Sunday, November 04, 2007

Getting Things Done

I’ve never been one for self-help books, but this one kept on popping into my life. A personal recommendation, a review in a newspaper then a rave article in Wired Magazine. Forget the ‘things to do list’ (even with prioritised codes ABC), filofax, Outlook or time management courses – buy this book.

Too much stuff
Want to regain control of your life and the mess that is too much email, voicemail messages, piles of documents, endless work tasks and piles of bills to sort out. Or those movies you want to watch, books to read and personal projects whirling around in your mind. Allen calls all of this ‘stuff’, and he has a cure.

Sorting out stuff
Stuff is just stuff until you decide to act, so don’t manage stuff, manage actions. Clear the decks, get things off your mind. Lists and memory are both hopeless so Allen offers a neat one page algorithm, and amazingly specific advice. Think about what you have to do before you do it and don’t waste time on thinking about things you’re not going to do anything about for now. Capture and refine your decision making.

Collect in buckets
To capture you’ll need collection buckets – in trays, electronic and paper (he’s no technology only geek). Have as few of these as possible and empty the buckets regularly. Everything goes into a bucket but nothing gets put back into a bucket.

Deal with stuff
Is it actionable?

If NO a) trash it b) put it in a ‘someday’ folder c) archive as reference for retrieval when required.

If YES, “Will it take less than 2 minutes?” If YES – do it. If NO, delegate or defer to a) delegate b) defer to a calendar or next actions folder. Off the side are larger multi-step ‘projects’ where you’ll need plans and separate folders.

Organise your stuff
He gets practical on the need for folders, storage for physical files, a calendar and folders for actions.

Review regularly
Review weekly from 10,000 ft, especially your action lists, and clean them up. You’ve got to close those loops.

Do it detail
What I most like about the book was the simplicity of the basic model and the wealth of practical detail on specifics. Here’s a few choice tips (there’s dozens more):

Set aside a day to set up your system

Tackle with email in order from top to bottom

Do one at a time and don’t leave any in limbo

Have a cockpit of control – space in house (not shared)

Organise your ‘office space’ in transit

Buy basic tools – trays, folders, filing, elastic bands….

Get a filing system and labels

Don’t use colour-coded folders

Handle things once

Don’t have a ‘to file’ system

Don’t use ‘fat’ files as action files

Organise your desk and drawers

Clean out your files once a year

The real guts of the system is building your own ‘categories of action’ lists. My own happens to be; errands, home, computer, calls, travel, blogs, food/heath and leisure (films, books, websites, exhibitions and live events).

In the end it’s all about habits, the habits of dealing with stuff without thinking. All I can say is it worked for me. The trick for me was the use of a paper diary for my ‘collection buckets’ and ‘action lists’. Go do it – order on Amazon NOW, or at least add it to your action list.

1 comment:

Clive Shepherd said...

Well that's one for the Xmas list then.