David Allen’s Making It All Work

David Allen's Making It All Work

David Allen’s Making It All Work

In his first book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, David Allen, the visionary of open source productivity, sparked a global revolution by turning conventional time management principles on their head.  Allen advocates in his first book that a person must first clear the decks, starting with the mundane by processing the work in front of them (commitments or open loops), before attempting to realign their higher altitudes of vision, purpose and va  His methodologies are different from traditional top-down life management systems that encourage their followers to create their life mission, purpose and goals based on arbitrary preconceived values which they then use as filters for making their short-term and long-range life decisions. “And Life is far too messy for top down arbitrary life management” Allen argues in his new book Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life. The traditional systems also often require expensive proprietary planning systems, while Allen writes that, “Getting Things Done is system independent which means that almost any kind of personal organizing structure or software can be used to implement its principles.”  By embracing an open source system, Allen has effectively helped create his own productivity grass roots viral marketing initiative.

Many GTD proponents have found this to be a profound departure and whole web sites and tools have popped up all over the Internet to satisfy the need for helping find the ultimate GTD tool which is great in of itself.   In some cases, however, these web sites of GTD enthusiasts and often overly zealous sophisticated software designers have, Allen states, actually over shot their mark of “real-life functionality” by trying to create their own “latest and greatest” GTD implementations which require too much mental effort to make life fit into their supplied forms.  Making It All Work is as much a back to basics blueprint for GTD practitioners as it is a call to action to renewed life and work simplicity, raising just as many new questions as it does offer answers.   Whereas GTD is a manual for creating a customized personal life management system, Making It All Work is a road map that expands on the existing GTD methodologies by introducing new models of thought and action through clarification of the preexisting structures of Getting Things Done without changing GTDs basic methodologies.

You can do GTD with just his first book and you can easily learn GTD with Making It All Work but you really will need both books to fully appreciate the true simplicity of its multi-layers of complexity.  The system works on many levels without overburdening the mind. In fact, it actually frees the mind opening up its practitioners to greater levels of creativity and relaxed focused.  Critics argue that GTD does not use traditional priority coding systems to determine daily actions and could even argue that Making It All Work never clearly addresses the issues of priority and they would be completely wrong. Both books Getting Things Done and Making It All Work are all about gauging priorities and making subtle distinctions — in fact arguably more so then traditional priority coding systems. Making It All Work is about getting control and perspective. Perspective looks at priority not merely from the moment but actually from all the multi-levels (horizons) of life engagement simultaneously. How can you know what your priorities are if  you do not know what your commitments are and how can you know what your commitments are if you have not captured and clarified all that your work  and life is about.

“GTD is not actually a system”, David explains, “but a systematic approach to managing all aspects of your life.” Making It All Work provides this roadmap successfully and provides a logical follow-up to Getting Things Done. Like a great author and a great coach he guides us through the process and the art of life creation far beyond the conceptual limitations of traditional life management models. Seven years later David Allen still remains a fresh and insightful voice in the field of business and personal development. He electrifies his reader with his profound and poignant down home style that is at once practical as it is philosophical.  Many critics have referred to him as a productivity Guru and he can be conceived of as a Guru in the traditional sense of the word [1] but not as a new age cult leader of enlightenment. Rather he is a maverick in the classical sense of the word – an icon like a Henry David Thoreau of the 21st century which is not to say that Making It All Work is Allen’s Walden –it’s not, far from it. What is though is a life map for those lost in the bits and bytes of the digital age.


[1] How do I know all this stuff? My gurus taught me. Guru means “remover of darkness” and is someone who sheds light on your ignorance. Although the word guru (with a big G) is associated with spiritual guides, anyone or any situation can be your guru (small g) if he/she/it teaches you something, and there is surely no end to the opportunities presented to us every day.

Jaimie Epstein http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/magazine/24wwlnguest-epstein-t.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss


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