Getting Things Done (GTD) is a bible for the fanatically efficient.
The book is SO pervasive, you’ll probably know many of the techniques, have applied them to your life, and already evolved them to fit your own daily routine. If you listen to media like Productivityist, or Tim Ferris’ radio show, you’ll see ALOT of overlap between the GTD method, and the world’s top performers.
I don’t think this means the book is useless in 2018. On the contrary, I think it’s a testament to how great and influential this book is. You will certainly make aspects of your life more efficient by following the techniques in this book.
What’s the point?
Do you have a To Do list? How many items have been there for more than a week? Have you ever added something to your list, just so you can check it off?
Your list of “things I need to get done today / this week / this quarter / this year / this decade” should not define you. You should have control over your tasks instead of being beaten around like a cat toy with a false sense of responsibility to abstract concepts past-you arbitrarily imposed.
GTD helps you sort the chaotic list so that you not only get the IMPORTANT things done, but also relieve stress.
Who Is This For?
There’s not a single person who does everything perfectly. The book is wide-ranging enough, that I’m sure you’ll read it from your personal viewpoint. As a software developer, I not only realized ways to utilize GTD that keep my team on track, but also ways to make my code-writing process more efficient, sustainable, and fun by producing wins that matter. On the flip side, I applied many of these aspects to my daily life in profound ways. I’ve used the GTD system to help me stay organized with things as mundane as laundry, to as complex as taxes (which were a cinche this year, thanks to the guidelines of GTD).
Why everyone tells you to read it
This book is great because it outlines a rigid system. I think you should try out the system for 3-6 months, then figure out what works. Personally, I had gained bits of the system from listening to others who have read the book, so it was easy for me to adapt my routine to a more GTD-like flow. Someone who has no organization system will actually have an easy time diving in.
The key concept of GTD is to separate things into two categories: Do, or Organize.
Really. That’s it.
If you can distill tasks into a stream of simple “Do” actions, you’ll see them get done with incredible speed. Take taxes for example*: GTD distilled “file my 1040” into actionable steps like: Request a 1099 form, enter my W2, collect donations, get my wife’s social security number…
The system is very Kanban-friendly with a core tenant of statuses for tasks, which are: Backlog, doing, waiting for, done.
Along with these main categories, GTD promotes tagging tasks based on your availability to get them done. For example: Can you file your mail while watching TV? What is a task you can do while you’re half asleep in bed, but awake enough that you can’t go back to sleep?
*NOTE: I’m weird and I love doing taxes. I feel like I’m playing D&D but instead of the high fives of my nerd-friends when we defeat a demigorgon, I get a check in the mail. GTD worked great for my approach to taxes (I completed them in 8 work-hours over the course of a few months), but you might not have the same affinity for reading rule books as I do.
The solution for an organized life seems simple, but it’s really quite complicated. The book goes into specific methods that will help you separate the “Organize” and “Do” tasks like time boxing, triaging, and deferring. It’s a good book with many great ideas, but more importantly - it’s a cornerstone of many efficiency systems out there. If you read this book, you’ll be able to tell what ideas are tried and tested.
Fun Note: There is alot in the book that has not aged well, like many references to “Palm PDA” and the assumption that the reader doesn’t have a mobile device with internet connection.
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