Getting Things Done by David Allen

“Getting Things Done” has been a real influencer for me. Allen presents a great system for getting both work and personal affairs in excellent order, which could transform any area of work or life which features discretionary time. Its popularity is not surprising, and it should not just be considered for business executives.

getting things done

The best thing about Allen’s system is that it does not oversimplify the problem. Advice to schedule work has lost applicability for most of us, simply because we are getting such a huge number of options about how best to spend our minutes and hours. The increased complication does not jive well with set schedules. Even so, people need to be able to act rationally, easily and rapidly with any amount of time they happen to have at hand. That is what Allen is working to address, and he deserves tremendous credit for his effort.

While I’m giving the book five stars, as a homemaker I think I have a good opportunity to write a bit about how the book does, and does not, apply to my situation. Most of my day is not taken up by novel projects, but by repeating tasks that I know very well how to do. I don’t have to think them through very much. Even so, set schedules don’t work well for me since housekeeping needs are just as variable as office tasks. I adapt Allen’s system by putting my familiar tasks on index cards and dealing out the jobs I need to do at the start of the day.

Getting Things Done Summary

Check out the video summary below:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

To Do Lists

Now Allen is not keen on to-do lists because they are easily upended by the rapid pace of life. He has a point, but this doesn’t take into account the motivating force of a good daily list. I have five small kids who are quite distracting, yet I still find that a list of items, kept realistic for the day’s circumstances, is helpful in getting more done in my life.

The book generally implies that it is normal to have a massive list of things to do, with new jobs being added consistently. I have not seen the concrete situations Allen is talking about, but it seems important to consider, if only briefly, the reality of overwork. Excessive work is going to stress anyone, even with a great system. Tasks that go beyond a person’s reasonable load need to be either delegated or clearly possible to drop with acceptable consequences. The “defer” category works great for future possibilities, but is trickier to use with still-open loops, especially where responsibilities have been accepted.

Allen’s “50 thousand foot” perspective is largely relativistic. There is another way to think about that level of living, and that is the Christian idea of vocation. Allen doesn’t really contradict this, but neither does he fully acknowledge it as a discrete means of thinking about life at this level. The thinking he describes is more about “personal choices”, “clarified values” and “lifestyle”. Vocation-oriented thinking focuses more on universal moral principles and the will of God for one’s individual life. Allen doesn’t need to advocate this idea of vocation, but to acknowledge it would make the book more helpful and complete.

Just considering the issue that Allen addresses, that of systemizing all the ideas, needs and physical items of life, makes me reflect (as does the author himself) that the book is really about life at its core. It’s not just about being neat or working well at the office, it’s about getting ones self into a place where any change, task or project can be addressed in a more successful way.


So I would recommend it to anyone as a fundamental preliminary support for the events of life, from weight loss to finding a spouse. Extremely worthwhile.

Also read: Getting Things Done – Getting Things Done is a time-management methodology as described in the book with information related to the things that need to get done.

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