My Projects

February 19, 2009 119 comments so far

Introducing "Getting Things Done (GTD)"

I normally really hate books about how to improve your personal time management, because most of the time after reading just a few pages you ask yourself: what has this guy been smoking? Not so David Allen's "Getting Things Done". It's really a good book and describes some interesting concepts for effective task management.

I read David's book a few years ago after it was recommended to me by a friend and I was really impressed. This book introduces a few very good ideas and a whole new approach to task management (although not this new - the book is now out for some time - but it was new to me back then ;-).

As you might have expected, a short blog post cannot cover all aspects of this book, so I will not even try it. Instead, I will pick out a few concepts that I personally think are the best ones that can even be used if you are not adopting the whole methodology (GTD experts beware, I will greatly oversimplify things here):

  • Stop putting tasks in your calendar. If you do so you will end up moving at least half of them to the next day every single day. I can confirm this from my personal experience and I stopped doing it. I now use next action lists instead
  • Concentrate on the next actionable task. There are always things that can be done in parallel, but by explicitly deciding to do one task after the other I learned to reduce my stress level and by the same time getting more tasks done
  • Write everything down that comes to your mind. How often did it occur to you that you thought about something (maybe a really good idea) and you didn't write it down at once? And a few hours later you couldn't remember it! Simply do it, it not just reduces the risk of loosing a great idea, but also keeps your mind free for creative thinking
  • Keep a "Waiting for" list. We are used to writing down our own tasks, but what about tasks we have delegated to someone else and that are too small to put them into a project plan? A "Waiting for" list is a simple list of tasks that you are waiting for to get completed by someone else, thus tracking your delegated tasks
  • Go through your tasks and responsibilities once every week. Reviewing your projects, responsibilities, priorities and open tasks once per week creates clarity and makes you feel better. If you do not do it already you will see that it really helps to feel more "in charge" (I know it is very hard to reserve this free hour, but believe me, it is worth it)

Now, what do you think - can some of David's concepts also be successfully combined with classic project planning and controlling? I think so, but let's talk about this another time... :-)