Saturday, May 7, 2011

Recommend "Getting Things Done" as a good read for all managers

I just finished the book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen and recommend it for any manager who is constantly inundated with requests, needs, unfinished business, and "to do lists" at home and work. This book provides a personal productivity system for organizing and completing all the ongoing activities in your life. Even if you don't apply the entire system that David Allen presents, there are enough good tips and tools to make it worth reading.

One of David's best suggestions is getting "open loops" out of your head and onto a written record. These are the things that you know you need to do but haven't completed, and all to often, haven't started. These often mentally nag at you and can easily lead to stress and feelings of being overwhelmed as they pile up. Having them out of your head provides immediate piece of mind because you can now see the list in its entirety and begin the task of prioritization and planning. As anyone familiar with Lean and Agile management, there is a lot of power in having visual tools that can be used for quick reference on the status of ongoing activities.

A second very good recommendation is David's focus on "what's the next action". It almost a mantra from the book. For everything you need to do, you should decide "what is the next action". This must be a very specific next step to take. Once this next action is identified, you then decide whether to do it, delegate it, or defer it. Whether it's a home improvement task or an important business meeting, the best way to get things done is to be very clear on what the specific next step is in completing the activity. Don't leave the activity open ended. Rather make sure you know who is doing what and by when to keep the ball moving forward.

Implementing these two key tips of 1) organizing what you need to do, and 2) deciding what the next action is to get it done is a simple, but often unused, tip to increasing your personal performance. David does a very good job in explaining his system which provides value whether you implement the entire productivity program or just a couple helpful tips.

If you prefer audiobooks, the version read by David Allen himself is a very good listen.

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