"They're suddenly feeling buried," says Allen. "Many of them are control freaks suddenly out of control. They girded their entrepreneurial loins and marched out into the world. Now they're successful, but it's grown beyond their ability to control it."
That's where GTD comes in.
What is Getting Things Done? We'll get to that in a moment, but first, why Getting Things Done? Why does it need to exist? In a nutshell, the Allen methodology rests on three key insights about "stuff," the nature of work today, and the way the mind operates.
Stuff, for Allen, is the Great Enemy, the Lord of the Flies. As he puts it in Getting Things Done, stuff is "anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn't belong where it is, but for which you haven't yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step."
That's a big butterfly net, sweeping in, well, almost everything: a $20 million real estate deal, a sore elbow, an elderly parent's need for care, a squeaky garage door, an unanswered e-mail, an invitation to join a church softball team, a dissatisfied customer, a cluttered closet, a burgeoning waistline, a monster deadline, a wilting houseplant. And stuff never stops: While you're reading this article, stuff steals into your life from 100 roads: e-mail, cell phone, frowns from your boss, overnight mail, oil-change reminders, sticky notes left on your computer monitor, please-help letters from your kid's school, postponed doctor visits.
The stuff invasion may be worse for the millions whom Allen callsknowledge workers, a term coined by management guru Peter Drucker.That's because, instead of performing the kind of cut-and-driedtasks common to our forebears - chopping down trees, handling theswitchboard, bolting on door frames at the Ford plant - today'sknowledge worker must define the work before doing it.
Improve communications with personnel - how? Refine that legalbrief - how? Get in on booming Chinese markets - how? And whileyou're defining the work and trying to do it, the hyperlinked,overconnected world keeps banging on your cubicle walls.
"With all the interruptions, e-mails, and calls coming in, younever actually get a solid hour to work on something," says GTDfan David Baillie, environmental director, Naval Weapon StationSeal Branch, California. His thought is echoed by Michael Hyatt,president and CEO of Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson.
"To be successful today requires being good at multitasking," saysHyatt. "Things appear with little or no context and you have toimpose order on a fairly chaotic environment. The GTD system doesthat without getting in the way."
To make matters even more difficult, our own minds conspire againstus. "The mind is great for having ideas, but not for holding on tothem," Allen likes to say. The moment the mind senses the approachof stuff- the forgotten phone call, the broken patio gate, thelooming meeting with its hazy agenda - it immediately stores theinfo on a chunk of your psychic RAM, then sets about making sureyou never forget. Never.
But you're thinking, Huh? I do forget. A lot.