Another book that I read recently is Getting Things Done by David Allen. It is a productivity classic.
The basic idea is he sets up a system where you make a decision on everything that comes to your attention, prefereably within a couple of seconds. You should never let things pile up. He recommends taking some time once a week to get through any piles of stuff you have. Part of his consulting work involves helping people going through stuff that had been piling up for years.
The summaries on those links above are pretty good, so I won’t talk too much about the book.
Here are a few interesting quotes from the book:
Chaper 7, page 168: He talks about making lists. “You may also be surprised to find that some of the things you write on the list will actually come to pass, almost without your making any conscious effort to make them happen. If you acknowledge the power of the imagination to foster changes in perception and performance, it’s easy to see how having a “Someday/Maybe” list out in front of your conscious mind could potentially add many wonderful adventures to your life and work.” That sounds a bit woo-ish.
page 178: “The degree to which any of us needs to maintain checklists and external controls is directly related to our unfamiliarity with the are of responsibility…. Many times you’ll want some sort of checklist to help you maintain a focus until you’re more familiar with what you’re doing.” It is interesting that he thinks you should use checklists for things you are not familiar with. This goes against The Checklist Manifesto, which stated you could/should use checklists for routine tasks.
page 179: “Be open to creating any kind of checklist as the urge strikes you….Making lists, ad hoc, as they occur to you, is one of the most powerful yet subtlest and simplest procedures that you can install in your life….Get comfortable with checklists, both ad hoc and more permanent. Be ready to create and eliminate them as required. Appropriately used, they can be a tremendous asset in personal productivity.”
Page 189: Quote from David Kekich: Thinking is the very essence of, and the most difficult thing to do in, business and in life. Empire builders spend hour-after-hour on mental work… while others party. If you’re not consciously aware of putting forth the effort to exert self-guided integrated thinking…then you’re giving in to laziness and no longer control your life.