Getting Things Done

The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

By David Allen



Originally published

Jan 8, 2001




Apr 22, 2020


May 14, 2020

PurchaseExternal link
GTD was recommended reading as a Palantir new hire. Many within the company structure their days around the GTD mentality.
"It is possible to be effectively doing while you are delightfully being, in your ordinary workday world." (xi)
"move from hope to trust in your actions" (48)
"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" (xiv)
Effectively, it all comes down to queuing
"It's possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control. That's a great way to live and work, at elevated levels of effectiveness and efficiency" (3)
This is the key paradox: how can we decouple the organization of everything we have to do with the task at hand? In framing the question this way, it makes sense that Allen proposes a very much software-like protocol for doing this
There is more decoupling to do: split up brainstorming and vetting; split up collecting and organizing
"The problem with digitizing brainstorming is that for the most part we don't need to save what we brainstorm in the way we brainstormed it" (221) let these process take the form that fits them best, one at a time
"Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior." (66) It's hard to do great, productive work if we are pigeonholing our idea generation.
This relates to TCP routing protocols à la CIS 553
A longer queue does not have to be more stress if it is well documented and scheduled fairly
Make queues actionable and organized by context such that we can always consume and work without worrying about other things in the queue
Knowledge work: "In the old days, work was self-evident. Fields were to be plowed, machines tooled, boxes packed, cows milked, widgets cranked. You knew what work had to be done—you could see it...Now, for many of us, there are no edges to most of our projects." (5)
We deal with continual growth and change. We build agility and flexibility into our organizational structures though this can make it harder for the individual to stay on top of what they need to do
This balancing act is a "game" which "must be played day to day" (9)
"But a tense muscle is a slow one. So the high levels of training in the martial arts teach and demand balance and relaxation as much as anything else. Clearing the mind and being flexible are key. Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does." (11)
Protocol must be a balance between introducing too much overhead and enabling us to focus
Ties into the classic saying "mind like water" (12)
"A complete and current 'Projects' list is the major operational tool for moving from tree-hugging to forest management" (155)
"Anything that does not belong where it is, the way it is, is an 'open loop' pulling on your attention" regardless of if you are working on it or not. (12) "Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you'll come back to regularly and sort through." (13)
"describe, in a single written sentence, your intended successful outcome for this problem or situation" (14)
"write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward." (14)
A project is just a list of next actions
If a project is not done, after every work session or meeting relating to the project, clarify the next action before doing anything else (78)
Reminders when needed (54)

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