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Getting Things Done

16 October 2012

Allison read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen and was grateful for the refresher course on how she manages time, prioritizes and generally stays on top of stuff since October technical snafus have left her a bit discombobulated.

Tags: allison read, balance, david allen, email, productivity, time management and prioritization

I had a wonderful, restorative, email-free, nine-day vacation at the end of September. I almost always feel this way about my vacations, but this one was even better than usual because I followed a lot of the advice in the article I blogged about last month, Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let It Happen to You!

I returned to work on 1 October ready to catch up on email, put some new time management and prioritization practices in place, clean up my office and generally aim for a little less chaos in the fourth quarter now that we have our new Office Manager on board to help me keep up. Heck, I even blogged on 2 October about how important it is to Put Your Oxygen Mask on First and I was determined to practice what I was preaching.

And then it happened. The best laid plans came undone. I really like my iPhone and it’s a big part of how I keep up with everything while maintaining balance in my life, but the new release threw a bit of wrench in my fourth quarter plan. We were long overdue for upgrading to Microsoft Exchange for a lot of reasons, but especially so that I no longer have to manually synch my phone and computer. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I’ve been more than just a bit discombobulated while our tech team solved all the problems and improved our systems. Losing my tools for two weeks while we figured it all out taught me just how important those tools are to my sense of order and well-being. I picked up a lot of those ideas from David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity so it seemed appropriate to blog about his book this week.

For example, Chapter 7: Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets, taught me to break my endless, uncategorized lists into some major categories. Allen suggests:

  • “Calls”
  • “At Computer”
  • “Errands”
  • “Office Actions” or “At Office” (miscellaneous)
  • “At Home”
  • “Agendas” (for people and meetings)
  • “Read Review”

I use slightly different categories, but you get the picture. During my time of technical trauma, I lost my ability to update and synchronize those lists and that’s just one of the reasons I’ve felt scattered.

Now I should back up a bit because David Allen would be the first person to say you shouldn’t start with Chapter 7. In fact, he would remind us right now that we can’t achieve the full promise of his system if we don’t embrace the overarching framework. I should confess that I struggle with his advice to adhere to procedures and systems (mine or anyone else’s). So I feel a bit fraudulent as I encourage you to explore Allen’s approach and also admit I’m not a faithful follower to all the steps. But using even just a few of his ideas has been incredibly helpful to me since I was first introduced to this book in 2001 and I have many clients who have had success with his system as well. And I can promise you this—after two weeks of technical problems and with the goal of getting out from under the piles this confusion created, I’m going to see if I can talk myself into trying more of what Allen suggests in the coming months. Next Tuesday I’ll blog about another one of my time management and prioritization tools that I’m trying to reinstitute this month. See you then.


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