Book Review: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
I have owned a copy of GTD forever. The old edition. With a younger looking David Allen on the cover. And when I looked at my Reading Challenge categories I thought this book would be the perfect one to hit the category for "a book at the bottom of your to-read list."
Yes. I have owned a copy of this book for years, but I wasn't overly enthused about reading a methodology about being more productive in a full-length non-fiction book. It just didn't nudge itself out to the edge of my shelf asking to be read like so many science-fiction books do.
Since I read The Accidental Creative earlier this year and that process was painless, I decided to stick with my plan and tackle another productivity book. And then I saw that David Allen published this newer, updated version, so I placed my library hold and waited.
The wait was worth it, for the most part.
I do love this methodology. The idea of dumping my brain into an organizational system actually does relieve a great deal of stress for me. I've been using pieces of this plan for several years based off of bits and pieces I gleaned from various GTD articles.
The articles were helpful and informative, but reading the how and why of the entire system from point A to point Z was incredibly clarifying.
Unfortunately, the system was explained multiple times. While each chapter usually had a new tidbit or angle to offer, the 350+ page book was entirely too long for my taste. The writing could have been tighter to give a punchier explanation of the GTD methodology.
David Allen needs to take a more Goldilocks approach, if you will. The book is too long. Most articles are too short. Maybe someday he will create an explanation that is just right. And updated for technology in a way that’s actually useful to people.
On Goodreads, the summary of the updated edition states, “Allen has rewritten the book from start to finish, tweaking his classic text with important perspectives on the new workplace, and adding material that will make the book fresh and relevant for years to come.”
The updated content didn't strike me as being worthy of marketing an entire new edition. Sure he added more about email. And he acknowledged that there are many digital tools, programs, and apps to help people make better use of our time.
But that’s it. He offered no recommendations. Actually, he seemed to like paper. And that would be fine as a potential solution if he had an opinion on any other specific technology-based options. He’s the GTD guru! What digital tools, programs, and apps does he use? How does he implement them? How do various clients use and implement their choices?
That’s the part of his brain that I wanted an inside look into. I could have just as easily read the older version of this book, used my common sense, and applied a little bit of creative thinking to transfer the basic methodology of GTD to 21st century tools, programs, and apps.
I’m glad I didn’t purchase the newer edition, but I did wait several months for my library hold to come up. If you have the older version of the book, I’d read that. It should do just fine in giving an overview of the GTD system.
And I do like the system. If this book were more concise and I didn’t feel like the marketing department lied to me about how relevant the updated edition was, then I’d give GTD five stars.
Allen offers great lists to stimulate brainstorming for any beginning GTDer to allow them to “dump” every task for every project into the IN tray. His flow chart for how to process all of those tasks makes sense to me too. Create next action steps! Watch progress occur.
At the end of the book, Allen suggests reviewing the book in another 3-6 months. While some skeptics of GTD may not agree with this assessment, as an educator, I see the usefulness of a re-read.
Of course, my re-read will be with the older version of the book that I already own and I’ll be scanning. I like the idea of revisiting the material to see which tools from the GTD toolbox I’m implementing well and which tools I’m either ignoring or not using to their full potential.
In the meantime, I also see value in seeking out some specific articles where people share how they implement GTD. I want to read different perspectives on how people customize the general GTD plan. If you have come across any GTD articles that you found particularly useful, please share them in the comments below!