I first read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done in December 2008. Now that I’ve been using pieces of his system for a few years, I can comment on some of my favorite parts:
1. Put manuals in a file cabinet. I used to have stacks of manuals in drawers, corners, shelves, on top of bookcases, and so on. Now I have a few dozen folders in a file cabinet that contain all the manuals for my appliances, computer stuff, electronics, and tools. This has reduced clutter and stress of needing to find manuals. I know some folks have moved to just downloading PDFs from the manufacturer and keeping those organized. I do that for some things, but big purchases like a kitchen appliance, I’ve kept the physical manual.
2. Label all files with a label maker. Allen says that doing this will inspire you to keep your files neat and tidy. And he’s right! I have a lateral file cabinet and two pedestal file drawers in my desk. All of my folders are labeled with a $100 label maker. Allen says buy the cheapest one; I didn’t because I had used both a nice one and a cheap one before and really liked the nice one a lot better. Until I took this approach, I never really used my file cabinets. In fact, I got so much use out of this system that I had to buy the lateral cabinet after I filled my pedestal drawers.
3. Do a regular brain dump where you write down EVERYTHING you need to do. Off the bat this can easily be over 100 things: Empty the trash in the laundry room, sweep the garage, prepare a report for work, pay the water bill, donate clothes, buy a new ceiling fan, and so on. Allen says getting all this stuff out of your head will reduce your stress. I have found he is absolutely right.
I read Allen’s book because I was pushing myself to accomplish more in less time than I had ever done so before and it really helped me get a framework that works. I have forgotten less and accomplished more in the last 3 years than I ever would have imagined myself doing prior to doing it. For $10, this book was well worth the investment.