Friday, April 20, 2007

Getting a Read Done

I've been seeing more and more references to GTD lately, and while I've been fascinated by the fetishistic aspects of GTD tools such as the CrossItOff.List notebook and binder clips and notecards, I'm not that familiar with GTD principles. In fact, while I own a copy of David Allen's book Getting Things Done, I haven't finished it and have left it sit unread for months.

So when Jeff Davidson, the man behind Breathing Space offered me a review copy of his 2005 book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Things Done, I thought it'd be a great way to check two things off my to-do list. I wanted to learn more about GTD, and I've never read any of those Idiot's or Dummies guides.

Once I decided that the book was as much designed for skimming as it was for reading, I made quick work of the text. There are a lot of solid principles, tools, and resources included in the book, making it eminently useful. But at more than 300 pages and occasionally overly breezy and anecdotal, reading it can feel like an impediment to finishing it. Kind of ironic, given its topic.

Building on where Edwin Bliss began with the first GTD book, Davidson looks at the challenges faced by workers, including information fatigue. That, then, becomes the basis of the book -- managing your information, distractions, and workflow. Focusing on organization, time management, efficiency, and effectiveness, Davidson looks at ways to increase your energy level, prioritizing projects, your workspace -- that section alone inspired me to clear 20% of my desk and rethink what I keep in piles -- quickly process paperwork so it doesn't linger long, file records, make lists, manage projects, and run meetings.

Some of the more useful practices and tools recommended include Gantt charts, PERT charts, concentrating on important but not urgent tasks and projects, completion thinking, the Pareto Principle, and using meeting management software.

The book's worth a quick skim and is organized well for light reading. No less than the illustrious Shannon Wheeler provides the clever illustrations for the book.

Thanks Jeff, for sending the book. Sorry it took me so long to... get it done!

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