Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Summary

A practical guide to increasing your productivity and reducing your stress. You will learn about the value of focusing on action, decluttering your mind, saying no more often, creating simple and streamlined task lists, and clarifying what you want to accomplish.

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Key Takeaways

Thinking

“People think a lot, but most of that thinking is of a problem, project, or situation–not about it.”

Instead of thinking about all of the things you have to do, get started and start thinking about the problem or project itself. Most of us spend far too much time simply thinking about all of the things we need to do, which does not bring us any closer to actually getting the thing done.

What’s the next action?

“‘What’s the next action?’ as a fundamental and consistently asked question. As simple as the query seems, it is still somewhat rare to find it fully operational where it needs to be…Why? Because the question forces clarity, accountability, productivity, and empowerment.”

Whether it’s at a work meeting or in your personal life, once you have decided on what you will do, identify the next action. Even if it’s a small action that simply gets you started, it will create momentum and allow you to identify the next step of tangible progress. If you don’t do this, you risk not having full clarity and getting overwhelmed by the enormity of a project.

Talk does not cook rice

“Talk does not cook rice.” – Chinese proverb.

Stop talking about doing things, and start doing them.

Legitimize your calendar

If you use a calendar for work or your personal life, make it your source of truth. Don’t put any items on the calendar that you are 100% committed to doing. That way, when you look at your calendar, you trust that it’s the source that will guide you on getting the right things done.

Create a someday/maybe list

In your life, there are many things that you may want to do, such as learning Spanish or how to play the guitar. But perhaps you don’t currently have the time or the right level of commitment to do these things successfully.

Instead of letting these ideas sit in your head as things you “should” be doing, create a “someday/maybe” list of all of these items. When you get time in the future and want some ideas about what you can do, turn to that list and see if any of the items now fit within your priorities.

The two minute rule

A quick and easy productivity hack – for any task that takes less than 2 minutes, do it immediately. For all other tasks, delegate or defer.

Conduct a weekly review

Every week, set a time to reflect on your week and get clear for the upcoming week. You can review your progress, update your lists, go through your notes, set the next week’s priorities, or do whatever else is helpful for you to feel clear, calm, and centered to start your next week.

I’ve found doing a weekly review on Sunday afternoon or evening to be the best time.

Say “no” more often

Learn to say no to more things. Every time you say “no” to a mediocre opportunity, you open up the time to say “yes” to a great one.

Checklists for unfamiliar tasks

Create a checklist for unfamiliar tasks. When you’re learning how to do something that takes multiple steps, a checklist will reduce your errors and the cognitive load.

What might go wrong?

For each project, write down what may go wrong or why the project might fail. This will help you see potential blind spots in your plan and create more robust strategies.

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