The art – and instinct – of productivity

I just completed David Allen’s excellent book, Getting Things Done:The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I found that some of his tips I do instinctively, yet perhaps not yet naturally, but this book helped me apply practical principles to time management. Plus, he shows us that it’s not always easy to get to “what is the next action?” in collaborative environments. Much discussion may go into that very question.

I love to be very busy, and the Getting Things Done book helps me realize that I’m as busy as many others, and perhaps less busy than some. He even says that you can have as many as 50 Next Action items on your list when you combine work and home actions and projects. What a relief it was to read that! I’m not overly busy or scheduled, I’m merely able to write down what it is that needs to happen next. I also found it a relief to keep all home and work action items in one place.

My favorite description of the natural instinctive planning process that some people can hold in their brains comes from This Woman’s Work, Dawn Friedman’s blog. She’s a writer and mom in Columbus, Ohio. The post is titled “Life inside my head” and my favorite sentence has to be this:

Then there’s baby wardrobe — if I use the really good all-in-one dipe to take her to grandma’s then I won’t have it for the playdate tomorrow, which is ok except the other ones are a wee bit leaky so I should use the regular poofy diapers and then I’ll need to put her in the other outfit with a big enough tush but that one is maybe a tad too warm so I better check the weather forecast before I make a move at all.

Sheer parenting inventory time management awesomeness. What are some of your favorite examples of extreme time and resource management?


  • July 17, 2008 - 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Anne … definitely a great book. Of course, I didn’t have time to read it, so I listened to in on my iPod during a loooong car trip. 8^D

    My favorite thing to do these days is when I’m in a meeting that seems to be going in circles is to take David’s advice and 1) look at the clock, 2) pipe up and say “hey, we’re running out of time here, what’s the Next Action?”. Then watch folks stare at their shoelaces for a few minutes and mumble …

    he he he.


  • July 18, 2008 - 6:01 am | Permalink

    I tried GTD a few years ago, and found it to be a bit too complex and involved for my tastes. Too much entropy. I keep things simple, using a couple of online tools — a process which I outlined here and here.

    Does that mean I’m always on top of everything? Heck, no. But I don’t spend any time maintaining my system, which helps me get back on track faster.

  • July 18, 2008 - 6:29 am | Permalink

    Hi Bob – audio books, what a time saver, eh? 🙂 MonkeyPi just asked on Twitter if listening to an audio book actually counts as “reading” it – I sayt does!

    I really sat up and took notice when I read about asking for the next action at work and the discussions that follow. That is often the toughest question because the action proves how serious you are, doesn’t it? 🙂

    Hi Scott – it’s so interesting how GTD has so many followers and so many people in the opposite camp. Who knew productivity was polarizing? 🙂 My coworker is a fan of RTM, but I think I prefer no-computer possibilities to computer-required ones. Still, I think I won’t follow GTD to the letter, only keep that spirit.

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