Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Posts Tagged ‘Books

Suggested Reading: Getting Things Done

leave a comment »

I first read David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity in August of last year. I read some of the hype about the book but my expectations were low. I was expecting to learn some tips on managing tasks. What I didn’t expect was a life changing experience but that is what I got. It blew my mind.

I don’t expect everyone to experience the same results when reading this book and putting the principles into practice. It all depends on whether or not you “get it”. When I read it I thought I understood it but it was only after applying the techniques that I realized how amazing the concepts really were.

The GTD system involves writing down everything you need to do. We aren’t just talking about your big goals, but every little task no matter how small. So if you need to go get gas for the car after work, put that into the system. If you need to order movie tickets for the weekend, but that in the system. Thinking about buying new shoes, put that in. If you have an idea for a novel that you want to write someday, put that in. If someone hands you a business card, put that in.

The only exception are tasks that you will do in the next five minutes. If you get an urgent task that you know you can and should complete right away, then do it and don’t bother tracking it. Other than that, put it in the system.

It doesn’t matter how trivial or unimportant a task may appear, you should enter it into the system. By storing away all these tasks or “open loops” as David Allen calls them, your are freeing your mind from having to worry about or remember them. And it works.

The average person may have dozens of small to-dos bouncing around their heads at any given time. This causes stress and a feeling of being out of control. Before adopting GTD I had considered this a normal state that was an unavoidable consequence of living in the modern world. Now I know it doesn’t have to be this way. By storing away all the tasks for review later, I can now focus on the task at hand.

David Allen invented this system with a physical folder system in mind but I found that an electronic system works best for me for most of my tasks. There is very little in my world today that involves physical paperwork anyway and when it does I just enter an electronic note that represents that physical artifact. I’m currently using an Android application named Astrid to track my stuff but you can use whatever system works best for you. I don’t follow the GTD system to the letter, preferring to make small adjustments to fit my lifestyle, but that’s to be expected for anyone.

It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO of a large company or a stay-at-home Mom, this system can work for you. To adopt this system on your own will probably take about a month. You first need to read the book and then spend some time applying the techniques until it become second nature.


Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

May 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Read as If Your Life Depended on It

with 2 comments

You should read as if your life depended on it because in many ways it does. Whatever it is you want to do in life acquiring information is an essential task and reading is the fastest and most purest way of acquiring information. Some people say they learn by doing and that’s a valid way to learn but if you limit yourself to that you will find that learning this way is a slow process. Reading makes the learn-by-doing process faster by acting as a guide.

In most cases, reading provides you with the best source of information. Without it, you are dependent on what the media and your contacts are willing to provide. It is common knowledge that the news media has a tendency to sensationalize and often what you are hearing is only the juiciest part. Depending on your family, friends and coworkers for knowledge is also questionable. Unless you know an expert on a particular topic you would be better served by reading about it. Even if you do know experts, quite often they don’t have the time or the patience to teach you everything they know.

Even with reading you can’t depend on a single book, blog or magazine article if you want to really get to know about a particular topic. You will need to read from a number of different sources in addition to asking for input from your social circle. If you rely on one source of information your knowledge is not your own, it is of the writer or speaker. By absorbing information from a number of different sources you will be able to come to your own conclusions about the topic.

Your time is valuable so, unless you need to be extremely thorough when researching a particular topic, you should only read the best materials you can find. Read reviews and try to verify that a particular source is well respected and recommended. If it is a new book, read reviews of other books by the author. Often you will find that there are only a few  (in some cases, just one) books or authors that are considered the ultimate source for a particular topic. For example when I was researching the topic of Data Warehousing, I found that the author Ralph Kimball was the leader in that field and his book The Data Warehouse Toolkit was the most highly recommended book on the topic. Sure, you can continue your research by reading other books on the topic, but it is important to start with the best.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

April 29, 2011 at 9:21 am