Book Review: Getting Things Done

Back in September 2007 my post Taming Your Inbox described how I had applied some techniques for managing the wealth of emails I receive. I’d heard about the techniques second hand from someone I met on a training course who, in turn, had picked them up from David Allan’s renowned book Getting Things Done. Based on some feedback I received and a post from Pete Johnson I resolved back then to buy and read the book for myself. I have just finished it and can honestly say that it has been a revelation!

As I read it I became acutely aware that whilst I am good at some of the areas it covers (i.e. breaking down projects into individual tasks) I am appalling at others (like maintaining a good filing system). I imagine that anyone else reading this book will have a similar experience: some of the ideas will seem obvious and simple but others will leave you thinking “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this is the best way to do things?”

It would be impossible to impart the full value of this book in a short blog post. You really have to read the whole thing for yourself to understand how all the techniques fit together to improve your productivity and reduce stress. However the 3 key messages are discussed in the closing chapters and these are:

  • The Collection Habit – Ensuring that you capture in writing everything that you might want or have to do in order to free your mind up to focus on actually doing it
  • The Next Action – Honing in on what the next tangible step is that you need to take to reach a desired outcome (i.e. “Car service” becomes “Call garage to arrange service”)
  • Outcome Focussing – Visualising the outcome you are after and understanding what you mean by success so that you will know when you have achieved it

I am in the process of whole-heartedly embracing the entire Getting Things Done methodology. My desk has been re-arranged, a new filing cabinet is on order and my email inbox is empty. It is too early for me to say for certain how truly significant and long term the benefits of reading this book will be (expect a follow up post in a few months time!). What I will say, however, is that even the few techniques I have applied to date have already raised my productivity and made me feel calmer and more in control. For me it has already been well worth the cover price.

You can read more about how I got on with implementing  the techniques in this book in my post Getting Things Done: The Aftermath


2 comments so far

  1. Benjamin on

    Welcome to the world of GTD – use your your newly discovered time well. 🙂

    I think a lot of David Allan’s book comes down to being organized and systematic in all that we do… something most of us struggle with!

  2. Pete Johnson on

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the linkback! I’m so glad your experience with GTD has been as positive as mine. Almost a year after I read it, I still see a big productivity gain. Honestly, I don’t know how I ever got by without it before.


    Pete Johnson
    Hewlett-Packard Company
    Portals and Marketing Solutions IT Chief Architect
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