Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

By Jack Ellis,2014-11-04 18:43
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Veteran coach and management consultant Allen shares the breakthrough methods for stress-free performance that he has introduced to thousands. He explains how to assess goals, relax, and stay focused. Published by Diane Pub Co on 2001/01/01

    Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication Acknowledgements

    ? part 1 - The Art of Getting Things Done Chapter 1 - A New Practice for a New Reality Chapter 2 - Getting Control of Your Life: The Five Stages of Mastering Workflow Chapter 3 - Getting Projects Creatively Under Way: The Five Phases of Project Planning

    ? part 2 - Practicing Stress-Free Productivity Chapter 4 - Getting Started: Setting Up the Time, Space, and Tools Chapter 5 - Collection: Corralling Your “Stuff” Chapter 6 - Processing: Getting “In” to Empty Chapter 7 - Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets Chapter 8 - Reviewing: Keeping Your System Functional Chapter 9 - Doing: Making the Best Action Choices Chapter 10 - Getting Projects Under Control

    ? part 3 - The Power of the Key Principles Chapter 11 - The Power of the Collection Habit Chapter 12 - The Power of the Next-Action Decision Chapter 13 - The Power of Outcome Focusing

    ? Conclusion Index

    Getting Things DonePraise for

    “The Season’s Best Reads for Work-Life Advice . . . my favorite on organizing your life:

     . . . offers help building the new mental skills needed in an age ofGetting Things Done

    multitasking and overload.”

    —Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal


    “I recently attended David’s seminar on getting organized, and after seeing him in action Ihave hope . . . David Allen’s seminar was an eye-opener.”

    —Stewart Alsop, Fortune


    “Allen drops down from high-level philosophizing to the fine details of time management. Takea minute to check this one out.”

    —Mark Henricks, Entrepreneur


    “David Allen’s productivity principles are rooted in big ideas . . . but they’re alsoeminently practical.”

    —Keith H. Hammonds, Fast Company


    “David Allen brings new clarity to the power of purpose, the essential nature of relaxation,and deceptively simple guidelines for getting things done. He employs extensive experience,personal stories, and his own recipe for simplicity, speed, and fun.”

    —Frances Hesselbein, chairman, board of governors, The Drucker Foundation


    “Anyone who reads this book can apply this knowledge and these skills in their lives forimmediate results.”

    —Stephen P. Magee, chaired professor of business and economics, University of Texas at Austin

    “A true skeptic of most management fixes, I have to say David’s program is a winner!”

    —Joline Godfrey, CEO, Independent Means, Inc. and author of Our Wildest Dreams


    Getting Things Done describes an incredibly practical process that can help busy peopleregain control of their lives. It can help you be more successful. Even more important, it canhelp you have a happier life!”

    —Marshall Goldsmith, coeditor, The Leader of the Future and Coaching for Leadership


    “WARNING: Reading Getting Things Done can be hazardous to your old habits of

    procrastination. David Allen’s approach is refreshingly simple and intuitive. He provides thesystems, tools, and tips to achieve profound results.”

    —Carola Endicott, director, Quality Resources, New England Medical Center



    David Allen has been called one of the world’s most influential thinkers on productivity andhas been a keynote speaker and facilitator for such organizations as New York Life, the WorldBank, the Ford Foundation, L.L. Bean, and the U.S. Navy, and he conducts workshops forindividuals and organizations across the country. He is the president of The David AllenCompany and has more than twenty years experience as a management consultant and executive

     the coach. His work has been featured in Fast Company, Fortune,Los Angeles Times, The New

     , and many other publications. hasGetting Things DoneYork Times, The Wall Street Journal

    been published in twelve foreign countries. David Allen lives in Ojai, California.


