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Table of Contents
part 1 - The Art of Getting Things Done
Chapter 1 - A New Practice for a New Reality
Chapter 2 - Getting Control of Your Life: The Five Stages of Mastering Workflow
Chapter 3 - Getting Projects Creatively Under Way: The Five Phases of Project Planning
part 2 - Practicing Stress-Free Productivity
Chapter 4 - Getting Started: Setting Up the Time, Space, and Tools
Chapter 5 - Collection: Corralling Your “Stuff”
Chapter 6 - Processing: Getting “In” to Empty
Chapter 7 - Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets
Chapter 8 - Reviewing: Keeping Your System Functional
Chapter 9 - Doing: Making the Best Action Choices
Chapter 10 - Getting Projects Under Control
part 3 - The Power of the Key Principles
Chapter 11 - The Power of the Collection Habit
Chapter 12 - The Power of the Next-Action Decision
Chapter 13 - The Power of Outcome Focusing
Praise for Getting Things Done
“The Season’s Best Reads for Work-Life Advice . . . my favorite on organizing your life: Getting Things Done . . . offers help building the new mental skills needed in an age of multitasking and overload.”
—Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal
“I recently attended David’s seminar on getting organized, and after seeing him in action I have hope . . . David Allen’s seminar was an eye-opener.”
—Stewart Alsop, Fortune
“Allen drops down from high-level philosophizing to the fine details of time management. Take a minute to check this one out.”
—Mark Henricks, Entrepreneur
“David Allen’s productivity principles are rooted in big ideas . . . but they’re also eminently practical.”
—Keith H. Hammonds, Fast Company
“David Allen brings new clarity to the power of purpose, the essential nature of relaxation, and deceptively simple guidelines for getting things done. He employs extensive experience, personal stories, and his own recipe for simplicity, speed, and fun.”
—Frances Hesselbein, chairman, board of governors,
The Drucker Foundation
“Anyone who reads this book can apply this knowledge and these skills in their lives for immediate results.”
—Stephen P. Magee, chaired professor of business and
economics, University of Texas at Austin
“A true skeptic of most management fixes, I have to say David’s program is a winner!”
—Joline Godfrey, CEO, Independent Means, Inc. and
author of Our Wildest Dreams
“Getting Things Done describes an incredibly practical process that can help busy people regain control of their lives. It can help you be more successful. Even more important, it can help you have a happier life!”
—Marshall Goldsmith, coeditor, The Leader of the Future
and Coaching for Leadership
“WARNING: Reading Getting Things Done can be hazardous to your old habits of procrastination. David Allen’s approach is refreshingly simple and intuitive. He provides the systems, tools, and tips to achieve profound results.”
—Carola Endicott, director, Quality Resources, New
England Medical Center
GETTING THINGS DONE
David Allen has been called one of the world’s most influential thinkers on productivity and has been a keynote speaker and facilitator for such organizations as New York Life, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, L.L. Bean, and the U.S. Navy, and he conducts workshops for individuals and organizations across the country. He is the president of The David Allen Company and has more than twenty years experience as a management consultant and executive coach. His work has been featured in Fast Company, Fortune, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Getting Things Done has been published in twelve foreign countries. David Allen lives in Ojai, California.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road,
Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books India (P) Ltd, 11 Community Centre,
Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads,
Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. 2001
Published in Penguin Books 2003
All rights reserved
eISBN : 978-1-101-12849-7
1. Time management. 2. Self-management (Psychology). I. Title.
BF637.T5 A45 2001
For Kathryn, my extraordinary partner in life and work
Many mentors, partners, colleagues, staff, and friends have contributed over the years to my understanding and development of the principles in Getting Things Done. George Mayer, Michael Bookbinder, Ted Drake, Dean Acheson, and Russell Bishop played key roles along my path of personal and professional growth. Ron Medved, Sally McGhee, Leslie Boyer, Tom Boyer, Pam Tarrantine, and Kelly Forrister contributed in their own ways to my work as it matured.
In addition, tens of thousands of clients and workshop participants have helped validate and fine-tune these models. Particular thanks go to the senior human resource strategists who early on recognized the significance of this material in changing their corporate cultures, and who gave me the opportunity to do that—in particular: Michael Winston, Ben Cannon, Susan Valaskovic, Patricia Carlyle, Manny Berger, Carola Endicott, Klara Sztucinski, and Elliott Kellman. The administrative and moral support that Shar Kanan and Andra Carasso gave me over many years was priceless.
This book itself could not have happened the way it has without the unique energies and perspectives of Tom Hagan, John and Laura McBride, Steve Lewers, Doe Coover, Greg Stikeleather, Steve Shull, and Marian Bateman. And much credit is due my editor, Janet Goldstein, who has been a marvelous (and patient) instructor in the art and craft of book writing.
Finally, deepest thanks go to my spiritual coach, J-R, for being such an awesome guide and consistent reminder of my real priorities; and to my incredible wife, Kathryn, for her trust, love, hard work, and the beauty she has brought into my life.
Welcome to Getting Things Done
WELCOME TO A gold mine of insights into strategies for how to have more energy, be more relaxed, and get a lot more accomplished with much less effort. If you’re like me, you like getting things done and doing them well, and yet you also want to savor life in ways that seem increasingly elusive if not downright impossible if you’re working too hard. This doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition. It is possible to be effectively doing while you are delightfully being, in your ordinary workaday world.
