Marc Orchant had tried just about everything in his quest to keep pace with life's demands. His garage was filled with old Franklin planners and day timers. A self-described "gadget freak" and early tech adopter, he had explored various kinds of software for mind-mapping, brainstorming, and otherwise jamming 48 hours into 24. "I was constantly trying to find a way to stay on top of all the stuff in my life," says Orchant.
Nothing really satisfied him until early 2001, when he went to work for a software developer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was given two things on his first day: a key to get in the front door and a copy of Getting Things Done, a book written by consultant and executive coach David Allen. The company's president had attended an Allen seminar and had come away "completely captivated by how natural, logical, and consistent the methodology was," Orchant recalls.
Subtitled The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, Allen's book opens with a clarion call to the frazzled, keyed-up masses across the business spectrum: "It's possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a relaxed sense of control," Allen writes. GTD, as it is called by its devotees, offers "a coherent set of behaviors and tools that function effectively at the level at which work really happens," a system that will "maintain control over hundreds of new inputs daily."
Workers of the world, meet GTD.
At the time, Orchant didn't know that Allen's tome would radically change his life or that he would be part of a fast-growing army of GTDers who credit Allen for increasing their work output, bringing them success in work and life, and unleashing energy and creativity that they never knew before.
"It's as powerful a tool as any I've ever seen," says Andrew Hoxsey, owner and operator of the Napa Wine Company in Oakville, California. "I have done things I just couldn't have done without the methodology." Kim Hagerty, chairman of Michigan-based Hagerty Insurance and CEO of the Hagerty Group, its management group, calls GTD "an amazing system, and not just an organizational system. It's a lifestyle change as much as anything else."
Followers of Allen, who speak a language of RAM Dumps, Next Actions, Weekly Reviews, 43 Folders, 10,000-Foot Views, and Open Loops, say the GTD effect isn't limited to individuals; numerous small and large companies have also been transformed by Allen's teachings. At General Mills, where about 2,000 employees have volunteered for GTD training, chief learning officer Kevin Wilde says GTD has become part of the cereal giant's culture.
"Lots of people really benefit from it," says Wilde. "It gives you more tools to handle this crazy life. Some people have come back from individual training and said they want their team or their whole division to go through it. This approach doesn't reduce your workload, but you're working on better things in better ways."
At Hagerty Insurance, about one-third of the almost 300 employees have adopted GTD, with more to follow suit. "Implementing GTD throughout the organization has increased our productivity and reduced the general stress level," says Hagerty. And at the smaller end of the scale, all 30 employees at Orchant's company, VanDyke Software, have attended a GTD seminar. "It's a core part of our culture, built into the molecular level of every conversation we have," says Orchant, who also runs a GTD blog at www.officezealot.com/gtd.