There’s an old Louisiana saying, ‘When you’re up to your ass in alligators is when you remember you were supposed to drain the swamp.’ 2002 was my year of the alligator and luckily Tony Ching of the San Francisco Palm Users Group recommended this book to me. What struck me by his recommendation was not the level of excitement he had about the book (like my excitement over The E-Myth Revisited), but rather the Zen like calm he had when discussing it.
David Allen is president of David Allen & Co. and has more than twenty years’ experience as a management consultant, executive coach, and educator. He has been a keynote speaker and productivity facilitator for organizations such as Oracle, L. L. Bean, Microsoft, Lockheed, and the World Bank.His work has been featured in Fast Company, Fortune, and many other publications. With a background like that I was really expecting a dry and very business like book. However, in the first chapter he referrs to “flow,” and to reach a state where your mental state is a “mind like water,” I knew that this was going to be a different kind of book. That is not to say that just because you throw in a few Eastern philosophies you have a good book. Obviously, you have to have real-world solutions and not just another collection of buzz words and this book delivers. The premise of the book is that you have to have a system that works irregardless of what technology you use. In other words, a new piece of software, or a new type of binder isn’t going to do it. You need a fool-proof system that can adapt as you need to.
At this point, I should probably point out that for many years, I was a HUGE fan of the
FranklinCovey system of planning. I was a point in my life where I had a lot of new responsibility and I needed a system to help me manage it. The Franklin planner, as it was called back then, was the solution for me. As I progressed through various careers, I always brought the Franklin method with me and then proceeded to convert everyone around me :P. At some point, however, I can to realize that the system didn’t work for me. Although I used the system, I never did complete to “Values and Goals” section, or the “Roles and Goals” portion of the planner. And after I got my PalmPilot 5000 the system didn’t translate into an electronic format very well at all. Why am I telling you all this, well because on page 7 he basically dismisses the Franklin Method (among others) in a section entitled “The Old Models and Habits Are Insufficient”
“Neither our standard education, nor traditional time-management models, nor the plethora of organizing tools available, such as personal notebook planners, Microsoft Outlook, or Palm personal digital assistants (PDAs), has given us a viable means of meeting the new demands placed on us. If you’ve tried to use any off these processes or tools, you’ve probably found them unable to accommodate the speed, complexity, and changing priority factors inherent in what you are doing. The ability to be successful, relaxed, and in control during these fertile but turbulent times demands new ways of thinking and working. There is a great need for new methods, technologies, and work habits to help us get on top of our world.”
Amen my brother! But I think what I was most taken with in this book was the fact that Mr. Allen has 20 years of real world experience backing him up. Many books that I’ve read on this subject talk about philosophies or what not, but really don’t show how their ideas take shape in your daily life. For example, I find that e-mail is sometimes an overwhelming responsibility. Most books never address it, or if they do it’s under the assumption that you’re only receiving a few a day. I wade through approximately 150 e-mails a day, so you can imagine my joy when David Allen discussed a method for managing e-mail and backed it up with an example of a client from Lotus who daily received over 300 e-mails a day. This guy knows what he’s talking about.
Lastly, this book has a big following. David Allen uses a Palm OS device and he’s provided many useful resources on his web site. He offers a free newsletter as well as Tips and Tricks, including “E-mail – how to organize it” in PDF Format. In addition, there are several yahoo groups on the subject: – GTdone – GTDNews – GTD_PPC – for PocketPC Users – GtD_Palm – for Palm OS Users So, is it working? Well, I’d have to say “yes.” I’m not a Zen master yet, but my productivity has increased a great deal and yet my stress level is lower than ever. 🙂