Book Recommendation: Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Getting Things Done Book Cover

We all get pulled in tons of different directions. For me, I split time between my dissertation research, other research projects, classes (although these aren’t as big of chunk of my time in my final year), guest lectures (since I’m not teaching a full class in my last year in my PhD program), doing S&C work with the Men’s golf team, social media & website administration for the Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coaching Education, keeping up this website, running our graduate student seminar, handling all of the emails that come with each of the preceding areas, and other miscellaneous projects (like my work with the OTS Weightlifting Team, see: here and here).

Any strength and conditioning coach, faculty member or sport scientist handles at least as many different projects, pulling them in all sorts of directions. I’ve struggled in the past to pull together a system for handling all of these competing tasks. I’ve mentioned using Todoist before, and that has been a serious boon to helping me handle all of the things I have going on, but in order for me to use a task-management system most effectively, I needed a framework to operate within.

The “Getting Thing Done” (GTD) system, introduced by David Allen seems to fit that bill. One of the central ideas to his system is that when you are thinking about the tasks that you have to do, it competes with the creative capacity you could be applying to the actual work. His idea is that you need a framework to get all of your tasks and to-dos recorded, so that you don’t have to keep them banging around in your head.

There are a lot of good ideas here about how to get yourself organized, and to deal with incoming projects and tasks. There are three ideas that have resonated with me that I’d like to share- the concept of “Next Action”, the idea of “collecting tasks” and the “two-minute rule”.

The concept of “Next Action” is distinct from a “To Do”, in that a next action is a clearly defined action that gets you closer to completing a particular project. Instead of “finish journal article”, as it might look on the to-do list, instead, the next action might be “Summarize SPSS output into results section”. The major difference is that next action is a clear step towards finishing, instead of a vague “thing” you would like to finish.

The collection of tasks concept has been a great thing to help get rid of the extra “stuff” bouncing around in your head. Whenever you think of a task, regardless of the situation or context, you record it immediately into your task management system. Once down, you can process it later, but the fact that you have to get a haircut or call the dean does not interrupt your current activity. Instead, it gets recorded into your task inbox, to be processed/organized/completed later.

The two minute rule basically amounts to this-assuming you aren’t waist deep in another task, when a new task shows up that would take two minutes or less to complete, you do it immediately. If it takes longer than two minutes, then it goes to the inbox of your task management system (again for me, Todoist). This makes sure that the little tasks that show up throughout the day just get done, rather than pile up.

As for the book, the only criticism I would level at it is that it is 12 years old. There is quite a bit of discussion about outdated technology, like Lotus, or Palm Pilots. The conceptual information and framework is still very applicable. There is a new version coming in March which I would expect to address some of the outdated aspects like technology.

Don’t want to buy it?  There are some free resources on the web as well- you can check out or do a google search- there’s lots out there.


Since I don’t want you to think there’s a conflict of interest in my recommendation, here are two separate links to the book.  The first two links are affiliate links, from which I will earn a small percentage of the purchase price should you buy the book. The second two links are normal links for the Amazon page of the book, just as if you had found it browsing through the Amazon site.It is worth checking out either way. Happy reading!

Check it out here:

Getting Things Done (2015 Edition, Pre-Order)
Getting Things Done (2002 Edition)

Getting Things Done (2015 Edition, Pre-Order)
Getting Things Done (2002 Edition)