Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading Getting Things Done, a productivity and time management classic.
Though many may have already read this popular book, I thought I’d share the three biggest keys that I’ve taken away from the book for anyone who has not read the book yet, or wants to read the highlights.
Complete any task under 2 minutes immediately
This simple concept was powerful. If something on your to-do list in any area of your life takes less than two minutes to complete, do it right away.
I have started to use this line of thinking in my own life and business and found that it helps me knock out a bunch of things that may otherwise get pushed aside and overwhelm my mental capacity. (This tip also supports the idea of always having fresh ice.)
In fact, if you can come up with five things that take less than two minutes on your to-do list, you can knock out a substantial portion of “open loops” in under 10 minutes.
Mr. Allen also says that anything that takes more than 2 minutes should be delegated (given to someone else to complete), deleted (taken off your to-do list if it’s not that important), or deferred (put on a task list to do later).
Batch tasks by type
I’ll be honest, Mr. Allen’s suggestion to have to-do lists for every type of action you have (calls, projects, errands, research, computer time, etc.) seemed a bit overwhelming and unnecessary for my life and business.
However, I recently started batching my to-dos on my central task list by putting the action associated with the item at the beginning of the to-do – as you can see below.
Being able to see the actual action I will need to preform before the actual task helps me batch all my emails at once across multiple projects. By putting emails together for instance, I can hop between four different projects without having to switch my mindset each time.
Had I simply listed everything without the batched actions, this list would feel much more overwhelming.
Get everything down on paper
Last but not least, Mr. Allen is a huge proponent of putting everything that needs to get done down on paper. Here Mr. Allen summarizes the process:
“First of all, if it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you’ll come back to regularly and sort through.
Second, you must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do, if anything, to make progress toward fulfilling it.
Third, once you’ve decided on all the actions you need to take, you must keep reminders of them organized in a system you review regularly.” – David Allen
By tracking any things that need to be done on paper, we free up our minds to focus on the task at hand without worrying about whether we are forgetting something.
I wasn’t too impressed with this idea of being so strict to put things on the list, but I have to say – after trying it for the past week or two I have found that putting the big and little things that need to get done on paper has helped me feel less overwhelmed and does give me peace of mind that I’m not forgetting to do something.
With that said, I still have a ways to go. I now find myself thinking, “Oh, I should put that on the list,” even when I’m not near my phone. Thus, I’m left wondering what I still need to put on the list. My hope is that by getting better about tracking things the moment I think of them, I won’t have this extra layer of processing to do in the future.
Overall, I think the book is a great read (although it now feels a bit dated, given the technology changes since it was written in 2002).
For those who struggle with productivity, I believe this book could certainly help, but the process is rather time intensive and would need to be implemented well in order to truly pay off. Perhaps these three biggest takeaways I’ve listed here can help you get started, along with the third habit of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Those who love organization and taking things to the next level may thrive on the step-by step process and thorough instructions. This book is definitely a must read for people who enjoy list making and want to improve their project planning abilities.
Getting Things Done
Did you like this review? Would you like to see more book takeaways and recommendations like this in the future?