Welcome to our book review series! At Business Fixer, it’s very important for me not only to give you great books but the practical application of these books in a business turnaround situation. The Resources page is not just a random selection of books, rather, it is full of books that I have personally applied and taught people in a business turnaround.
Today, we’ll be covering one of my all-time favourite books. Let’s dive straight into today’s book review…
- Book: Getting Things Done
- Author: David Allen
- Subject: Productivity
- Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
*Score ratings out of 5
Who this book is for
I hate saying this, but to be honest this book can be for anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are in business or not. ‘Getting Things Done’ is great for Executives, senior professionals, self-employed one-man-bands, stay at home mums or dads.
The principles in this book can be applied to anyone who is serious about getting organised, increase their productivity and feel in control. That could be organised and productive at work or in your personal life.
Sound great? Let’s keep going…
Why you should read ‘Getting Things Done’
The book goes through a simple system that anyone can apply. That’s the beauty – it’s simple and really easy. This book is perfect for anyone who wants to take control of their business/life, get organised and increase their productivity whilst feeling fantastic at the same time.
In the book, David Allen talks about the emotions connected to getting organised. Quite often when we feel anxious or stressed about a situation (whether that be at work or at home), it’s often because we don’t feel in control of that situation.
In today’s ‘always-on’ world where our phones are constantly pinging with messages, emails, Slack notifications etc it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed with the volume of things hitting our brains.
The system that David Allen proposes is a simple way to handle everything being thrown at you, get it organised and done in a time that suits you. By doing this, you feel in control, less anxious and stressed.
In a business turnaround situation, it is most likely you will feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed due to the number of things that are going wrong and the never-ending stream of tasks that keep landing in your inbox.
This book will help you get control of yourself; your emotions and ultimately the outcome you’re after.
What are the main headlines of ‘Getting Things Done’
Primer Content (1)- The 6 Horizons of Focus
‘Getting Things Done’ talks about different levels (or perspectives) in life/business.
0 ft – The Runway
This is where work happens. This is where the job is actually getting done. This is where you are emailing, meeting, planning, talking etc. This is where most people live most of their lives. It’s necessary to be here and do the work.
10,000 ft – Projects
This is where you go slightly higher and take stock of your projects. This is where you do some thinking about the launch of your new product, the renovation of your new house, finding a new Sunday football team for your son to join. A project is anything that requires more than one action to complete.
It’s also where you can capture what the book refers to as ‘open loops’. These are things that are still swirling around in your mind, but you haven’t yet taken control of it and thought through what you need to do with it.
20,000 ft – Areas of Focus and Accountability
This is where you evaluate, “What is my job? What am I accountable for?” What are your 4-7 main areas of responsibility? Who are you accountable to these for? If it’s not yourself then it might be your boss.
Once you have evaluated these areas of responsibility, how well you are doing in them, there are likely more projects to be birthed.
30,000 ft – 1 to 2 Years Goals and Objectives
If you continue in your current job/role, what does it look like in 12-18 months? In today’s world, not many jobs stay the same. We quite often are dealing with moving targets and it’s important to evaluate things from this level. You may need to make some shifts or changes. Naturally, more projects or next actions will come from this.
40,000 ft – 3 to 5 Year Vision
What is your job/company/family/health/home/relationship going to look like in 3-5 years from now? How will external factors change these things? Thinking at this level again, will throw up some more projects for you.
50,000 ft – Purpose and Principles
Why are you on this earth? What is the ultimate bigger picture for your company/family? Is this the job you want? Is this the lifestyle you want? Are these the relationships you want? Are you abiding by your values? What are your values?
Primer Content (2)- The 2 Questions Everyone Should Ask
I have talked about this bit extensively in previous posts. (For a more detailed post on this bit, check this post out).
- What is the successful outcome?
- What is the very next action?
We must always start with the successful outcome that we’re after. By starting with the successful end, we can get clarity. For example, if you’re in the middle of a business turnaround, rather than saying, “We need to turn the business around.” The successful outcome might be something like, “We need to increase profitability to £50K per month by September 2020.”
Doesn’t that seem much clearer? It’s a clear target. You know it’s more than just ‘getting more sales’ or ‘getting rid of people’. It’s a clear measurable outcome that’s specific, simple and clear.
Let’s use another example that’s not so huge. Perhaps you want to go on holiday. The successful outcome might be something like, “I want an all-inclusive holiday somewhere in Europe that is kid-free and romantic.” Now you have clarity on the type of holiday you want.
Now, imagine you had nothing else on your plate. This is the only project you’re working on (going on holiday)…
What is the very next action?
This is where most people will say something like, “I need to book it,” or, “I need to ring the travel agent.”
But let’s think about it. Who are you going with? Which country are you going to? What’s your budget? Do you need to book the time off? Have you got permission from your boss to take the time off? When are you thinking of going?
There are lots of next actions before ‘booking it’. Depending on your situation the very next action might be something like:
“Talk to my spouse”
“Submit a holiday request to my boss”
“Google suitable options that fit my criteria”
“Check bank balance to see what I can afford”
Notice, the very next action will always be a verb:
- Set up
- Talk to
- Clear out etc
The 5 Step System of ‘Getting Things Done’
Once you have that understanding, you can then go onto the actual productivity system that David Allen has crafted and taught to countless people around the world.
- Capture – collect what has your attention
- Clarify – process what it means
- Organise – put it where it belongs
- Reflect – review it frequently
- Engage – simply do it
I am purposefully not going to go into these steps as there will be no point you actually reading the book. Also, you’ll miss the magic of discovering it for yourself. All you need to know is, once you understand this system and apply it, you’ll be stress-free, in control and a productivity machine!
One note to point out is that this is not about the tools i.e. apps. David Allen talks about people being:
- Low-tech (more paper-based)
- Mid-tech (hybrid being paper and digital)
- High-tech (mainly digital)
It doesn’t matter which one you are. The system does not dictate whether you should use pen and paper or Apple Notes; a paper diary or Outlook; physical folders or Evernote. It’s about a discipline to work the system.
This book is the book on organisation and productivity. In any business turnaround, it is the first thing I teach people. Because I know if my people are organised and productive then we have a better shot at turning the business around. You will find your people are happier, less stressed, more productive and you are as the book says, ‘getting things done.’