I’ve been reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I’m about half done with the book now and wanted to write about it because it’s been so useful to me. Many books about organizing seem to require massive investments – of set up time, money, classes, equipment and so on. In reading just the first half of this book I was able to do two things that matter to me: understand what I was reading and use it.
I picked up three major ideas so far. The first is that in order to have a organizing system, you have to trust it and use it. Meaning that you have to consistently put everything in it that you want to capture. I started using Omni Focus
a task management program for Mac. It’s pretty simple – it gives me space to write everything down and add necessary details including when the detail is due and how long it will take and so on. I’m a list person any way and I tend to keep lists of To Do’s so that I don’t miss important details. But it can still happen. So I knew that I needed a better more comprehensive system.
Now, I’m finding that I add or change my listevery couple of days meaning that I’m actively using the lists that I’m keeping to work from, not just as storage. Just having a clear place to put everything is extraordinarily useful. I can print my lists (like grocery or errands) and be off easily. I now have a capture system that really works.
The other thing that Allen talks about and that I allude to above is a review system. He talks about this being a critical piece; I started reviewing this capture system regularly (he recommends weekly I’ve been doing it at least twice a week). That does just as he says it would, it brings me clarity and space to be more creative. I know that I can find what I need when I need it so I let of of carrying so many details and am more able to focus on what’s at hand.
It’s had other side effects as well. I can return correspondence faster, and feel more prepared. It’s actually not the “prepared” bit that I’m excited about, it’s the ease of, and confidence in, the preparations that I make that I’m enjoying.
The last piece that I’ve found surprisingly useful is something I tried (unsuccessfully) to help one of my clients do. She keeps lists of To Do’s but feels like she “never gets anything done.” Allen recommends doing any piece of the “project list” that will take less than two minutes. Just do it. That means all of the small things get done: the one line email to confirm a meeting, grabbing the book for the morning meeting, filing this detail, writing the one check for something important. And that create motivation through confidence.
Overall, I find that I’m recommending this book quite a lot, especially to clients who want to get organized but don’t know where to start or to people who want to be more organized. It’s very helpful for small business owners who often feel on their own or isolated to have a particularly good system. If you don’t, go check it out.
Its an excellent investment. And it’s deductible!