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Last in series to “Get Things Done”

August 21, 2012

Peggy’s last article in her series based on the book “Getting things Done,” just might help all of us get a little more done…

David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, has taken up permanent residence in the satchel which travels to and from work with me.  When it’s closed, the book has numerous colored tags sticking out of the edges, reminding me of the best parts.  Open the book and in yellow highlighting are the quoted statements I’ve used since I started the review of the book in April.  This article will be the final one, but the training gleaned from this book will forever be a part of how “I get work done.”

The most poignant part of the previous four articles is worth re-mentioning.  It deals with the mind, the relationship between work, the way we think, and our brains.  Allen challenges us to understand a karate state of readiness referred to as “mind like water.”  He further explains it, “Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond.  How does the water respond?  The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm.  It doesn’t overreact or underreact.  Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you.”

Discussion continued through managing actions, mastering workflow, and planning projects.  These final two topics will discuss stress-free productivity and harnessing the power of it all.

Allen challenges us to adapt “tricks” so that we can implement systems.  He offers this example about taking work home that you had to be sure you brought back the next day. “It was mission-critical that you not forget it the next morning.  So where did you put it the night before?  Did you put in front of the door, or on your car keys, so you’d be sure and take it with you?  … The smart part of you the night before knows that the not-so-smart part of you first thing in the morning may barely be conscious.  What’s this in front of the door!? Oh, that’s right; I’ve got to take this with me!”   Now let’s make this physical door to your house move into being the door to your mind. 

Place items at the door to your mind.  Allen directs this challenge: “If you were to take out your calendar right now and look closely at every single item for the next fourteen days, you’d probably come up with a least one “Oh-that-reminds=me-I-need-to____.  If you then captured that thought into some place that would trigger you to act, you’d feel better already, have a clearer head, and get more positive things done.  It’s not rocket science, just a good trick.”

Set aside a block of time to begin getting organized.  The goal is to “collect and process a large inventory of open loops, especially when they’ve been open, undecided or stuck for way too long.”   You’ll need a space to take care of these open loops.  If your office is outside the home, you’ll still need a home office to manage your household.

Filing, filing and more filing.  Start with file folders, a filing cabinet and a labeler.  Label every file folder so the tabs are uniform.  Make a folder for all papers you need to keep.  Once you have collected everything possible, Allen provides this list of things you will have done: trashed what you don’t need; completed any less-than-two- minute actions; handed off to others anything that can be delegated; sorted into your own organizing system reminders of actions that require more than two minutes; and identified any larger commitments (projects) you not have.” The goal is to get your mind empty.  Each item then has a “what’s the next action”.  If there is no action, trash it, incubate it or file it under reference material.

In order to harness the power of it all, commit yourself to getting work done.  The benefits are profound.  Allen states it best, “When people with whom you interact notice that without fail you receive, process, and organize in an airtight manner the exchanges and agreements they have with you, they begin to trust you in a unique way.  Such is the power of capturing placeholders for anything that is incomplete or unprocessed in your life.  It noticeably enhances your mental well-being and improves the quality of your communications and relationships both personally and professionally. “

David Allen has written a great book, Getting Work Done,” that can help anyone that is striving to get a productive handle on all the inputs and outputs of their daily workload. 

“Business Tips” was written by Peggy Rosser, Rural Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Advisor IV of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center.  For more information on the topic of this article or the services of the ASU · SBDC, contact her at