overall Thoughts and Recommendations
If I were to write an updated version of Getting Things Done, it would use Google Drive and a bullet journal. It’s definitely an analogue system that was written before the Cloud became a thing. If you’re someone who wants to get organised from scratch (like, your life is in a total state of disarray), then this is a good place to start. The detailed system will help you build a solid foundation for having your life in order. If you’re an already organised person, then this book is worth a quick skim for the highlights.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you’d like to purchase Getting Things Done, you can find it on *The Book Depository or at Exclusive Books. If you’d like to stay up to date with my latest posts and reads, make sure you’re subscribed to my blog via email (check the sidebar!) or following me on Instagram!
Disclaimer – links marked with a * are affiliate links. If you purchase any products through them, I will receive a small commission. This commission helps support my blog and allows me to continue making good content. Wherever product links are included, special care is taken to find the most affordable prices within South Africa. Book Depository links are included occasionally for the benefit of international readers