Getting organized (again)

For many people, today is the first work day back after the holidays. It’s not quite so for me, since Tina is still staying with us until Wednesday, but I have spent much of the day getting reorganized via a classic productivity book: David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It’s not a new book (2001), but I first heard of it about a week ago, in the Etsy forums, when an experienced seller said she swears by Allen’s two-minute rule (if you can get it done under 2 minutes, then do it right away). I requested the book from the library and picked it up today.

I totally expected the book to be cheesy and useless. It looks like all the other cheesy, useless efficiency books out there, and it does use a lot of business/managerial-speak that just makes me tune out instantly. But the ideas in the book are pure gold… to be honest, I’m kind of awed by the beauty of the book’s main flowchart (it almost makes me gag, just typing that, but it’s true). Allen gets to the very heart of my stress on page 12: the reason most of us are so constantly anxious is that we have too many balls in the air — what he calls “open loops” — that we don’t feel confident we’ve accounted for in our usual work system. This leads to an inescapable low-grade anxious feeling (oh, so familiar to me!) about things left undone, forgotten deadlines, people we were supposed to get back to but haven’t contacted. Allen says that when there’s something — anything — we need to address, our brains don’t let go of it until it’s safely accounted for, and so we spend needlessly unproductive hours worrying about things we can’t change at the moment (hence all those 3 AM panic sessions!). His reasoning is, if we organize all our inputs into a complete and efficient system, we can attack each individual task with a clear mind, instead of getting endlessly distracted, sidetracked, and panic-stricken. This vision appeals to me greatly!

The fabulous thing about Allen’s system is that it’s composed mostly of tricks I’ve already figured out for myself over the past few years; he just adds some final vital components to bring it all together, and reminds me of some things I’ve been meaning to implement for a long time but haven’t gotten around to yet (like making better use of email folders). I’m already using some of his advice, and as soon as I finish here I’m going to go deal with those email folders… his book dovetails perfectly with the Peter Walsh book I read a month ago, so with both these gurus’ tips in my arsenal, I feel organizationally fearless and soon-to-be-powerful!

I’m so excited to start my 2010 work life this way!!