Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Success Book Reviews - David Allen "Ready For Anything" Part 3

This is Part 3 of my review of David Allen’s Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life a concept-based exploration of the GTD (“Getting Things Done”) principles. This review will highlight some of my favorite ideas from parts III (“Create Structures That Work”), IV(“Relax and Get in Motion”), and V (“Remind Yourself of the Fundamentals”)

Freedom Comes from Discipline
This is one of the great paradoxes of success, and has immense significance in the way the world works. The implications of this concept go far beyond the GTD principles, but certainly GTD is emblematic of the concept.

For Allen, once a disciplined information and project management system is in place, the mind is freed for both higher-level thinking (i.e. one’s visions, long-term goals, etc) and for lower-level tasks without the incessant mental chatter and worry of “other tasks undone” creeping in.

I’ll never forget an incident in the 4th grade that drove this lesson home. I was having a rough day. My desk was a mess and I had to clean it out. I was stressed from the divorce of my parents, and certainly had little knowledge of scheduling, prioritizing, etc. After school, as I was tackling my messy desk, someone walked up to me and reminded me of a birthday party…was I going? Of course, I had completely forgotten the party, and was totally overwhelmed, with no tools to handle the flood of information and commitments. As I look back on my life, I am amazed how I was able to manage without an organized planning system. I got my first planner in the mid 90’s. Decades too late.

You Can’t Win a Game You Can’t Define
Allen tells us that a project is the stepping-stone to a goal. Let’s say you want to be a millionaire by 40. Allen might say “What projects do you have about that?” Projects are tangible and definable. They have titles that start with : “Investigate”, “Determine”, “Create”, “Write”, etc”. Within the projects are “next actions”, but the project is the vehicle that organizes action on the way to the goal. Projects cause us to objectify , quantify, and define parts of our goals into something where we know what an outcome actually looks like.

Principles Drive Policy
For a master of detail such as David Allen, who has taught so many of us that details, even seemingly unimportant details, matter, it is educational to understand that he and his organization have over 20 core principles that guide their behavior., including risk-taking, curiosity and even “being nice”. They act from impulses far above the granular level of “next actions”. Standards. Principles. These are the generators of consistency, of what we can/should expect of ourselves. The litmus test of any initiative, of any interaction with another. I have seen a few “movers and shakers” act as if principles and standards were an impediment to success. Not true. An organization with good principles and standards shines out. Doing business with such an organization is an obvious choice. You can almost “feel” the transparency, the absence of “games” or “slickness”. Also, Allen tells us, principles can help us reflect on why someone drives us “up the wall”: they may be violating some of your (explicit or implicit) standards.

Capture as Many Thoughts and Ideas as you can Without Analysis.
I first learned of this technique from a book about Richard Branson. It only took me a couple of decades to start this process myself. One of the keys is to suspend judgment about the ideas you are writing down. If it (an idea, a product, a location, a remark) interests you, your first job is to just collect it. Weighing, processing, acting (or not acting) on the data comes later. The goal is to conquer the censoring instinct to avoid recording the data. “It’s useless”. “I’ll remember it”, “This is a waste of time”. In essence, we can expect 2/3 or more of what we write down to be, at least near-term, of little value. But we are drastically increasing our supply of new, helpful input, and also relieving our conscious mind of archiving responsibilities. All for a $2.00 pocket notebook.

Lastly, the book ends with a bonus: a short appendix detailing the GTD principles and processes. This section is highly valuable because of its compressed nature. It’s all in one place. It’s dense, and is worth keeping at hand as an organizational aid, and also as a structure to meditate upon, to transpose into our lives, to shape into a ”freeing discipline” that works for us constantly.

I found this book an inspiring companion to “Getting Things Done”. A touchstone to reconnect me with the principles, and the meaning, of the earlier book.

Part 1 of this review

Part 2 of this review

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

1 comment:

Enhance Life said...

Very informative review. I haven't read the book. However, I have read David Allens -Getting things done.

This book will go to me reading wish list.

Thank you
Enhance Life