I’ve been a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology ever since I first learned about it from Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders site almost two years ago. Compellingly wonky and full of heady cult-like terminology (“open loops,” “next action,” “runway”), “GTD” was just what I needed to help me kick start my creativity and stay focused in the face of a fragmented and interruption-driven existence. Allen’s system not only helped me to recognize the pain of the breaking commitments to myself, but also gave me some tools to renegotiate those commitments.
I got results out of the system immediately. Not only was I completing projects that had languished on my “to do” list for months (if not years), I also began to feel much less stress. But GTD doesn’t just increase productivity — it helps you cope with the demand for increased productivity. It’s about getting control of the “stuff” in your head: reducing mental clutter and turning anxiety into meaningful action. And as you start to find yourself peering up over the weeds, GTD reminds you to look for the horizon.
Last month, David Allen came to Phoenix to give a seminar which he calls “The Road Map: Winning At The Game Of Work And The Business Of Life.” It wasn’t cheap, but I was grateful for the opportunity to not only re-immerse myself in the process, but to drag my wife along as well (actually, her company sent her). I also wanted to see what kind of swag they would have for sale (baseball caps and leather wallets).
Allen kept us there for an entire work day, laying out his theories in a style alternately charming, nerdy, impatient and transcending. But mostly, the seminar was a tease for his “GTD Connect” subscription service, where, I assume, the stealth Buddhism inherent in Allen’s shtick is more overt. At it’s core, GTD is simply a path to peace of mind, tarted up to look good on a corporate expense report. The 200-plus attendees — most of whom were already true believers — hung on to every word. Afterwards, you couldn’t get near him due to the swarm of groupies. (Make no mistake about it: to his fans, David Allen is a superstar.)
I couldn’t hope to do justice to Allen’s process within the confines of a mere blog post. But I highly recommend a visit to his web site, or Merlin’s, or any of the others out there on the same topic. Somewhere along the way, you may even discover why I used a paper clip with a string wrapped around it to illustrate this article.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to do my weekly review.