on September 15, 2003
Let me start by admitting that while I'm a huge fan of David Allen and his wonderful productivity theories and practices, I found his first book "Getting Things Done" a rather tough read. A lot of great info was certainly there, but somehow the way it was written left my head spinning. Eventually I began to understand the systems and implement them, but I couldn't get over the nagging feeling that these theories and practices that were so basic and logical did not have to be so hard to grasp.
All of these shortcomings have been fixed in this great new book. Allen's theories, practices and strategies are delivered in 2-5 page bite sized pieces which much better suit his writing style. Each of the 52 short chapters can be devoured in a few minutes and can be understood and internalized individually or in well organized clusters as fits you best.
In a perfect world I'd suggest skimming Allen's first book so that you get an over view of his "systems"; then read this book for a bunch of "I get it!" moments; and then back to "Getting Things Done" for a more careful read. In fact, that's what I'm going to do.
But even if you never read Allen's first book; this new one is well worth the time because it will force you to look at work, time, and all of the stuff that clutters your mind and life in entirely new ways.
on January 30, 2006
I can not recommend David Allen's earlier book, Getting Things Done, highly enough. I read it six months ago and continue to follow his system, using the Outlook plug-in sold on his web site. I had made a reminder when I finished that book to re-read it in six months. When the time came, I decided to pick up this book instead. It was a mistake.
Ready For Anything is a series of short inspirational essays on productivity. It has a strong self-help feel to it. If you've read GTD and aren't convinced that the system is worth implementing, maybe this book will sell it to you. For those who are already practicing the system, it doesn't offer a whole lot. Many essays are about the importance of having a system, or the importance of the weekly review, a key element of the system. Others are simply meanderings with no concrete purpose. There are quotes peppered in the margins throughout. While some are thought-provoking, they distracted me from the main text. I'd prefer to see them at the beginning or end of the essay.
If you haven't read Getting Things Done, absolutely read that first. If you need a little motivation to keep you on track, maybe Ready For Anything will help.
on January 4, 2004
While this is an outstanding book, I highly recommend his first work, Getting Things Done. Since this doesn't have a consistent narrative but is instead broken up into numerous tiny essays, it will be harder to get the maximum benefit from his approach to personal productivity from this alone.
Readers who "got" Getting Things Done don't need my advice on this one...they've already bought it I'm sure.
David Allen is probably the smartest personal productivity coach in print. I would buy Getting Things Done for every employee in my organization, and I would have copies of this one lying around to remind people and elaborate on some of the finer points.
Oh and I would like to add one point. I believe there is one thing missing from Mr. Allen's algorithm. That is finishing. I think his plan is outstanding for getting unstuck: figure out the next action, and do it without hesitation. But I don't find any attention paid to how to decide how many actions are "enough" for a desired outcome of a project.
You can always find some next action, and founder in what software engineers like myself call "permanent beta" or "feature creep." Yet external constraints are best not relied on exclusively for these decisions. It's best to volunteer a ruthless focus on the essence of your project's deliverable, isn't it?
So I would like Mr. Allen to write his next book about finishing projects, if he is able to develop insights into that stage as strong as his insights into the process of the middle stages.
Author David Allen lists 52 basic principles for productivity, including: write everything down, do the jobs that nag you, focus on the matter at hand and so on. As he notes, the principles are both simple to understand and difficult to implement. The book is essentially a collection of gleanings from the author's previous writings, so it does not present a systematic or unified approach to time and productivity management. However, Allen's straightforward tips are handy, if sometimes duplicative. The number 52 suggests that you might find one helpful tip to use each week in a one-year program of self-improvement and productivity management. In that case, repetition is probably a good thing, since bad habits tend to spring up again like weeds and require the same remedies often. The author is relentlessly upbeat, optimistic and witty, like a motivational speaker. That might be hard to read in a big chunk, but it is easy to digest if you spend a little time every week reading a recommendation and implementing it. We recommend this book to anyone who urgently needs help with time management and productivity.
I never thought I could get too much of David Allen, the productivity guru whose `Getting Things Done' system has transformed my work and life habits. But this book borders on too much of a good thing.
At least, that is, if you sit down and read right through it. The trick is to ration.
While I don't know whether the number 52 was chosen to give us a two-to-three page sampling of Allen's writing on a weekly basis, the truth is it works well that way. I'm integrating it into Allen's famous `weekly review', the bone marrow of a productive work-life organism.
In such small doses, it's good stuff. Allen and his staff have culled these reflections from his writings over the year. The power of `GTD' lies in its simplicity, so you won't find vastly divergent essays on politics, literature, and the price of gasoline in Idaho.