    Published by the Penguin Group

    Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

    Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

    Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2

    Penguin Books India (P) Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand

    Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South



Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England


First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,

    a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. 2001 Published in Penguin Books 2003



    Copyright ? David Allen, 2001

    All rights reserved


    eISBN : 978-1-101-12849-7

1. Time management. 2. Self-management (Psychology). I. Title.

    BF637.T5 A45 2001 646.7—dc21 00-043757





For Kathryn, my extraordinary partner in life and work


    Many mentors, partners, colleagues, staff, and friends have contributed over the years to my

     George Mayer, Michaelunderstanding and development of the principles in Getting Things Done.

    Bookbinder, Ted Drake, Dean Acheson, and Russell Bishop played key roles along my path ofpersonal and professional growth. Ron Medved, Sally McGhee, Leslie Boyer, Tom Boyer, PamTarrantine, and Kelly Forrister contributed in their own ways to my work as it matured.

    In addition, tens of thousands of clients and workshop participants have helped validate andfine-tune these models. Particular thanks go to the senior human resource strategists who earlyon recognized the significance of this material in changing their corporate cultures, and whogave me the opportunity to do that—in particular: Michael Winston, Ben Cannon, SusanValaskovic, Patricia Carlyle, Manny Berger, Carola Endicott, Klara Sztucinski, and ElliottKellman. The administrative and moral support that Shar Kanan and Andra Carasso gave me overmany years was priceless.

    This book itself could not have happened the way it has without the unique energies andperspectives of Tom Hagan, John and Laura McBride, Steve Lewers, Doe Coover, Greg Stikeleather,Steve Shull, and Marian Bateman. And much credit is due my editor, Janet Goldstein, who hasbeen a marvelous (and patient) instructor in the art and craft of book writing.

    Finally, deepest thanks go to my spiritual coach, J-R, for being such an awesome guide andconsistent reminder of my real priorities; and to my incredible wife, Kathryn, for her trust,love, hard work, and the beauty she has brought into my life.

    Welcome to Getting Things Done

    WELCOME TO A gold mine of insights into strategies for how to have more energy, be morerelaxed, and get a lot more accomplished with much less effort. If you’re like me, you likegetting things done and doing them well, and yet you also want to savor life in ways that seemincreasingly elusive if not downright impossible if you’re working too hard. This doesn’thave to be an either-or proposition. It is possible to be effectively doing while you are

    delightfully being, in your ordinary workaday world.

    I think efficiency is a good thing. Maybe what you’re doing is important, interesting, oruseful; or maybe it isn’t but it has to be done anyway. In the first case you want to get asmuch return as you can on your investment of time and energy. In the second, you want to get onto other things as fast as you can, without any nagging loose ends.

    And whatever you’re doing, you’d probably like to be more relaxed, confident that whateveryou’re doing at the moment is just what you need to be doing—that having a beer with yourstaff after hours, gazing at your sleeping child in his or her crib at midnight, answering thee-mail in front of you, or spending a few informal minutes with the potential new client afterthe meeting is exactly what you ought to be doing, as you’re doing it.

    The art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probablyone of the secrets of our great men.

    —Captain J. A. Hatfield

    Teaching you how to be maximally efficient and relaxed, whenever you need or want to be, was mymain purpose in writing this book.

    I have searched for a long time, as you may have, for answers to the questions of what to do,

     when to do it, and how to do it. And after twenty-plus years of developing and applying newmethods for personal and organizational productivity, alongside years of rigorous explorationin the self-development arena, I can attest that there is no single, once-and-for-all solution.No software, seminar, cool personal planner, or personal mission statement will simplify yourworkday or make your choices for you as you move through your day, week, and life. What’smore, just when you learn how to enhance your productivity and decision-making at one level,you’ll graduate to the next accepted batch of responsibilities and creative goals, whose newchallenges will defy the ability of any simple formula or buzzword-du-jour to get you what youwant, the way you want to get it.