I think efficiency is a good thing. Maybe what you’re doing is important, interesting, or useful; or maybe it isn’t but it has to be done anyway. In the first case you want to get as much return as you can on your investment of time and energy. In the second, you want to get on to other things as fast as you can, without any nagging loose ends.
And whatever you’re doing, you’d probably like to be more relaxed, confident that whatever you’re doing at the moment is just what you need to be doing—that having a beer with your staff after hours, gazing at your sleeping child in his or her crib at midnight, answering the e-mail in front of you, or spending a few informal minutes with the potential new client after the meeting is exactly what you ought to be doing, as you’re doing it.
The art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probably one of the secrets of our great men.
—Captain J. A. Hatfield
Teaching you how to be maximally efficient and relaxed, whenever you need or want to be, was my main purpose in writing this book.
I have searched for a long time, as you may have, for answers to the questions of what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. And after twenty-plus years of developing and applying new methods for personal and organizational productivity, alongside years of rigorous exploration in the self-development arena, I can attest that there is no single, once-and-for-all solution. No software, seminar, cool personal planner, or personal mission statement will simplify your workday or make your choices for you as you move through your day, week, and life. What’s more, just when you learn how to enhance your productivity and decision-making at one level, you’ll graduate to the next accepted batch of responsibilities and creative goals, whose new challenges will defy the ability of any simple formula or buzzword-du-jour to get you what you want, the way you want to get it.
But if there’s no single means of perfecting personal organization and productivity, there are things we can do to facilitate them. As I have personally matured, from year to year, I’ve found deeper and more meaningful, more significant things to focus on and be aware of and do. And I’ve uncovered simple processes that we can all learn to use that will vastly improve our ability to deal proactively and constructively with the mundane realities of the world.
What follows is a compilation of more than two decades’ worth of discoveries about personal productivity, a guide to maximizing output and minimizing input, and to doing so in a world in which work is increasingly voluminous and ambiguous. I have spent many thousands of hours coaching people “in the trenches” at their desks, helping them process and organize all of their work at hand. The methods I have uncovered have proved to be highly effective in all types of organizations, at every job level, across cultures, and even at home and school. After twenty years of coaching and training some of the world’s most sophisticated and productive professionals, I know the world is hungry for these methods.
Executives at the top are looking to instill “ruthless execution” in themselves and their people as a basic standard. They know, and I know, that behind closed doors, after hours, there remain unanswered calls, tasks to be delegated, unprocessed issues from meetings and conversations, personal responsibilities unmanaged, and dozens of e-mails still not dealt with. Many of these businesspeople are successful because the crises they solve and the opportunities they take advantage of are bigger than the problems they allow and create in their own offices and briefcases. But given the pace of business and life today, the equation is in question.
On the one hand, we need proven tools that can help people focus their energies strategically and tactically without letting anything fall through the cracks. On the other, we need to create work environments and skills that will keep the most invested people from burning out due to stress. We need positive work-style standards that will attract and retain the best and brightest.
We know this information is sorely needed in organizations. It’s also needed in schools, where our kids are still not being taught how to process information, how to focus on outcomes, or what actions to take to make them happen. And for all of us individually, it’s needed so we can take advantage of all the opportunities we’re given to add value to our world in a sustainable, self-nurturing way.
The power, simplicity, and effectiveness of what I’m talking about in Getting Things Done are best experienced as experiences, in real time, with real situations in your real world. Necessarily, the book must put the essence of this dynamic art of workflow management and personal productivity into a linear format. I’ve tried to organize it in such a way as to give you both the inspiring big-picture view and a taste of immediate results as you go along.
The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 describes the whole game, providing a brief overview of the system and an explanation of why it’s unique and timely, and then presenting the basic methodologies themselves in their most condensed and basic form. Part 2 shows you how to implement the system. It’s your personal coaching, step by step, on the nitty-gritty application of the models. Part 3 goes even deeper, describing the subtler and more profound results you can expect when you incorporate the methodologies and models into your work and your life.
I want you to hop in. I want you to test this stuff out, even challenge it. I want you to find out for yourself that what I promise is not only possible but instantly accessible to you personally. And I want you to know that everything I propose is easy to do. It involves no new skills at all. You already know how to focus, how to write things down, how to decide on outcomes and actions, and how to review options and make choices. You’ll validate that many of the things you’ve been doing instinctively and intuitively all along are right. I’ll give you ways to leverage those basic skills into new plateaus of effectiveness. I want to inspire you to put all this into a new behavior set that will blow your mind.
Throughout the book I refer to my coaching and seminars on this material. I’ve worked as a “management consultant” for the last two decades, alone and in small partnerships. My work has consisted primarily of doing private productivity coaching and conducting seminars based on the methods presented here. I (and my colleagues) have coached more than a thousand individuals, trained hundreds of thousands of professionals, and delivered many hundreds of public seminars. This is the background from which I have drawn my experience and examples.
The promise here was well described by a client of mine who wrote, “When I habitually applied the tenets of this program it saved my life . . . when I faithfully applied them, it changed my life. This is a vaccination against day-to-day fire-fighting (the so-called urgent and crisis demands of any given workday) and an antidote for the imbalance many people bring upon themselves.”
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