Clearing the clutter to l ive fuller lives
By J. Rentilly
A clean desk might be the sign of an empty mind, as some bumper stickers suggest, bumper stickers suggest,
but that”s exactly how David Allen likes it. The veteran coac h and management consultant, Aleader of the Ojai, California–based David Allen Company an d author of three bestselling
books,includingGettingThingsDone:TheArtofStress-Fre eProductivity(VikingPenguin, (VikingPenguin,
2 001), has blazed the trail in productivity training, time management and stress reduction,
aiding clients ranging from major global corporations such as American Express to Boy
The mission a nd method, as shared in Costco
member Allen’s books and workshops are simple:
Clear the to-do list clutter from your head so that
your mind can get to work on creative action.
Allen’s productivity methods, titled GTD (for
Getting Things Done), are being used by tens of
millions of people around the world, from Estonia
to Russia to India, and are successful because,
according to company spokesman James Rider, “we
don’t let work define us. We define our work. GTD
is the bridge between the practicality of handling
everyday tasks and finding the spiritual promise of
relaxation, focus and control.”
A recent interview with The Connection found
that in conversation, Allen, 63, is easygoing, self-deprecating and quick to be astonished at the success of
his burgeoning empire, which brings in $8 million
annually. He is the polar opposite of what one might
expect from a guru of uber-productivity. Although
always on point, the point is more about maximizing
his humanity than about alphabetizing his CDs.
Currently prepping for March’s first annual
GTD Global Summit in San Francisco, Allen boasts
of a clean desk and an empty mind, jokes regularly
about being lazy and devotes his “free time” to playing the piano and flute, traveling with his wife,
Kathryn, and gardening at home in Ojai. Talk about
getting things done.
You claim to have had 35 careers before
the age of 35. You’ve been a waiter, a magi-
22 The Costco Connection DECEMBER 2008
cian, a m oped salesman, a minister.
Was it s erendipity or dilettantism,
curiosity or just being driftwood? or just being driftwood?
Yes [ laughs], all of the above. I
really did n”t know what I wanted to be
when I g rew up. I was far-ranging and
dilettanti sh and lazy, just throw all of
this self- awareness enlightenment game
things to pay the rent while I was on this other
journey, a nd so they tended to be colorful.
I wen t off on lots of strange tangents and
explorations. T o a large degree, it was as simple as this: I”ve
alwaysbe endriventofindthesimplest,mosteffi-cient way of getting things done so I don”t have any of getting things done so I don”t have any
the proc ess. I wound up helping people, helping
businesse s, helping myself.
who is u nfamiliar with it?
It”sa bouttheagreementswemakewithour-selves and how well we”re going to honor them. We how well we”re going to honor them. We
spend so muchtime worrying about the agreements
we make with others, but it begins with making and with others, but it begins with making and
keeping a greements with ourselves, eliminating the
negativit y that happens when we don”t. That”s what
GTD is a ll about.
I”ve b een sensitive enough, or curious enough,
to see ho w much the psyche wraps itself around the