February 12, 2021

Getting Things Done by David Allen - Book Notes, Summary, Review

Reading Time: 15 mins

Getting Things Done is widely considered a staple of the productivity world and is the go-to book recommended if you’re looking to become a more productive person. It’s the go-to book that many consider being the start of the “productivity revolution”.

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Who Should Read This Book?

I would recommend this book to anyone that is overwhelmed by the tasks they have to do and manage in their lives.

This book offers a great framework to capture, clarify, and organize all of the open loops in your life so you can keep your mind clear to do your work.

How This Book Changed Me

This was the first book I read in my “productivity journey” and it really did a lot for me at the time. It was honestly the first time I thought about using a task management system. I’ve come a long way since then!

My main take-aways were the 2-minute rule, creating a list of agendas for each person in my life, keeping an inbox to capture things, and doing a weekly review.

As this was my second time reading the book, it acted more like a top-up or refresher course that encouraged me to look at my systems and tidy them up.

Reading this book a second time allowed me to understand projects in a better light. I have modified my Todoist set up to reflect my new understanding and it’s working really well for me.

I’ve also taken back up the practice of the 2-minute rule – anything that takes less than 2 minutes is something you should just do right now. This is some great advice!

I’ve simplified my inbox system and am finding idea capture so much easier as a result. The reduced friction allows me to capture an idea quickly then get back to what I’m working on. This means I have captured a great idea to process later while not being totally distracted.

My Top 3 Quotes That Resonated With Me

“In karate, there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.”

“The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas”. Linus Pauling p106

“I suggest that you use your mind to think about things, rather than think of them.” p288

Book Notes

Part 1 – The Art Of Getting Things Done

1 A New Practice For A New Reality

2 Getting Control Of Your Life

  1. Capture – what has your attention
  2. Clarify – what each item involves
  3. Organize – the things or tasks
  4. Reflect – on which ones we should action and which we should discard
  5. Engage – do the tasks

3 Getting Projects Creatively Under Way

Part 2 – Practicing Stress-Free Productivity

5 Capturing

6 Clarifying

7 Organizing

8 Reflecting

9 Engaging (Doing)

The Four-Criteria model for choosing actions in the moment:

  1. Context
    • what are the tools available to you, where are you located? at home? in the office?
    • These contexts will determine what you can work on and what tasks you can complete at any given time.
    • It’s useful to tag or label tasks with contexts so you can easily sort and find things you can do right now.
  2. Time Available
    • This refers to the time you have until your next task or meeting or event.
    • If you only have 5 minutes until a meeting for instance, you’re not going to want to work on particularly in-depth or challenging.
    • You may opt instead for checking your email briefly or making a cup of tea.
  3. Energy Available
    • Our energy levels tend to fluctuate throughout the day
    • By learning when your Biological Prime Time (BPT) is, you’ll know when you’re at your most effective and when you’re at your least.
    • Knowing where your current energy level is at can help you to determine what tasks to take on.
  4. Priority
    • The priority of a task can often determine when you should do it or work on it.
    • The priority is determined by a number of factors including work or personal so this will be different for all tasks and people

The Threefold Model for evaluating daily work

  1. Doing predefined work
  2. Doing work as it shows up
  3. Defining your work

The Six-Level model for reviewing your own work

Horizon 5: Life

Horizon 4: Long-term visions

Horizon 3: One to two year goals

Horizon 2: Areas of focus and accountability

Horizon 1: Current projects

Ground: Current actions

10 Getting Projects Under Control

Part 3 – The Power Of The Key Principles

11 The Power Of Capturing The Habit

“I suggest that you use your mind to think about things, rather than think of them.” p288

14 GTD and Cognitive Science

15 The Path of GTD Mastery

“The idea of “mind like water” doesn’t assume that water is always undisturbed. On the contrary, water engages appropriately with disturbance, instead of fighting against it.” p327