Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life Paperback – Dec 29 2009
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About the Author
David Allen is president of The David Allen Company and has more than twenty years experience as a consultant and executive coach for such organizations as Microsoft, the Ford Foundation, L.L.Bean, and the World Bank. His work has been featured in Fast Company, Fortune, Atlantic Monthly, O, and many other publications.
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In trying to make "Making It All Work" a stand-alone volume, David Allen ends up repeating, in some cases less pithily, too much of the earlier material, and there are extended passages that are little more than a rewording of the original GTD book. This new book does provide a broader context and an enhanced perspective on the GTD system, and makes the system fit together more neatly along the two dimensions of control and perspective, although these two dimensions were evident enough in "Getting Things Done". For that alone, the book is worth reading, especially for GTD advocates looking to obtain further insights into the system (although members of GTD Connect, the GTD community, will be familiar with most of the material). I am sure it will provide further value on additional readings.
That said, there is relatively little new ground covered here. There is some fine tuning of earlier terminology, but this smacks rather too much of mere relabeling. Collection becomes "capturing", processing becomes "clarifying", reviewing becomes "reflecting" and doing becomes "engaging". The new terms sound more sophisticated but I feel the original terminology was more concrete and to the point.
The "six-level model for reviewing your work" is now the "Horizons of Focus". This phrase has been adopted in David Allen's materials for some time now, but does not quite jive for me as: 1) "horizons" for most people convey horizontal distance, rather than the altitudes that these "horizons" refer to (30,000 ft, 40,000 ft etc.). In adjacent paragraphs he refers to "upper altitudes" and "elevated horizons" -- some mixed metaphors here; 2) it again suffers a little from being rather abstract, which the original GTD book largely avoided.
Perhaps tellingly, the original "Getting Things Done" was seen to focus primarily on the "getting control" dimension of self-management. "Making It All Work" again spends 125 pages on "getting control", double the 65 pages on "getting perspective". I had hoped the latter would have received more space and attention in this new book.
I also find the style in some places too long-winded, in a couple of cases inappropriate (does the phrase "anally retentive" really belong in a serious management book?) and the terminology inconsistent (his twenty thousand foot level refers to what he calls "Areas of Focus". However, while this appears to be the standard phrase, he also refers to it as "areas of responsibility and interest" and "areas of focus and responsibility", the latter in the title of a chapter. The use of title/heading styles also does not appear consistent, which makes the structure of some sections a little difficult to follow. In some places he also repetitively redefines terms he has already defined earlier.
None of these stylistic issues impact the meaning or the value of the underlying concepts, but leaves one wishing the editor had spent more time tightening up the style and terminology, as they do detract from the reading experience. "Getting Things Done" was solid in this respect. Terms are clearly and concretely defined and then used consistently, without unnecessary stylistic variations.
It is still necessary in my view to read the original "Getting Things Done" to get the the most of this book, which is primarily a useful companion volume, an elaboration of the earlier book's key concepts and frameworks and a refresher for those interested in Allen's ideas and methods.
Making It All Work spends a lot of time explaining the how-we-got-here aspect of the GTD system, but it misses in providing tangible how-to, case studies and advice as the title implies. Too much focus on why GTD is good, why GTD works, why GTD is better than the other "priorities" systems and not enough real-world content.
I'm saddened to say I found MIAW a long-winded disappointment.
Spend your $20 on a labeler and re-read GTD.
I read the first Getting Things Done book years ago but never really implemented it; I didn't find it was hands-on enough; I tried using Outlook Tasks and Categories to track "next actions" and goals, but it just didn't seem to cut it for me.
David Allen's new book repeats the same concepts but puts them in a different framework (the horizons you read about in other reviews here), but I found it did more to address some of the mental and physical obstacles toward using GTD. Essentially it gave me a good kick in the seat, to motivate me into better adopting GTD. It still is light on hands-on details for adopting this into your daily workload and tackling both the urgent and the important. But I think that's his approach, he teaches you the principles, you decide what software or methods to use to implement them.
The book inspires you to record many levels of information from your life purpose to the roles you fill every day, right down to logging a reminder to pick up a hammer at the hardware store tomorrow. It is liberating getting information out of your head and into a tracking system, but you have to be able to carry it on after a big bang of initial enthusiasm. If you never look at any of the information again, except to return phone calls or put deadlines on tasks, then you aren't getting the benefits of the system. If you have the original, but find yourself scrolling through these reviews on Amazon looking for a kickstart to get yourself into (back into) GTD, this book will help.
The Total Workday Control book gives you very detailed step-by-step instructions on how to configure Outlook and use to manage your workload. To most of us Outlook is where tidal waves of e-mail just keep crashing in day after day, but there are ways to use it to implement GTD practices, without having to buy add-on tools, although there are many out there that can take it even further. Taking advantage of Outlook tasks, categories, and e-mail handling techniques, it's possible to be very GTD-compliant.
You might get tired of hearing some phrases in Making It All Work repeated over and over, but I found the book motivated me to get back at adopting GTD, even more than the first book did originally. Together with Michael Linenberger's book, there's a good combination there of high-level and detail-level guidance.
GTD, in contrast, is a much more practical system that encompasses every aspect of personal work flow. Unlike my experience with Franklin Covey, it has stuck. It works beautifully.
Over time, I've come to appreciate that successful implementation of GTD is really more about habits of the mind than clever systems for managing lists and files. The concepts in GTD may seem like common sense, but applying that common sense systematically and comprehensively can be a long journey.
"Making it All Work" dives deeper into the subtleties of those mental habits. It has sharpened my GTD implementation, and given me even greater respect for the elegance, simplicity, and power of Allen's system.
The book also goes into much greater detail on the horizons of focus, something that most people don't pay a lot of attention to until they have been working with GTD for a while. I suspect that many GTD "veterans" will find this to be the real value of the book.
GTD is not "hard," as one reviewer wrote. It is actually very simple. Changing mental habits so that one is always asking "is this actionable," "what is the successful outcome," and "what is the next action" takes time and persistence, but it is not very difficult.
If you are new to GTD, put this book on your wish list and order "Getting Things Done" first. Try implementing the system for a few months, paying attention to the elements of the system that seem to come less naturally to you, and THEN order Making it All Work. I don't think that you will regret it.
The book elucidates the major mindsets crucial to GTD, but sometimes gets too wrapped up in its philosophical approach. The "horizons of focus" will cloud your system if you worry about implementing them as actual co...more For those who have read and/or familiar with Allen's Getting Things Done, this is a great follow-up. If you like Allen's strategies for organization and general productivity, but occasionally find yourself "falling off the wagon," this book will help.
The book elucidates the major mindsets crucial to GTD, but sometimes gets too wrapped up in its philosophical approach. The "horizons of focus" will cloud your system if you worry about implementing them as actual components, rather than a way to encapsulate the entire GTD process. If you are interested in GTD as a system, I recommend that you start with the book of the same title, rather than this one.
The book contains some very helpful appendices, including a "project planning trigger list" to make sure that your mind dumps are complete, leaving no stone unturned.
Allen uses this book to address his critics, and does an admirable job. Much of the criticism of GTD has been aimed at purists or those who take Allen's ideas to an extreme. Allen allows for a certain amount of flexibility and custom-tailoring (indeed, mandates it) and this book will help you do that.