Top critical review
497 people found this helpful
on May 13, 2013
Summary: There are a lot of very good strategies and recommendations which make this book worth reading, but the brevity and lack of in-depth treatment are frustrating, resulting in a book that is less than what it could be.
This is a brief book with a number of contributors. Since there is no one answer for all people out there, hearing from a number of people their strategies for getting things accomplished is a nice change, compared to numerous single-author single-plan productivity books that are out there. However, there is some consistency of perspective, and some themes, such as reducing distractions, repeat across many contributors. You probably already know much of what is in here, but seeing the ways in which you are not maximizing your productivity in black and white (and red) brings them to the foreground where you cannot ignore them.
From the description, I was expecting a longer book with more in-depth articles. There are some gems of observations and ideas here, but the contributions are unsatisfyingly brief. Most offer general strategies rather than specific helpful steps, many of which you already know (e.g. "Kill the background noise - Turn off your phone, email, .... ", the distinction between creative work and reactive work, etc.). It is not bad for what it is, but, as a fan of several of the contributors, I was hoping for so much more (ymmv), though I did find the book useful for honing my to-do lists. Most of them feel like brief excerpts from longer works. Just when an article gets going, I turn the page, and POOF !!, it is over.
However, you can read this book as a collection of useful suggestions & observations, some of which will hit the spot for you, and some which will not. Since it is composed of a number of brief stand-alone articles (or possibly blog excerpts), after getting the overview by reading the Forward, you can pick it up and start reading anywhere as interested. There are a lot of really great observations here (e.g. most productive work is done in the morning, multitasking makes things take longer to accomplish, the power of habit and repetition, importance of mindfulness & quiet reflection, etc.), but you have to figure out how to compose your own action plan for any idea you want to incorporate into your life -- it is not a step-by-step how-to book. And even though it is brief and general, there are really good observations here that will take time to absorb, so it is probably worth re-reading from time to time.
At the end of each of the four sections, there is a summary page of "Key Takeaways" along with a link to an appropriate page on their 99U website. The summaries don't really communicate the spark and usefulness of the articles they represent, but they do serve as useful reminders of what you have read. They are not in the table of contents, so you have to look for them.
Be aware that the small pages of this brief book have plenty of white space, and there are many pages with artistically giant words. So the book is not that long, thus it won't take a long time to read to harvest the suggestions that interest you.
Though the final printing may be different, my edition is hard to open and flip through, because it is a small book with tight binding and stiff pages. It is a constant battle to hold it open while reading, and my r.s.i. hands don't appreciate the continual muscle strain. If I want to underline something, it is hard to get the page to lay near-flat to do so. (Obviously this criticism applies only to the printed version.) [revised 6/2/13]