Monday, May 14, 2007

Success Book Reviews - David Allen "Ready For Anything" Part 2

This is part 2 of my review of David (“Getting Things Done”) Allen’s book Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life . Part one of my review is here.

“Ready For Anything” Part 2: “Focus Productively”

Part 1 of his book was devoted to clearing out your psychic RAM . Part two takes it from there. The chatter in your brain has been stilled by capturing and organizing all of the projects and tasks you are currently engaging in. The next issue is how to use that recaptured mental processing space for productive work. Here are a few key ideas form this section:

Results come from focused action, not just action
“Busy-ness” is not necessarily productivity. Doing the right thing, at the right intensity, for the right reasons, is.

Focus on the outcome. See yourself “doing it”.
I had a wonderful mentor, Rayburn Wright, who was the first to explain this to me. In essence, the mind does seem to self-organize around intention. The sub-actions seem to “flow” toward the destination. Many disciplines, such as those I mention in my review of “Quantum Success” and in my post about “My Success With Written Affirmations” are related tot his concept. Having an intention seems to recruit various sections of the mind to perform better and more cohesively.

Keep Desired outcomes in front of you.
This is a corollary of the previous principle. One of the best ways to “focus on the outcome” is to keep that outcome in front of you as much as possible. World-class athletes know this principle well, and you can often find their bedrooms adorned with posters of winning athletes, Olympic medal ceremonies, etc. I keep a list of my current goals in two key places: on my bathroom mirror, and at my bedside. Virtually the first thing I see in the morning, and the last thing I see at night are those goals.

I believe that one reason we must keep our goals constantly in mind is that opportunity is a near-random event. The opportunity to move ahead on a particular goal may come only once a week, or once a year, or even once in a lifetime. As Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared mind”.

Here’s a particular example: as a trader, I wait for certain market conditions to occur. Some of these conditions occur only two or three times per year. And I need to remember not only what conditions I am waiting for, but what I plan to do when I see those conditions. I have found it particularly helpful to keep those goals in front of me. Also, I strongly agree with David Allen that this kind of long-term thinking should not be cluttering up my mind during day –to-day activities. Devoting “psychic RAM” to a distant and rare event seems to me to be a bit of a waste of energy.

Develop your ability to return to a state of “Readiness”.
When some event throws us off of our game, Allen asks: “How quick can you return to ‘Ready’?” That “recovery time” is an excellent indicator of productivity: of the ability to snap from “out of focus” to “in focus”. In my discussion of Doug Newburg’s “Resonance Model”, I mention Newburg’s key tenet that high-performance people in all walks of life have methods to “revisit the dream” so they can concentrate their focus back on how they want to feel and perform, and away from the disruptive events that are impeding that “flow”.

Capture thoughts and ideas from moments of inspiration
Sometimes, when I am thinking quietly in the morning, the “obvious next step” in a process will occur to me. Or a completely new application of an existing process will suddenly appear. These key insights are the kind of things that can change our planned projects and tasks, re-orienting them in increasingly productive directions. These insights, which we may have only during a few “inspired” moments, need to be captured, because such moments of elevation and perspective do not occur all the time. These “drivers” can move our daily work ahead faster and more accurately. So, some method of capture (notebook, voice recorder, etc) needs to be nearby. Also, we need to trust that these efforts are worthwhile. We need to have the inner discipline to write threes ideas down. Key insights are few. They are valuable. And we must recognize this.

Give full attention to the task at hand.
Allen’s methods allow us to collect and process sour tasks allowing us to pick the one important thing to be doing right now. Once we know we are doing exactly the right thing, the difference between world-class and second-class is concentrated focus on the task at hand. It is hard to us imagine having respect for a concert pianist, a surgeon, a pilot, etc who could not achieve this focus. This is where the “rubber meets the road”: it is the difference between outstanding results and lackluster results. In my experience with advertising people, I was often amazed at the stamina and persistence of highly creative people when they had the opportunity to realize their vision. Sometimes the change was miraculous. People who , I thought, were pretty typical people suddenly would “turn it on” and they could summon whatever was necessary during the task at hand, to take a project from “workmanlike” to award-quality material. They conserved their energy for the key times when maximum intensity was necessary. And they achieved great results.

More to come…

TechTags: Getting Things Done GTD David Allen Ready For Anything Personal Productivity

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