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The Organised Hack

Quick Links

  1. The Why
  2. The Principles
  3. The Method
  4. The Verdict
  5. Resources For This Post

The Why

If you’re a small business owner, or sole proprietor of any kind, you
understand exactly what this picture means. You have to juggle everything.
Whether it’s dropping that parcel off at the post office, making sure
there are enough file folders or unclogging the drain in the bathroom
basin – you have to do it all.

The problem is keeping track of that ‘all’. You forget
to post the parcel, the customer gets irate, you get stressed, the
stress makes you rush the next job, the rushed work upsets another
customer and pretty soon you’re wishing you had never started this
stupid business in the first place. If you haven’t ever felt this way,
then you probably haven’t been operating for more than a few months. It
is an experience so common to the small business owner as to be nearly

But help is available, and it is available from kalahari.com or
. This book, ‘Getting
Things Done – The Art of Stress Free Productivity’ by David Allen
is the quickest way for even the most poorly organised among us to
become significantly more effective with our time. More than that, it
will make you want to be more productive with your time by
explaining the benefits that you will reap. And wanting to is
nine tenths of the battle.

The Principles

Allen’s premise is that the gnawing uncertainty of not knowing what we
should be doing and what else we are leaving undone causing
effectiveness-robbing stress in us. His solution? Track it. All of it.
All the background noise currently flooding your sub-conscious and
derailing you with stress that is neither useful nor healthy. (Yes,
there is useful, healthy stress. Feeling stressed when noticing a bus
that will hit you allows you to dump adrenaline into your blood and
escape harm quickly. Pretty useful, very healthy)

Before you throw your hands up in despair at the impossible task of
tracking all of it, read on just a little further. Because
Allen’s sneaky package of specific tips, tricks and approaches make it easy.
Not to get completely right the first time. But right enough that it
will revolutionise your life in your first attempt.

The principle is this: move all your ‘stuff’ that you’re currently
tracking into a paper and/or electronic based system that is
comprehensive enough that your sub-conscious will trust it. Then follow
a set of review periods where every item gets reviewed so that
sub-conscious will continue to trust it.

Once your sub-conscious trusts your system, and your commitment to it,
you will begin to experience the ‘mind like water’ of zen warriors. Zen
aside, a less-stressed you is a good thing.

The Method

Getting started on any change is always the hardest part, and so it is
with applying the ‘Getting Things Done’ philosophy to your life in a
committed and coherent fashion.

Allen recommends taking 3 days out to completely catalogue and organise
your mental and physical clutter. I thought that I could drag it out and
implement it a bit at a time. While applying any particular part of his
principles will certainly prove helpful, the synergistic effect of
jumping in the deep end and applying all of them cohesively is
mind-blowing. On their own, each technique or trick is good, but not
impressive. When they are bound together in a cohesive strategy for your
life, the results become impressive. Do the band-aid thing – write off 3
days early on and just do it. The increased productivity and
effectiveness you will reap will repay those days very fast.

The Verdict

If you do any googling on this book, you will see that there are people
that refer to it and its impact on their lives with an almost cult-like
passion and awe. If you work in IT in any sort of team setting, it is
likely that you have heard the acronym ‘GTD’ (Getting Things
Done) In some circles it has already become the de
facto standard for getting life under control.

Having always been the messy, ‘it looks messy but I know where
everything is’ kind of person, the thought of reading a book on getting
organised went a bit against the grain. But the person who recommended
that I read it is not someone that makes recommendations lightly. And
the person who recommended it to him doesn’t make recommendations at
all. That was enough to overcome my initial reluctance and buy a copy.

That was more than a year ago, and I can still recommend it today. I am
writing this article because I am about to re-read it again. Over the
last year, I have let parts of the system slip and I have lost the ‘mind
like water’. I am still more effective and efficient than I was before
reading the book though.

Having reflected on the long-term fruits that this book has brought to
my life, I can happily recommend it to anyone. Even if you don’t think
you need it – you probably do.

Resources For This Post

If you normally shop at Amazon.com, they have both the paperback and
electronic versions available for purchase. The link for the paperback
is on the left, for the e-book on the right:


For my South African readers, if you would rather use kalahari.com, you
can get the softcover or audio cd versions from kalahari.com. The link
on the left is for the paperback version, the link on the left is for
the audio CD: