David Allen on Getting Things Done

David Allen provides a method for stress free productivity.

A dear friend wrote recently about having some struggles about completing the tasks he has assigned himself.

I can relate.

At times, balancing commitments to family, work, friends and outside projects feels overwhelming, especially during a season of parental illnesses and death and the fallout from Dunreith’s recent car accident.

Fortunately, there is help from productivity guru David Allen.

Published in 2001, his Getting Things Done to me seemed a bit too oriented to the paper world, and it did have a few nuggets that I appreciated.

He talked about evaluating what to do based on four criteria: context, time, energy, and priority.  He included a flow chart to decide quickly whether to tackle an item right away or to defer it until later.

He also endorsed having physical Inboxes into which one can place material, and described he and his wife sitting next to each other, working away and depositing sheets of paper in each other’s inboxes.  Far from being distant from each other, he said, this arrangement actually made them feel closer since they were both able to continue uninterrupted on their own projects.

In terms of my friend’s distress, though, the single point I took from the book was the disappointment we feel with ourselves when we do not keep the promises we have consciously or unconsciously made to ourselves.

Allen’s point on this is that there is always too much to do and more to do than could be done. So our challenge is both to figure out what we can do, to use his method to complete as many of the tasks we set ourselves as possible, and to either get to what we have said we value or recalibrate our plans for now and later.

Easier said than done?  Sure.

I’m not convinced that Allen’s is the best way to go, but I did like his articulation of a feeling I have had with some level of frequency during my adult life.  While for now I’ve mostly been sitting with the emotion, it won’t be long before I move forward.

For that understanding, more than his method, I am grateful to Allen.


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