The first keynote of the Office 2.0 Conference today was given by David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. His workflow approach emphasizes "freeing up" the mind by creating specially organized action lists and files, allowing the brain to multitask less and do what it does best: concentrate. Allen said today, "real time management is when time disappears, when you're in 'the zone." Worrying takes time and energy, both of which could be spent in action. When capturing data is digitally easy, whether by notes, calendars or reminder alarms, there is no coaching available for dealing with the resulting accumulation. When we worked with paper, the physical presence was sometimes enough to instigate action, but now the build-up is invisible.
According to Allen, a computer should start to swell and stink when there is too much unprocessed data, gradually threatening to explode from the strain. Instead, the timeliness must be determined by the user. The data must be separated into what are called "actionable items," that can be resolved by some sort of activity or action, redundantly enough. Everything else should be trashed.
The idea of throwing away a sizable portion of information is a rather shocking concept. Most people cling to information as if it has some sort of intrinsic value. Email from five years ago is just white noise, detracting from productivity. To David Allen, unactionable items are not just useless, they are malevolent. His default inbox size is "zero."
The Getting Things Done methodology has proved revolutionary for many, and has spawned its own network of communities, entrepreneurs and Web Sites. Early next year it will be the subject of its own conference, the GTD Global Summit. Allen's new book Making It All Work - Winning at the game of work and business of life, will be one of the highlighted presentations.