10) The BackPage: David Allen’s Gift to Your Workplace —

Just over a decade ago, David Allen burst on the scene with a simple yet effective set of work principles that somewhat revolutionized workflow in businesses across the USA and around the world. A decade is a long time. Maybe now and then, it’s worth unearthing a few of these simple “Getting Things Done” principles and bubbling them back into our consciousness. Here were some of his primary beliefs and teachings about getting things done:


*** Our jobs train us do accomplish certain work-related skills. But often, nobody trains us how to fashion and execute our workload. So we know how to do one job at a time, once we engage in it. We sometimes have completely missed how to move through our work flow.


*** “Collect” — The first key is to quickly move through the stacks of random ideas or “things” and make a complete list of everything we have to do. This stage is designed to help us assemble a laundry list, so to speak. Allen’s theory was, in summary, if we get the whole list out of our heads and into our collection basket (whatever that is), we won’t have to feel bad about it anymore.


*** “Process” — Allen then gave us a set of steps for taking care of these items. We needed to ask if it was something we could actually process. If it wasn’t, we either throw it away, put it in a “someday/maybe” stack, or throw it into a reference tool. If it was actionable, we ask ourselves “What’s the next action?” In this major step, we either just do it (if it will take less than 2 minutes to accomplish) or we associate it with a “project” (something that is multi-step or something requiring longer than 2 minutes). Other options here include delegate it or defer it.


*** “Organize” — Allen taught that we should view most of life through a stack of “projects,” or modules that make up our work.


*** “Review” — On a weekly basis, we review all our projects to make sure we’re picking up on the “next actions” that need attention.


*** “Do” — Executing the work is the big deal. In fact, it’s the part we most need to accomplish.


Depending on the kind of job you have, Allen’s philosophies might be like a revelation, enlightening your way, or, alternatively, they might seem superficial and too “engineering-like.” But either way, if you manage a lot of “stuff” in your life, you probably do it according to a certain pattern. What Allen did for many was to help them regulate and fine-tune that pattern. And to many of us, that’s a very helpful function.


Learn more about Allen’s teaching by reading the tried-and-tested book, “Getting Things Done,” available from Amazon.com and just about every other bookseller in the world.

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