Sunday, January 11, 2009

Making It All Work Review

I recently received an email about my thoughts on David Allen's new book, so here's my Making It All Work Review blog post.

Here's the email I received:

"I have set up an online task list using remember the and it seems to be pretty effective. I use it with my ipod touch which allows me to work offline as well.

Thanks again for your posts, I was wondering if you have read Allen's new book and if you had any comments on it?"


First off, thanks for the tip and the email Aaron. I did pick up Allen's book the day it came out and have read the book. I am big fan of his work and was eager for the new book to come out, got me a diet coke, sat down and read it immediately.

The first comment I have on the book is kind of picky, but I prefer the look and feel of the Penquin publishing paperback, so it just doesn't feel as good with a different publisher in hard back. On to more important

I think the purpose of his new book was to move beyond the current projects and runway actions that Getting Things Done focused on to the higher levels of areas of responsibility, one- to two-year goals, three to five year visions and your life's purpose. For the most part, the book addresses these levels.

One of the issues facing David Allen in this book is how do you top Getting Things Done. So for me, the expectations were high for this book and I'd have to say that it was less than I expected. It's kind of like when you go to a movie that everybody loves and builds up and when you finally see it, you're a little let down because you expected so much more.

I know that when I read Ready for Anything, I had a similar feeling. Although later after I had my system up and running I re-read it and got more value out of it the second time.

Getting Things Done, on the other hand, I've read over and over and over again. It's the greatest book every written on the subject. I've bought several copies and given them as gifts. I don't see myself getting the same utility out of the new book but I do plan on re-reading it again soon.

Personally, I think there still alot to be explored with GTD and for me, that's perfecting it. Because there is so much choice in how we do things, I think that is where the opportunity for improvement can be made. Choice by it's very nature causes inaction in my opinion. In addition, I still think that when we start everyday we have to rethink our actions again and again and that is always on our mind.

In my vision of perfection, I picture the head football coach on the sideline of a professional NFL game with his big laminated chart that tells him exactly what he needs to do in any given game situation. What play do I run on third down and 2? Do I go for it on 4th down on the 35 yd line or kick a field goal? These are the kinds of questions that come up in games each and every week.

Football coaches spend hours and hours pre-planning every game-time decision that needs to be made so they don't have to think during the game. Collectively, all coaches use the experience of all other coaches to determine the best decision before the game is even played. During the game, when faced with a situation, they look at their chart that tells them what to do. By streamlining their options, deciding ahead of time what they should do, they make fewer mistakes and perform at a high level.

As GTD'ers, that's the kind of thing I think we need to pursue. I've been spending my time breaking down everything I do into actionable steps that I've pre-thought ahead of time. Now, when I sit at my email, I've got a checklist that tells me each step I need to take and what order to take them. The benefit of doing this is that I don't have to think when I check my email. I just go throught the steps. Also, I know what the beginning and the end of checking email looks like. I also know when I am finished. Next, I can note my start time and my finish time and work to improve my time and efficiency. By repeating this with each component of my work and life, I can get all that overhead off of my mind as is intended and not be wondering what done looks like.

For me, that's the kind of book I am looking for and what I am focusing on here. If you are a David Allen fan though, you'll still like the book. So, that's my Making It All Work Review and if you do want to pick it up do so using my link up there at the top.