A Review of Getting Things Done by David Allen (2015)
Anyone who knows me for more than a minute knows I am huge fan of David Allen and practitioner (some say preacher) of the Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity methodology. Here at Arkus it is core to our organizational belief system so it is with great excitement that I get to review the re-written "Gettings Things Done".
The original Getting Things Done was published in 2001 and started a productivity movement that grows by leaps and bounds. The book landed in my hands in 2004 after a bout with serious procrastination and some Google searching for "how to solve procrastination." The original reviews got me to read the book and I have never looked back.
In a quick nutshell GTD is about getting things out of your mind and into a system that alleviates stress and increases productivity. The 5 key concepts of capture, clarify, organize, reflect and engage make up the pillars of the methodology and do produce results.
The original content of the book have grown more and more dated, from references to PDAs to a lack of real digital task managers made people reading the book after 2010 feel a little lost. The core philosophies of course, have remained intact.
The first noticeable change in the rewrite is the removal of very specific tools and technologies. David Allen has tried to make this book readable for the next 15 years without another re-write so while there are references to "smart phones", "digital systems" and "social media" that is about as far as he goes. He writes more about being agile with your systems rather than being specific which helps with the longevity of the book but makes it less instructional than the original.
Another big change is a new reflective tone in the book, that encapsulates the last 15 years of experience as the original book has grown into a movement. It gives the book even more gravitas since Allen now references almost 40 years of personal experience and knowledge.
The last thing that struck me was the downplaying of contexts. In the original text Contexts were more pronounced, as he talked about things you do "At Computer" and "At Calls." Contexts over the last fifteen years have changed and morphed as the Internet is almost always available and we carry devices that can do almost everything a full desktop computer could do a decade ago.
The most interesting part of the new book comes in the last two new chapters. In Chapter 14 "GTD and Cognitive Science" David Allen does a recap of some major scientific research that has been done in the last 15 years giving new evidence to how the mind works and how systems like GTD are increasingly important . The last Chapter "The Path of GTD Mastery" was my favorite and is almost worth the reread alone as he lays out the different levels of mastering the methodology. It was interesting to compare my last decade plus of working in, around, and with GTD to his perception of mastery. Maybe not a Jedii, but darn close.
Overall the new book doesn't feel very new, but more updated with enough to make it worth the price of admission. If you are a long time GTD'er and haven't read the book a second or third time, this is all the reason to do so. If you are starting from the very start of your GTD journey than you didn't miss anything in the first book and this one will get you off to a great start. My one big takeaway from having done this for so long is how much the book Getting Things Done is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of information for complete mastery. Over the years I have found his audio series, interviews, and other books to be the majority of my education.