Review: Ready for Anything

I’ve been applying Getting Things Done (GTD) (from the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen) for about two years now. I can witness – as many people do – that it tremendously increases my productivity while minimizing my stress.

Ready for AnythingThat’s why I was eager to read another book written by David Allen entitled Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life. Since Getting Things Done has been very influential to me, I hoped that reading more productivity tips from the same author will bring my productivity to the next level.

Let’s see inside the book.

Inside Ready for Anything

In addition to Introduction, the book is divided into five parts: Clear Your Head for Creativity, Focus Productively, Create Structures that Work, Relax and Get in Motion, and Remind Yourself of the Fundamentals. Each part contains several chapters with 52 chapters in total.

Of course, I can’t discuss all 52 chapters here, so I will just pick some that I find particularly interesting.

Introduction

This part outlines what the five parts of the book are about. The first four parts deal with four main areas of productive behavior: completion (part I), focus (part II), structure (part III), and action (part IV). Part V contains checklists and reminders.

Allen’s core premise is that one’s ability to be productive was directly proportional to one’s ability to relax. That’s why behind these five parts lay the “mind like water” concept.

Part I. Clear Your Head for Creativity

7. Priorities function only at the conscious level

Here Allen dealt with one of the question I also have regarding GTD: why does GTD have no priorities? Allen answered that the distinction he recommended is very simple: projects versus someday/maybe. Either something needs to be done as soon as possible (which makes it a project) or not (which makes it a someday/maybe).

It has big impact on my GTD implementation. I didn’t make the distinction between things that needs to be done as soon as possible and those that don’t. As a result, there were many items in my project and next action lists that never get done. After knowing this, I moved many of them to someday/maybe list and leave only a few in the project list.

9. If it’s on your mind, it’s probably not getting done

To get something off your mind, there are three steps you should do:

  1. Clarify your intention about it (outcome)
  2. Decide how to move on it (next action)
  3. Put reminders of the outcome and action in places your mind trusts (trusted system)

My weakness is on the second step. I already have the habit of writing down the outcomes I want and putting reminders, but often I don’t specify the next physical action to take. As a result, many things never get done because I don’t know precisely what to do next.

Part II. Focus Productively

14. For more clarity, look from a higher place

If you need clarity regarding the action you take, stop and review your plans. If you need clarity regarding your plans, stop and review your short-term goals. It could go on and on to higher levels.

This is a good tip because it ensures that your life is synchronized at all levels.

15. You won’t see how to do it until you see yourself doing it

You should first know what you want before you can see how to get it. Otherwise, the methods could be all around you but you don’t notice them.

I know it’s true. Whenever I think specifically about a problem, I become aware of even the slightest clues of solution. In normal situation, those clues will just go unnoticed.

25. Only one thing on your mind is “in the zone”

Focusing on only one thing at a time is a hallmark of high performance. Worry about nothing before or after and you will be “in your zone”. This is the reason why you should be organized: so that you can be 100 percent available for the one thing you are doing right now.

Part III. Create Structures that Work

28. Form and function must match for maximum productivity

Allen wrote that he wears two different hats internally: the Visionary and the Doer. His Visionary can get an idea and just toss it into “the system”. His Doer will then pick it and ask, “What’s the next action?”

I like this description of the Visionary and the Doer. It makes me better understand how I function at different times. Now I know that my Doer is weaker and needs more attention to develop.

32. The effectiveness of your system is inversely proportional to your awareness of it

Allen said that the better your systems, the more you don’t know you have them. I love this! The important thing is not to find the right systems because there are no such “right” systems that work for everyone. What important is to find systems that work for you. You know they work for you when they blend to your workflow so smoothly you’re barely aware of their existence. Find systems that work for you and stick with them.

Part IV. Relax and Get in Motion

41. Too controlled is out of control

Here Allen warned us of “organizing groupies”: people who dedicate an inordinate amount of time and energy to experimenting with organizing details that don’t worth the effort. The important thing is to get things done, not to get the systems perfect. Don’t be obsessed by organization that you neglect outcomes.

47. You speed up by slowing down

It may seem contrary, but it’s true. You should constantly let go, relax, and refocus. It allows you to have clarity and fresh perspective. It also keeps your motivation high.