What you will find is a simple and tenacious focus on a system that allows you to clear your mind and focus on the one thing you're choosing to do right now.
On balance and in moderation, that's a good thing.
on November 17, 2003
Mr. Allen's system is surprisingly simple - the realisation that we are monkeys; that keeping to do lists in our heads causes stress; get the list on paper and the stress goes away; we can do simple physical actions with ease. Use a paper filing system; the instruction to ask of each item in our In-tray `what is the next physical action;' the instruction to deal with each item right now if it will take less than two minutes.
If Mr. Allen had merely described his system 1) you wouldn't believe it and 2) worse, you wouldn't `just do it.' And JUST DOING IT does work, amazingly enough.
`Buy a label maker' - a surprisingly important part of Allen's system. That sounds nuts! Does he have shares in a label making company? Unlikely. Then Why? Remember the monkey approach. Simple physical tasks. Create files. Label them. Don't think. Do it. And then you look at the result. You have created it. You have invested in the system. You are that monkey.
And it works! A simple system that works!
As the Scots say, Mr. Allen is a very canny fellow.
I believe that Mr. Allen wrote his book so deliberately. He makes you invest in reading the book as he makes you invest in his system when you sit there printing labels for manila files.
It may be nuts but it is a very clever kind of nuts ;-).
on December 11, 2005
After reading David Allen's first book "Getting Things Done", I was excited to read "Ready For Anything". I was hoping for a book that would go into more practical applications of the topics discussed in "Getting Things Done". However, I found quite the opposite.
"Ready for Anything" has 52 short chapters that discuss a range of topics. While the topics are good and the quotes spread throughout are excellent, I found each chapter to be far too conceptual and not practical enough. I wanted more specific advice.... not that the advice given was bad.
While reading this, I found that the material was just a rehash of "Getting Things Done". I would highly recommend you pick up that book and pass this one over. 2 out of 5 stars.
on September 22, 2003
David Allen's new book, Ready for Anything, is both a delightful read and an immensely practical tool for improving your personal productivity and enhancing your life. For those who have followed David's teachings and writings over the years, Ready for Anything is the "how to" and the logical follow-up to his best-selling first book, Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity. For those unfamiliar with David's highly effective and unique philosophy, Ready for Anything contains 52 prescriptions for effectiveness in your professional and personal life.
Twenty years ago I was beginning a six-year stint as director of management development for a large Midwestern university. We added David's two-day workshop to our public seminar offerings and watched as he helped literally thousands of managers, professionals, and people from all walks of life improve their productivity, satisfaction, and success. In the two decades since then I have not only followed David's emergence as a noted thinker and coach in the personal growth and development field but as a catalyst for change, guide to leveraged performance, and builder of successful organizations of all types and sizes. I have used his philosophy personally and with clients with outstanding results. Simply put, David's approach to managing actions and projects works!
In the past two decades we have been blessed with a progression of thinkers, teachers, and authors who have helped transform the way in which we work and grow. From Abraham Maslow and Peter Drucker to Tom Peters, Peter Senge, Jim Collins, Noel Tichy, Brian Tracy, and Tony Robbins, the individual and organizational development landscape has been rich in resources. First with Getting Things Done and now in Ready for Anything, David Allen has taken his place among the major thought leaders and influencers of our time.
If you've read Getting Things Done you will find Ready for Anything to be a wonderful companion piece and road map to making his philosophy real in your daily life. If you haven't read his first book, read and implement the lessons in Ready for Anything for nuts-and-bolts jump-start for your daily life. Then, read Getting Things Done for the "bigger picture" view of what his approach is all about. Then, give one or both of these wonderful books to your colleagues, your employees, your boss, your friends, and your family. You, and the world in which you live, will be better for it.
on October 19, 2003
This book made me take a new look at the clutter in my mind and life and helped me to create new goals and execute them. If you are stuck, this book will get you going. Read it and get Optimal Thinking-How to Be Your Best Self to learn how to overcome disturbing emotions without a therapist, bring your best self to every situation and achieve the best results. I can assure you with this combination, you will be ready for anything and optimize everything!
on April 8, 2006
This book repeats much of the content from GTD, from different angles, and so works well as a refresher, if that's what you're looking for.
It is structured as 52 2-3 page snippets. Plus a small chapter containing a nice summary/review of the GTD basics. And (brace yourself) there's even a new version of The Flowchart.
Definitely a follow-up to GTD, so read that first.