This book is for all those who are overwhelmed with too many things to do, too little time to do them, and a general sense of unease that something important is being missed.
Everyone has experienced times when everything seemed effortless, and progress limitless. David Allen has captured ways for you to achieve that wonderful state of mind and consciousness more often.
His key concept is that every task, promise, or assignment has a place and a time. With everything in its proper place and time, you feel in control and replace the time spent on vague worrying with effective, timely action. As a result, the accomplishments grow while the pressure to accomplish decreases. As a result, the book contains many insights into "how to have more energy, be more relaxed, and get a lot more accomplished with much less effort."
The key psychological insight of this book is that rapid progress occurs when you take large, unformed tasks, and break them down and organize them into smaller, sequential steps for exactly what to do and when. The book provides lots of guidance and examples for how to do this.
The book is organized into three sections. The first gives you an overview of the whole process for how to get more done in a relaxed way. The second spells out the details of how to implement that process, in a way that a personal coach might use. The third provides subtle insights that help you appreciate the benefits that follow from using the process. Like all good coaches, Mr. Allen understands that appreciating a subject from several perspectives and getting lots of practice with it are critical steps in learning.
The process advocated by this book is described with lots of systems flow charts that will appeal to all of the engineers and left-brained people. The right-brained people will find lots of discussions about emotions, feelings, and stress. So both types of thinkers should do well with this material.
The essence of the process is that you write down a note about everything when you take on a new responsibility, make a new commitment, or have a useful thought. All of this ends up in some kind of "in" box. You then go through your "in" box and decide what needs to be done next for each item. For simple issues, this includes identifying the action you should take first and when to take it. For tougher issues, you schedule an appropriate time to work the problem in more detail. You organize the results of this thinking, and review your options for what you should be doing weekly. Then you take what you choose to do, and act. Think of this process as the following five steps: (1) collect (2) process (3) organize (4) decide (5) act.
For the tougher problems, you start with identifying your purpose and principles so you know why you care how it all turns out. Then you imagine the potential good outcomes that you would like. Following that, you brainstorm with others the best way to get those outcomes. Then you organize the best pathway. Finally, you identify the first actions you need to take. Then you act, as in step 5 above.
From this outline, I hope that you can see that this is not rocket science. It is simple common sense, but with discipline. The critical part is the discipline because that is what focuses your attention where it will do the most good. For example, rather than sitting on something you have no idea how to get started, you can decide right away to get ideas from others on what the purpose and principles are that should be used in selecting a solution. So, you are in motion, and you have saved much time and anxiety.
What I learned from this book is that many people allow a lot of time to pass without taking any useful steps because they cannot imagine what to do next. This process should usually overcome that problem by showing you what to work on, providing methods to accomplish that step in the process, and guiding you to places where you can get appropriate help. As a result, this book should help overcome the bureaucracy and communications stalls that bedevil most organizations.
This fits from my own experience in helping people solve problems. If you simplify the questions and make them into familiar ones, everyone soon finds powerful alternatives drawn from a lifetime of experiences and memories. Keep things broad, abstract, and vague, and peoples' eyes glaze over while they struggle for a place to begin.
After you have finished reading and applying this book, I suggest that you share your new learning with those you see around you who are the most stressed out. By helping them gain relaxed control of their activities, you will also be able to enjoy the benefits of their increased effectiveness in supporting your own efforts.
May you always get the tools you need, understand what to do next, and move swiftly through timely actions!