Back in 2002, management consultant David Allen wrote "Getting Things Done," a book that detailed his own five-step productivity method. He quickly gained a highly devoted following. This year, Allen is out with a revised version of the original guide, updated for today's 24-7 digitally connected world.
So how much have the last 13 years changed Allen's methods? Well, the original framework has withstood the test of time. If you're unfamiliar with it, here's his process in brief:
Capture. Write down all incomplete to-do items that are nagging at you.
Clarify. Decide exactly how to act on each.
Organize. Sort information accordingly. (For example, is it related to a specific work project?)
Review. Regularly evaluate your inventory of items.
Engage. Execute to-dos based on priority, the level of energy they require and the amount of time they will take.
What definitely has changed over the past several years is the ubiquity and variety of information coming at people every day, Allen says in a recent podcast he recorded with The Washington Post. And depending on how much you pay attention to it, it might detract from the amount of time you need to spend on real priorities.
"There's nothing wrong with entertaining yourself or recreational surfing of the Web," he says. "But be careful about what you're not doing."
Turning off smartphone notifications and placing your devices far away from you when you don't need them are good ways to reduce distractions. However, if you're effectively managing your to do list to begin with, you're less likely to need to deal with urgent communications coming through on your phone, Allen says.
And the less time you're able to spend on your phone, the less likely you are to get sucked into that hard-to-break cycle of media consumption.
After 13 years of watching others practice his method in their own lives, the true purpose of personal management has come into sharp focus for Allen.
"Here's the big secret, and it's not really about getting things done. It's about being appropriately engaged with your life," he says. "So that your life is not pulling or tugging at you when you're sitting in the driver's seat of it. And that's the optimal state to be operating from."