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This is the second article in a series providing a summary “book club” reading of Mr. David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. I’m reading from the 2001 Penguin Books edition.
To collect is the first step in the GTD workflow and is aimed to have everything, every incomplete task or project documented outside your mind.
Allen suggests to spend a few days thinking about all your goals and tasks and to collect every input into some tool, either a physical in-basket or a paper notebook or a voice recording device and so on.
The three requirements to make a collection device working are:
- every open loop MUST BE in your collection system and out of your head.
- you MUST HAVE as few as possible collection systems (ideally only one, always with you).
- you MUST EMPTY them regularly.
The last point requires some additional explanation. In practice, for every item in the collection system you should ask yourself:
What is it? Figure out what yand if you have to do something with it.
If no action is needed now but something might need to be done later or could be useful later then put it into the Incubation system or into the Reference system (will be clarified in the next steps).
If no action is required then remove it.
If there is something to do about it, you need first to clarify what (is a big project? A simple task? A series of actions?), then it should be:
- done immediately if it’s a simple action (Allen suggests when it requires less than two minutes)
- delegated if someone else should do it
- defered if it’s not a simple action (put it into the calendar or in a Projects/Next Actions system).
Next step: organize
Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to activities in order to meet the requirements of a project.
The project manager is the person responsible for accomplishing those objectives.
Completing the objectives require the project manager to balance among three costraints: scope, time and cost; the relationship among them is such that if any one of the three factors changes the other are affected as well, i.e. you cannot increase the scope adding more features without increasing also the costs or the time necessary to complete.
Note that many books and experts speak about four factors, adding the quality costraint to the three above but I personally believe that quality should be implicit in project management and you cannot decrease it just to finish earlier.
Some of the skills required are unique to project management, such as work breakdown structures, critical path analysis or earned value management, however effective management requires also knowledge specific to the related area (as standards, regulations and best practices), understanding of the environment (cultural, social, politic) , general management skills (as budgeting, marketing, contracts) and – very important – interpersonal and communication skills.
Next: Program Management