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How to Get Things Done

I have been remiss. I should have done this a couple of years ago. Like so many things in life, it seems that only the squeaky wheel gets any attention.  Max told me about this book called Getting Things Done by David Allen about two years ago and I immediately downloaded it on my Kindle and read it in one sitting.  At the time, I created a mental list of kids, wife, friends, and clients (as well as myself) that would benefit from the lessons taught. Finally I have gotten around to writing an article (or plagiarizing the contents of the book) to help of few of us who need a little push to get those things done.

David Allen first published “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, ten years ago. If you’re interested, you can follow him on Twitter. His handle is @gtdguy. Even though many things have changed in the last ten years (Twitter, Face Book …), you will find yourself feeling like he wrote the book just for you. It’s kind of like being in church and feeling like the preacher did the whole sermon with you in mind. Here are some of the keys to the book.

Be able to manage your commitments.  In order to keep straight everything you need to do, you need to know what you need to do. So clear your mind and write down everything, as it comes to you, on a sheet of paper and toss it in your to do basket. Then determine what you need to do to make progress and remind yourself of what you need to do. This does not mean that you need to write down a to-do list. On the contrary: It just means that you need to write down your commitments and review them every day until you finish them. Be able to manage your actions.

Remember the five steps to deal with workflow.  No matter your job title or description, these steps are always the same: Collect things that command your attention, process what they mean and what you should do about them, then organize the results, which you then review as options for what you choose to do. So be sure and collect, process, organize, review and do. It’s just five steps. It sounds easier than buying something from one of those late night infomercials.

In order to get things done, you have to know what getting things done looks like.  Remember that Allen advises every last task be written down, to be moved from your mind to paper (or computer screen). Whenever you finish a task, whenever you send an e-mail, finish a meeting, review a file, be sure and cross it off. Better yet, ask yourself, “What’s the next action or step?” Because there will almost always be a next action. Do you need to forward the e-mail? Schedule the next meeting? Pass along the file to someone else?

Get the book, read it, and apply it. There are too many of us who will wake up one day wondering why we didn’t get more done. We failed to utilize our time and talents. Procrastination and over analysis is way over rated. The race goes to those who start and finish. Get started and buy the book.

Michael Abernathy