Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Making It All Work - by David Allen

Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life is productivity guru David Allen's follow-up to his best-selling productivity bible Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  It's stated intention is to "take the Getting Things Done (GTD) concepts to a whole new level" and to "dive deeper into the models for control and perspective."

GTD promotes a very practical methodology for capturing everything that has your attention and concern, defining the related next steps, and organizing them into contextual lists that you can reliably access and know what things you can choose to do in that situation to move your projects forward.  He presents an approach for getting things off of your mind and into a trusted system as the "art of stress-free productivity."  This book focuses more on how GTD approach fits into the larger context of life.

In Making It All Work, Allen spends a considerable amount of time expanding on his philosophy that the keys to getting “in the zone” are control and perspective.  Control refers to the ability to choose between different options at any given moment – you don’thave to do any specific thing, but you have a lot of options at your disposal.  The productivity toolbox presented in GTD focuses principally on this. Perspective refers to the ability to discern which of those options is the best one to choose at the moment. For Allen, the clarity that comes of working from a trusted system rather than in our heads frees us up to more effectively trust our intuitions about what we should be working on in the heat of the moment.  As one of the largest criticisms of GTD is its seeming lack of attention to prioritization, he spends a lot of time explaining how perspective addresses these concerns.

This book defines a hierarchy of perspective. At the runway we manage next actions. At the 10,000 foot level, projects are collections of discrete actions that produce an outcome and can be completed within a year.  At 20,000 feet, we must evaluate areas of focus and responsibility.  When we understand what areas of focus are most important to us, prioritization of our projects and task should become easier and more automatic.  Bigger picture concepts such as goals and objectives, vision, and purpose and principles fall out at the 30,000 feet, 40,000 feet, and 50,000 feet respectively.

For those who appreciate stories that illustrate, this book includes an anecdote about a person who inherits a small business called Gracie's Gardens an takes control of the situation by using the principles outlined in the book.

In summary, if you are looking for a re-hash or re-spin of GTD, this book includes presentation of the basic concepts.  In my mind, though, this book is more about why you put in all the effort to organize and manage projects and actions, as well as how those day-to-day activities are part of a larger picture that we must also reflect upon, understand, and review.

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