48. You don’t have time to do any project

Allen said that you don’t have time to do any project, because you actually can’t do a project – you can do only action steps. If you do enough of the appropriate actions over time, you will get the outcome you’ve committed to in your mind.

This principle reminds me of The Now Habit‘s principle of persistent starting. All you need to do is keep starting, and finishing will take care of itself.

49. Small things, done consistently, create major impact

Even if what you do seems small, if you do it consistently over time it will give you major results. This is one of my favorite personal growth principles. I try to do some small things consistently over time. In the future, I believe they will give me something big.

Part V. Remind Yourself of the Fundamentals

This part contains summaries of GTD workflow and principles (from the book Getting Things Done), so I won’t discuss it in detail here.

Conclusion

Ready for Anything is a good companion to Getting Things Done. It can help you see many GTD principles in different light so that you can better understand and apply them.

In my case, Ready for Anything helps me see leaks in my GTD implementation. I can also see the context of many GTD principles and understand why they work. That makes me have better substance and motivation to implement them.

The book also contains many other productivity tips not explicitly stated in Getting Things Done. All in all, they significantly enrich my productivity toolbox.

This article is part of June 2008 theme: Productivity

12 Comments

  1. GTD is an excellent productivity framework that can be implemented based on your individual needs by making appropriate modification. It has definitely helped me to do several additional projects, which I never had the motivation to do for a long time.

    Ready For Anything is a great companion book for GTD. I still recommend everyone to first read GTD before this book.

    After reading every chapter from Ready for Anything, I was implementing/focusing the suggestions from that particular Chapter for a week before moving on to the next chapter, which was of tremendous help to me.

    Ramesh
    The Geek Stuff

  2. Thanks for the well written review. I just finished GTD, so I think I may have to go pick up Ready for Anything. 😉

  3. Thanks for the review. I love the concepts in GTD and have drastically increased my productivity. I will definitely check out Ready For Anything soon.

  4. Great review. I am ready to buy ‘Ready for Anything’. 🙂

  5. Ramesh,
    I agree that we should read GTD first before Ready for Anything. The benefits won’t be as much if we haven’t read GTD.
    Your idea of implementing one chapter for one week is interesting.

    Marc and Angel, Anand, Avani,
    Glad you like the review. If you like GTD, I think Ready for Anything won’t disappoint you 🙂

  6. Great review. Almost all the GTD info and concepts I’ve picked up have come from this site. Maybe it’s time I read the book…
    Then I could read this book too, which sounds so helpful. I love the ideas from the “Relax and Get In Motion” section, but my favorite is #32: “The effectiveness of your system is inversely proportional to your awareness of it” Wow. What a great way to put it! I’ve long been a fan of simplifying my systems (though I’m not always successful in it) and I know that the simple, intuitive systems actually work while the complex, how-do-i-do-this-again?-type systems never do.
    Thanks for the review!

  7. Good review, persuaded me to finally get the book. I’ve scanned through it before in shops and am surprised it doesn’t get more coverage in relation to GTD and productivity. Looking forward to reading David Allen’s next book!

  8. Annie,
    Yes, #32 is also one of my favorites. It clearly takes the focus back to the most important thing: getting things done. Spending time and energy on the system means less time and energy are available for the real work.

    James,

    …am surprised it doesn’t get more coverage in relation to GTD and productivity.

    That also surprises me. There are many articles on GTD implementation, but strangely not many of them mention Ready for Anything.
    By the way, I just knew from you that David Allen is going to publish a new book (“Making It All Work”). It must be very interesting 🙂

  9. Janifer Leacrane
    Janifer Leacrane

    The books are useful, if only you do implement the method. I don’t think you have to follow all the processes discribed in the book. Just do what fits your inner productivity system. For example, some people use paper and pencil, others run GTD on the web.

  10. Janifer,
    From what I see, the book doesn’t talk about specific tools to use, it just talks about the principles. But yes, we need to adapt the method to our condition.

  11. […] look at it. I’m currently working my way through one of David Allen’s other book, Ready For Anything, and I think it covers many points GTD didn’t discuss so well. As a result certain […]

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