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Getting Things Done: The Art Of Stress-Free Productivity

by David Allen
Penguin USA, 288 pages, $11.20

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In these days of manic multi-tasking and professionals trying every trick to increase productivity, Getting Things Done clears the clutter by offering a no-nonsense guide to getting more done with less effort. David Allen not only lays out ways to become maximally efficient, but stresses how important it is to be relaxed while you work. Anyone who feels they are often swimming upstream against professional or personal obligations will benefit from the concise system that combines Eastern teachings with Western industry.

According to Allen, “Most stress that people experience comes from inappropriately managed commitments they make or accept.” Managing our actions can become a full-time job and the author makes an apt comparison between our minds and computers. The RAM (random access memory) is the part of the computer that holds incomplete and unorganized information. Our minds hold things similar to RAM and can be so bursting with this stuff that focus becomes disturbed by our own internal mental overload. Getting Things Done begins by examining Eastern beliefs that stress the benefits of keeping nothing on your mind. Though it may sound counterintuitive, emptying out our minds is the first step toward working effectively.

Allen’s formula for managing workflow involves these five stages:

  1. Collect
  2. Process
  3. Organize
  4. Review
  5. Do

His simple process is to create an “in-basket” with separate scraps of paper accounting for every action item you need to do. The three options you have are to do it, delegate it or defer it. Time-saving tips include keeping files 3/4 full because if they are too full you will unconsciously resist using them. Another trick is the Two-Minute Rule that states if there's anything you must do that you can do right now in two minutes or less, then do it now. This liberates your mind and frees up time over the long term.

Getting Things Done’s core message is that workers must resist the urge to multi-task and focus on completing tasks one at a time. The various anecdotes and examples of people doing this successfully are convincing evidence that Allen’s methods are worth trying. This book is ideal for anyone who feels they aren’t producing at maximum capacity and is ready to unleash their potential.

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