Getting things done
Atlantic published an article about the tools and techniques promoted by David Allen the author of the book Getting things done, which I read a few months back. I liked the book and gave it a quick review here. However for a better introduction its a good idea to read the article. I have repeated a small snipit of it here to get you started.
The doctrine that inspires this devotion starts with the idea that the difference between done and undone tasks is more stress-inducing than most people recognize. In earlier times, Allen says, work was more physically exhausting than it is today. But it produced less anxiety; because people could easily tell what they had to do and whether it had been completed. Either the wood was chopped or it was not. The typical modern day, he says, is a fog of constantly accumulating open-ended obligations, with little barrier between the personal and the professional and few dear signals that you are actually “done.” E-mail pours in. Hallway conversations end with ‘I’ll get back to you.” The cell phone rings. The newspaper tells you about movies you’d like to see, recipes you’d like to try, places you’d like to go. There are countless things that everyone really “should” do more of–exercise, read, spend time with the family, have lunch with a contact, be “better” at work. The modern condition is to be overwhelmed–and, according to Allen, to feel not just tired but chronically anxious, because so many things you have at some level committed to do never get done.
The anxiety is compounded, he says, by a foible of the human mind: it can’t remember, and it can’t forget. No one can possibly remember all the promises, deadlines, and other “shoulds” of personal and occupational life. The proof is the need for datebooks. No sane person tries to keep all future meetings in his or her head. But, perversely, the brain also can’t forget; at some deep and not very efficient level it is always stewing about the things you should have done but haven’t, and it tends to remind you of them at the worst time–typically, 3:00 A.M. A vague but powerful awareness of all these uncompleted promises, or “open loops,” is what Allen sees as the basic source of work-related stress, Again, datebooks illustrate the point. People complain about their schedules, but they rarely wake up at night worrying that they won’t remember to go to the airport on the right day. That is because they trust their datebooks and trust themselves to look at their datebooks regularly.
If you are serious about personal productivity though then you could do worse than invest some time reviewing the discussion forum that David Allen’s company hosts. There is a very active debate in this forum and its quality stuff.