вторник, 14 июня 2016 г.

Take-aways from the Getting Things Done book by David Allen

Over the recent years I heard about the Getting Things Done methodology here and there, but only recently I finally read the book by David Allen and got closely acquainted with its idea. It turned out that I already employed some of the techniques that make up this famous self-organization system, but in most cases never acknowledged that there are bits of GTD among my tools. More importantly, the book taught me some new tricks and the proper way to combine and use the tools.

The most well-known bits of GTD are inbox and action lists. The inbox is used to record every bit of information that arrives to you for subsequent sorting. The action lists - to keep track of the actions that you need to take on duty, at home, when there is time to make a call, etc. I was already confidently using these by the time of reading the book, so this part didn't surprise me. The concept of projects, however, was more of a new thing to me. In Allen's terminology a project is anything that you're going to do and that will take more than one step to accomplish. This a bit unusual understanding of the term is combined with the idea that one must maintain a full list of their projects and review it regularly to decide on next actions. This implies that every week you take time and go through the entire list and for each project decide what you will do next to get the thing moving forward - and add these actions to your lists. This (quite obvious, to be honest) way to handle projects is my most valuable take-away from the GTD book, because when I am serious about weekly reviews it results in advancing a lot of things that I would normally forget about. Instead of making me drown in a chaos of numerous small projects, which I originally expected, this approach actually helps me follow all the projects that I deem important and makes sure that each of them is gradually moved to completion.

Another idea that resonated with me greatly was that one should have a reference info storage and have it in perfect order. And the order here is not just a matter of beauty, but a quality that allows one to put something in easily or to get whatever they need at a particular moment quickly. One manifestation of this idea is that reference information gets separated clearly from the next actions information. For me this played a huge role, because I'm the kind of a person who's obsessed with historical data, archives of all sorts and being able to remember what I was doing on a particular day three months ago. While this might be important in some cases, to achieve results one should see the current context and aim for future, using the past only as a reference. This transformed some of my routines a lot and helped to progress more efficiently both at my work and with other parts of my life.

Another goal that one sets when implementing GTD is to build a reliable system of reminders and ensure that one remembers the right things at the right time. That's the famous wait list as well as the usage of the calendar and even the checklists (which I embraced as a great tool before diving into GTD). It turns out, however, that there is only one way to achieve this goal - that is to organize all the information on next actions and events properly and review it regularly. Regular routines seem to be the second pillar of GTD - together with ordering your life. These are applied virtually to everything - from the mission and principles to the projects and next actions lists - and I can confidently say that regular reviews of my current standing are so critical to efficiency, that I could get little use from the GTD system without this bit. On the other hand, having finally developed a habit of doing these reviews, I now see way more control over different parts of my life and a significant increase in ability to control progress towards multiple unrelated goals.

There are many other useful ideas, but David Allen certainly explains them better than I, so if you're interested you should read it. I was quite impressed - in particular, because it was easy to apply some of the suggested approaches and to see how these yield more control over my life. Another thing that makes the book a great read is that it is very practical and goes to the level of an engineering textbook into the details of organizing yourself. At the same time it doesn't offer a magic pill being pretty honest about the amount of time and effort that one has to invest into personal management to implement the suggested approaches. If you're OK with that and are interested in pursuing efficiency, I do recommend to read the book and to make that investment because it will pay off quite quickly. Have a nice reading!