Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

by David Allen

Do you feel like you’re not productive enough, like no matter how hard you try, you just can’t figure out how to get your work done? That’s where Getting Things Done comes in; this book will provide you with real, actionable steps so you can increase your productivity, complete your projects, and, well, get things done.

This book aims to enable you to employ the fundamentals of managing workflow, implement an elevated and integrated total life management system, and leverage skills to create clear space and get things done. We have combined all the knowledge in this book into actions that you can implement in your life. While this book focuses primarily on improving your productivity in the professional world, some actions can also be implemented to improve your interpersonal relationships and facilitate self-development.

Summary Notes

The Art of Getting Things Done: A New Practice For A New Reality

“It’s possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control.”

If you want to be a successful, high-performing professional, learning how to keep focused on your tasks without being overwhelmed by difficulties and obstacles is essential. Most people feel like they’ve got too much on their plate, and not enough time to get everything done. This is largely due to the fact that there are no clear boundaries when it comes to working anymore - working over the weekends is common, being available nearly 24/7 is expected due to smartphones, and so on. 

Plus, most people have a plethora of things to manage back at home too, whether it’s caring for kids or an elderly family member, keeping up a social life, allocating time for hobbies so they don’t get burnt out, etc. 

It can certainly get exhausting, and often feels impossible to stay on top of everything!

The good news is, it is possible to learn how to stay 100% focused on your task at hand so that you can get constructive work done despite the complexities of work and life. The key to learning this skill is acting on the things that are stressing you out so that you can clear your mind of them instead of being stressed over them. After all, stress will just distract you from doing what you need to get done.

Actions to take

Getting Projects Creatively Under Way

“As a general rule, you can be pretty creative with nothing more than a pen and piece of paper.”

To achieve this goal of getting things done and gaining control of your life, you will have to make significant changes. It is not as simple as “setting priorities” or “getting organized”. It requires a shift in mindset and commitment to an entirely new way of working and living. Luckily, practice makes perfect! Embrace this new, effective method of tackling what life sends your way. Soon enough, you will find that applying it to your life and any new issues that are bound to crop up are just second nature.

When you adopt this new method of working, the way you think about work will change. You will be able to create maximum value while spending the minimum amount of time on a task. Plus, you’ll relieve yourself of a ton of stress too!

Actions to take

Practicing Stress-Free Productivity

“Having a total and seamless system of organization in place gives you tremendous power because it allows your mind to let go of lower-level thinking and graduate to intuitive focusing, undistracted by matters that haven’t been dealt with appropriately.”

Everyone uses little tricks to get them moving throughout the day. For example, if your goal is to exercise, a simple trick you can use to get motivated is to get dressed in your workout clothes. Similarly, there are many tricks you can use to get - and stay - motivated about your work so that you get things done!

Remember, managing your workflow in a meaningful way is about creating the optimal environment for you to be able to instinctively function in an effective and productive manner.  

There is both a physical and mental aspect of this. The physical aspect refers to keeping your workspace clutter-free and organized, as this, in turn, will keep your mind clear so you can focus solely on the task in front of you. The mental aspect refers to having a positive mindset and learning how to make decisions quickly and efficiently so that you can start acting on those decisions and getting your work done.

A big factor in being able to naturally channel creativity and productivity is to focus on the right thing at the right time. For example, if you were late to work and trying to brainstorm ideas for a new project on the train while being distracted by all the other projects that require your input, you’re unlikely to come up with anything useful. However, if you were to sit in a quiet room and focus your mind solely on that one project for just three minutes, you will definitely have at least one “Oh yeah, I need to ____”.

Actions to take

The Power of the Key Principles

“When the whole gestalt of stress-free productivity is taken into consideration, it requires a solid progression that does not have shortcuts.”

The short-term benefit of learning the art of getting things done is, of course, getting your tasks done efficiently and productively. However, there are also long-term benefits! When you adopt this style of working, people around you will notice, and they will begin to trust in your capabilities. Your communication skills will improve, as will your interpersonal and professional relationships. This will also enhance your mental well-being and help you feel more self-confident, thereby driving you to keep performing well.

Directing your mental and imaginative processes to create change is a very abstract concept. However, it can be applied to your life in a practical manner, and you will certainly reap the benefits of it. To do this, you have to shift the way you think; instead of setting vague goals, create a clear, step-by-step action plan for each task. Once you know what exactly you need to do, it gets a whole lot easier to actually do it! 

Keep in mind that your mind is wonderful at recognition but quite poor at recall. If you were to look at today’s calendar, it will be easy to get a general sense of your day, the contents, and the contexts. However, it will be near impossible to recall the contents of the next 14 days simply from memory. This is why using your brain as your organizing system, as most people do, will lead to you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

To improve your productivity and kick that feeling of “I can’t possibly get all this done”, you will need to use an “external brain” to organize your tasks. This will free up your mental capacity to focus on your important tasks - tasks that require you to have a clear head.

Actions to take

Don’t just read. Act.
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