The Art of Stress Free Productivity
As a teenager and then single adult, I thought organization meant neat shelves and matching totes, and I could actually get all if my work done without writing a single to do list! I found out life requires much more than that. Reality hit me as a young wife and mother, as a family in full time ministry, and then as a home schooling mom. I wish I had read this book much sooner!
David Allen has been called one of the world’s most influential thinkers on productivity and has been a keynote speaker and facilitator for such organizations as New York Life, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, L.L. Bean, and the U.S. Navy, and he conducts workshops for individuals and organizations across the country. He is the chairman of the David Allen Company and has more than thirty-five years of experience as a management consultant and executive coach. His work has been featured in Fast Company, Fortune, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.
One must read the book with the understanding that it is a secular book. To the author, the ultimate happiness and fulfillment is from organizing and implementing and realizing your life goals. For the Christian, our ultimate joy comes from being yielded to God’s will. The method is sound, though, and his way of catching whatever input comes your way, directing it to the appropriate place, and acting on it, is tremendously helpful especially for those in ministry with that flexible, often unpredictable schedule.
Here are some concepts that I found most helpful to me:
- The author’s definition of “work” is significant. “I consider ‘work,’ in its most universal sense, to mean anything that you want or need to be different than it currently is. Many people make a distinction between ‘work’ and ‘personal life,’ but I don’t: To me, weeding the garden or updating my will is just as much ‘work’ as writing this book or coaching a client. All the methods and techniques in this book are applicable across that life-work spectrum—to be effective, they need to be.”1 I like it because it does not compartmentalize your life which is a problem I’ve witnessed in a many ministry families. The tendency to shut out parts of your life in favor of another in reality tears down all but the one you value most. The reality is that all work we do is valuable regardless of the priority you place on it. This is especially true when I engage in ministry and family and friendships and devotion to God all at the same time.
- I loved all of the quotes he uses. Those were fun to read. “A great hammer will not make a great carpenter, but a great carpenter will want a great hammer” (Pg 96). “An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run” (pg. 270).
- The concepts of having a “dashboard” that serves your orientation in any context whether at home or office or in transit is something I already do with Microsoft OneNote.
- The concept of “what’s the next action?” for every task or project was extremely helpful to me.
- I agree with the bottom-up model vs. top-down model. GTD methodology says that by managing and purging and prioritizing mundane actions, you free your mind and creative energy to focus on higher levels actions and decision making. … so it’s not that high and lofty goals aren’t needed, or essential. It’s just that without a way of handling day-to-day input and tasks elegantly and efficiently, we won’t really be able to fully engage in the bigger picture, long-term projects and goals with all our creative faculties and skills in gear (pg. 274). I think this is consistent with Christian concepts of diligence, not being lazy; God being a God of order; faithfulness to our commitments; faithfulness in the little things; wisdom to use resources and opportunities from God, and not waste those blessings; stewardship.
- The scientific support for this method is covered at the end of the book, and was all very fascinating. At this point in the book, the author is just making his case that his method is sound. I thought the section on self-leadership was funny, though. I guess this is a new concept. But I’ve learned this in church and in my childhood home throughout my life in the terminology of self-control, temperance, individual soul liberty, etc.
So is a book like this profitable for wives and mothers? Yes! Dorothy Patterson made the point in her book, “A Woman Seeking God” that motherhood is a career. It is worthy of in-demand skills, continuing education, essential tools, prior learning and education, etc. I would argue this is true especially for homeschooling moms and ministry moms. It’s more than just managing multiple responsibilities. It is managing multiple worlds colliding.
So read it. It was worth the $15. (Actually the paperback is on sale for less than the kindle version right now on Amazon.)
This book is purely practical, even though it is not an expressly Christian book. In my view, though, being practical is a part of spirituality. We are to do all thing with decency and in order 1 Corinthians 14:40. God is a God of order, not confusion, giving us places of stewardship and responsibilities. All things are His, and we are just the managers. Will we be faithful in everything He has set before us to do?
1. Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (p. 320). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.