Episode 13: David Allen on the Updated (2015) Version of Getting Things Done [The Amiel Show]

Being one of the first to interview the world’s top productivity guru about his new book


It used to be that you were either productive or relaxed–but not both, at least at the same time. Sure, the world’s wisdom traditions have taught for centuries how to move forward in life with quiet minds. But modern organizations were slow to the game.

At least until David Allen entered the scene.


Allen’s 2002 book Getting Things Done not only proclaimed “stress-free productivity” to be possible. It showed people how to do it. The positive results of following the system brought many grown men (and women) to tears. And it led TIME magazine to declare the book “the defining self-help business book of its time.”

On March 17, a week from today, an updated version of the book comes out. (I pre-ordered my copy on Amazon). In Episode 13 of The Amiel Show, David Allen and I discuss what’s new in this version, what’s timeless, and why power naps and someday/maybe lists make life better. We explore (times are approximate):

Episode 2: Michael Dolan on Relaxed Productivity and Removing “Stuff” from Your Psyche [The Amiel Show]

In episode 2 of The Amiel Show, Michael Dolan of Truly Productive Leadership and I speak about:

  • How Michael learned the Getting Things Done (GTD) approach
  • The biggest barriers he sees to relaxed productivity
  • The importance of managing agreements with yourself
  • Why it is important to collect all of the stuff swimming around in your psyche and place it in a trusted system, a process that he compares to popping popcorn
  • The tremendous relief people experience after doing this
  • The value of understanding yourself better as a person so that, in addition to being productive, you also feel a deep sense of meaning


Listen to the Podcast

Getting Unstuck: The Vending Machine Incident

I once got my arm stuck inside of a vending machine. The scene of the crime was Camp Geneva in Wisconsin. I was six. The goal was to steal a Milky Way bar by reaching up the chute and opening the latch.

These were the 1970s. Vending machines were not yet designed to prevent such theft. That made this period the golden years for kids with a big sweet tooth, little money, and few scruples.

Truck Stuck

Lunch had just ended, and six of us – all boys my age – were in the cafeteria. Except for us, the room was empty: the perfect time for stealing candy. I was the last to perform the heist, mainly because I was afraid of getting caught. After a dose of goading from the others, I reached my arm up the chute, extended my fingers toward the Milky Way, and…found myself unable to reach my target. I pushed and wiggled, but no luck.

ASAP Is A Four-Letter Word

Want to get things done more smoothly and reduce the number of crossed wires in your life?

Then stop saying “As Soon As Possible” (ASAP). Today.

On the surface, ASAP is useful in conveying urgency. It says I’m in a hurry, so do this fast. It also rolls off the lips easily. The two syllables convey that you are serious and need results now.

ASAP sign

Unfortunately, as my first boss taught me twenty years ago, ASAP is one of the greatest sources of organizational conflict and suffering. Every time you say it, you triple the odds of misunderstanding, dropped balls, and disappointment. The reason is simple: ASAP means different things to different people—not sometimes, but all of the time. 

How I wrote my book in three weeks

A friend recently wrote me this email:

I love your practice with surrender. I am about to spend a week in NYC alone to move the dissertation forward. I will remember your counsel.

She was referring to a recent letter I sent describing what allowed me to write the first draft of my book last summer in three weeks:

It was one of those singular experiences where words pour forth without effort once you put your body in the proper place.

Now that I know she is about to embark on her own period of intensive writing, I want to round out the picture. Surrender played a big part in writing fast. Here are several other factors: