Battlepanda: "Monday" Book Blogging: Getting Things Done


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Monday, February 06, 2006

"Monday" Book Blogging: Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done by David Allen

I felt slightly uncomfortable reading a self-help book, especially one aimed so squarely at the business world. Whether it is to flatter the reader or whether he is genuinely addressing a target audience of CEOs and budding entrepreneurs, I don't know, but David Allen's talk of credenzas and what to delegate to your personal secretary made the book kind of forbidding to me. I'm not somebody who has so much to do that 24 hours is not enough -- I am somebody who is so terribly discombobulated that, even when I have all the time in the world, I simply cannot get things done. Is this book still for me?

Once I got over the weird mixture of intimidation and skepticism, I started appreciating this book. Some of Allen's description of undesirable, unproductive behavior is spookily reminiscent of my own -- for instance, his central metaphor for his book is that of a computer with too many programs open, resulting in the performance of the computer becoming seriously impaired. This is literally how I run my computer! There's always too many programs running. I compulsively open new tabs in my Firefox windows, tempting the spinning beachball of doom until I crash the browser. Then there is this paragraph towards the back of the book. It's so blandly written, yet deeply cutting.
The Source of the Negative Feelings
Where do the not-so-good feelings come from? Too much to do? No, there's always too much to do. If you felt bad simply because there was more to do than you could do, you'd never get rid of that feeling. Having too much to do is not the source of the negative feeling. It comes from a different place.

How have you felt when someone broke an agreement with you? Told you they would meet you thursday at 4:00p.m. and never showed or called? How did that feel? Frustrating, I imagine. The price people pay when they break agreements in the world is the disintegration of trust in the relationship -- a negative consequence.

But what are all those things in your in-basket? Agreements you've made with yourself. Your negative feelings are simply the result of breaking those agreements -- they're the symptoms of disintergrated self-trust. If you tell yourself to draft a strategic plan, when you don't do it, you'll feel bad. Tell yourself to get organized, and if you fail to, welcome to guilt and frustration.
As for ridding that terrible logjam of the mind, David Allen's panacea is a filing system so complete and trustworthy that your mind is freed to be optimal. Mamma Mia! I haven't quite mastered the Four Criteria Model for Choosing Action in the Moment or memorized the Threefold Model for Evaluating Daily Work...but figuring that I have to start somewhere, I went to Staples today and, feeling deeply uncool, purchased some index cards, boxes to house them in, dividers to alphabetize them and some post-its. It shall have to do until I get re-settled. Really, this is as good a time as any for me to "back up" all the half-finished projects, unrealized dreams and nagging responsibilities into a complete system before I start my new life in Taiwan.

Bookblogging next week: This one is going to be a quirkier choice -- Reading the English by Kate Fox. She is an English anthropologist who turned her trained eyes not to remote tribes of Papua New Guinea, but to her fellow countrymen. Should be fun.