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.
That’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.
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:
- Clarify your intention about it (outcome)
- Decide how to move on it (next action)
- 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.
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