    But if there’s no single means of perfecting personal organization and productivity, there are things we can do to facilitate them. As I have personally matured, from year to year,I’ve found deeper and more meaningful, more significant things to focus on and be aware of anddo. And I’ve uncovered simple processes that we can all learn to use that will vastly improveour ability to deal proactively and constructively with the mundane realities of the world.

    What follows is a compilation of more than two decades’ worth of discoveries about personalproductivity—a guide to maximizing output and minimizing input, and to doing so in a world inwhich work is increasingly voluminous and ambiguous. I have spent many thousands of hourscoaching people “in the trenches” at their desks, helping them process and organize all oftheir work at hand. The methods I have uncovered have proved to be highly effective in alltypes of organizations, at every job level, across cultures, and even at home and school. Aftertwenty years of coaching and training some of the world’s most sophisticated and productiveprofessionals, I know the world is hungry for these methods.

    Executives at the top are looking to instill “ruthless execution” in themselves and theirpeople as a basic standard. They know, and I know, that behind closed doors, after hours, thereremain unanswered calls, tasks to be delegated, unprocessed issues from meetings andconversations, personal responsibilities unmanaged, and dozens of e-mails still not dealt with.Many of these businesspeople are successful because the crises they solve and the opportunitiesthey take advantage of are bigger than the problems they allow and create in their own officesand briefcases. But given the pace of business and life today, the equation is in question.

    On the one hand, we need proven tools that can help people focus their energies strategicallyand tactically without letting anything fall through the cracks. On the other, we need tocreate work environments and skills that will keep the most invested people from burning outdue to stress. We need positive work-style standards that will attract and retain the best andbrightest.

    We know this information is sorely needed in organizations. It’s also needed in schools, whereour kids are still not being taught how to process information, how to focus on outcomes, orwhat actions to take to make them happen. And for all of us individually, it’s needed so wecan take advantage of all the opportunities we’re given to add value to our world in asustainable, self-nurturing way.


    The power, simplicity, and effectiveness of what I’m talking about in Getting Things Done

    are best experienced as experiences, in real time, with real situations in your real world.Necessarily, the book must put the essence of this dynamic art of workflow management andpersonal productivity into a linear format. I’ve tried to organize it in such a way as to giveyou both the inspiring big-picture view and a taste of immediate results as you go along.

    The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 describes the whole game, providing a briefoverview of the system and an explanation of why it’s unique and timely, and then presentingthe basic methodologies themselves in their most condensed and basic form. Part 2 shows youhow to implement the system. It’s your personal coaching, step by step, on the nitty-grittyapplication of the models. Part 3 goes even deeper, describing the subtler and more profoundresults you can expect when you incorporate the methodologies and models into your work andyour life.

    I want you to hop in. I want you to test this stuff out, even challenge it. I want you to findout for yourself that what I promise is not only possible but instantly accessible to youpersonally. And I want you to know that everything I propose is easy to do. It involves no

    new skills at all. You already know how to focus, how to write things down, how to decide onoutcomes and actions, and how to review options and make choices. You’ll validate that many ofthe things you’ve been doing instinctively and intuitively all along are right. I’ll give

    you ways to leverage those basic skills into new plateaus of effectiveness. I want to inspireyou to put all this into a new behavior set that will blow your mind.

    Throughout the book I refer to my coaching and seminars on this material. I’ve worked as a“management consultant” for the last two decades, alone and in small partnerships. My workhas consisted primarily of doing private productivity coaching and conducting seminars based onthe methods presented here. I (and my colleagues) have coached more than a thousandindividuals, trained hundreds of thousands of professionals, and delivered many hundreds ofpublic seminars. This is the background from which I have drawn my experience and examples.

    The promise here was well described by a client of mine who wrote, “When I habitually applied

     my life . . . when I faithfully applied them, it savedchangedthe tenets of this program it

     my life. This is a vaccination against day-to-day fire-fighting (the so-called urgent andcrisis demands of any given workday) and an antidote for the imbalance many people bring uponthemselves.”

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