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A way to do more in lesser time with lower stress? (Book Review)


Title: Getting Things Done - the Art of Stress-Free Productivity; Author: David Allen; Publisher: Hachette India; Pages: 353; Price: Rs.399

In our fast-paced and complex chaotic world of work and life, a coveted term of praise for anyone is that they know how to "get things done". Do they possess some special skills others are bereft of, or do they do the same things others do but with a different method? And can this be taught?

All those who find themselves swamped with too much to do but finding the time available insufficient, while queasy at perhaps having overlooked something significant, will be glad to know that there is no insurmountable barrier keeping them apart from those who can easily strike a viable balance between their work and time.

And more welcome will be the fact that one can quite easily train themselves to acquire this vital skill offering an easier approach to life, as well as work, and no magic is required - as per this book.

For "magic" in this context implies fully obedient and precise repetition of spells and methods, but what David Allen, acknowledged as an expert on personal and organisational productivity with top clients from some of the most prestigious US corporations, offers here is a simpler, practical and flexible way. His method is not an "all-or-nothing" approach, warning of adverse consequences, or at least less-than-optimal results, if not done precisely as set out, but promising to be equally effective whether followed in full or in part.

And it is not only forgiving of human weaknesses, but makes due allowance for it.

Allen's method only calls for focus accompanied with clarity and decisiveness in planning and executing, which largely needs common sense and simple logic - but in most situations of pressure and tension, people to even forget these basic human attributes.

The basic message is that every task or activity has its place and time and proper marrying of these - which is not so difficult as it may seem - ensures the required work can be done effectively without any unwanted tension. As such, his way assures "how to have more energy, be more relaxed, and get a lot more accomplished with much less effort".

The crux is breaking down the task into a number of small steps setting out what exactly has to be done, in which order, and when and Allen does his best to provide guidance and examples of how this should and can be done.

Or if you prefer a buzzword approach, then he puts it as "Capture", "Clarify", "Organise", "Reflect" and "Engage", or collecting, processing, organising, deciding and acting. Some of these may just appear to be plain common sense - and they are, but in a disciplined and focussed way. As one example goes, if there is task before you, that can be done within two minutes, then do it right away, instead of delegating or delaying it.

There is much more in this vein in this book - a revised and updated version of the one first published in 2001 especially to incorporate digital technology, the more interconnected world and other advances, and of its three sections, the first two are the ones which will be most profitable to read, while the final may seem a little repetitive.

As normally happens with various techniques, you will find some of the things you read in this book are those you might already be doing, some you may have done but perhaps not right and now learn, some you might never have thought about but now seem useful and end up working for you (and some that don't), and some that you might think won't work for you or you can't bring yourself to do.

But it seems likely that you will at least find a few helpful pointers here - and they won't require any radical change or special equipment.

(18.04.2016 - Vikas Datta can be contacted at )

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First Published: Mon, April 18 2016. 09:10 IST