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Book Review: David Allen’s “Making It All Work” (Part 1 of 3)

Book Review: David Allen’s “Making It All Work” (Part 1 of 3)

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    December saw the release of David Allen’s Making It All Work:Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life, Allen’s long-awaited follow-up to his classic Getting Things Done (Ready for Anything, published in 2004, acts more as a companion to Getting Things Done than a sequel). Making It All Work seems to have been written with the primary goal of addressing some of the the most common criticisms of Allen’s GTD methodology, and clarifying its role outside of the workplace.

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      To that end, Making It All Work focuses much more extensively on the most glaringly underdeveloped part of GTD: actually doing things. For most people, the biggest stumbling block in GTD is its lack of prioritization, which leaves GTD’ers often at a loss about what item from their extensive next action lists they should be working on at any given moment.

      Allen thankfully avoids adding a simplistic prioritization scheme to his method; instead, he spends a considerable amount of time expanding on the horizons of focus – woefully short-shrifted in Getting Things Done – and integrating the different levels of awareness with his original process. 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.

      Add to this a renewed attention to focus and perspective, and Making It All Work provides a valuable addition to Getting Things Done. It’s not by any means a replacement for the earlier book – and, unfortunately, it lacks the earlier works plain-spokenness and simplicity – but anyone looking to deepen their understanding of and comfort with GTD will find a lot to think about in Making It All Work.

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      In this two-part review, I will highlight some of the main features of Making It All Work, beginning with the foundations of GTD as a framework for effective action in today’s post, and continuing with an in-depth look at the work’s major new contributions to GTD in part 2.

      Making it all work

      As the subtitle, “Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life” suggests, Making It All Work is committed to escaping the bounds of the business world and bringing GTD into our non-work lives. The title’s double play suggests Allen’s core message: extend the principles of GTD throughout your life, treating all your tasks, projects, and goals as part of the vocation of living.

      Allen is relying heavily on the assumption that we won’t read too much into the idea of “work” – that is,that we’ll avoid the word’s unpleasant connotations of sacrifice, labor, and hardship. Clearly he doesn’t intend for us to consider taking our significant other out for a romantic evening on the town as the same kind of task as, say, arranging a construction crew to repair your office building’s sewage lines.

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      What he does intend is for GTD’ers to apply the same principles they apply to their least appealing tasks throughout their life – that is, that we should consider every action as part of our steady march towards some greater life purpose and, on a practical level, rely on our physical system of lists, calendars, and weekly reviews to assure we make the most of all our tasks no matter how emotionally significant.

      Pay attention to what has your attention

      Allen has argued repeatedly that GTD is not a time management system but an attention management system, and he hammers on this theme repeatedly in Making It All Work. GTD is, Allen insists, a framework for helping us focus our attention where it belongs at any particular moment – and once we’ve achieved the clarity that a trusted system allows, we can trust our instincts to guide us to the best and most important thing to be paying attention to.

      The alternative is scattered attention, lost focus, and ultimately minimal productivity. When our attention is misplaced, all the things we should be doing or might be doing or want to think about doing or aren’t doing but wonder if we ought to be doing – and on and on – conspire to steal our attention away from the task at hand.

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      With a solid set of lists and triggers, and strong habits for capturing and processing thoughts as they occur to you for review later when you can give them the attention they deserve, we can release the hold over us that everything we’re not doing can exercise, knowing that we’ll give it its due at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way.

      Where the rubber meets the road

      Although “mind like water” references are less common in Making It All Work than in Allen’s earlier books, that is still the ultimate goal – to establish a set of habits and practices that allow one to respond gracefully to new inputs and to instinctively place one’s attention where it will do the most good. With that kind of trust and clarity, priorities become irrelevant – we will naturally work on whatever task is most meaningful for us right now, and know that other tasks will get their turn at the moment when it’s best to tackle them.

      These are not new ideas for followers of Allen’s work, but they are given new context and new importance in Making It All Work. In part 2 of this review, we’ll look at some of the most significant departures from or additions to the GTD methodology.

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      Last Updated on June 20, 2019

      50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

      50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

      Most people want a few more dollars in their wallets. But between an employer and family, the time most of us can devote to a second job is severely limited. Running a small side business can provide a few more options: you don’t have to show up at a set time and you can use skills you already have. Not all will be perfect for everyone, of course, and I’m sure that you’ll have a few ideas of your own after reading this list. If you’d like to share any other business ideas, please add them in the comments.

      1. Selling collectibles — From antique books to teddy bears, there are plenty of opportunities to buy and sell collectibles. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the collectible of your choice but if you choose something that you’ve been collecting for a while, you’ve got a head start.
      2. Locating apartments — It can take time to sort through apartment listings, but you can make some money by finding the perfect apartment for a renter.
      3. Baby proofing — New parents often prefer to bring in an expert to make sure their home is safe for a new baby.
      4. Calligraphic writing — If you’ve got elegant handwriting, you can pick up gigs writing or addressing wedding invitations, holiday cards and more.
      5. Selling coupons — Search on eBay for coupons right now and you’ll see thousands of listings for coupons. It’s just a matter of clipping and listing what you find in your Sunday newspaper.
      6. Pet training — A surprising number of people don’t know where to start in training a pet. Even teaching Rover simple commands like ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay’ can bring in a few dollars.
      7. Running errands — A wide variety of people want to outsource their errands, from those folks who aren’t able to leave their homes easily to those who have a busy schedule.
      8. Researching family trees — Amateur genealogists often call in experts, especially to handle research that has to be done in person in a far off place. If you’re willing to go to a local church and copy a few records, you can handle many family tree research requests.
      9. Supplying firewood — The prerequisite for selling firewood is having a source of wood; if you’ve got some land where you can cut down a few trees, you’ve got a head start.
      10. Hauling — As more people trade in their SUVs for compact cars, hauling is becoming more important: people have to rent a truck or hire a hauler for even small loads.
      11. Image consulting — Image consultants provide a wide variety of services, ranging from offering advice on appearance to teaching etiquette.
      12. Menu planning — For many people, the trip up in eating home-cooked or healthy meals is knowing what to prepare. Meal planners set a schedule to solve certain dietary problems.
      13. Microfarming — Cultivating food and flowers on small plots of land allows you to sell produce easily.
      14. Offering notary public services — Notary publics can witness and authenticate documents: a service needed for all sorts of official documents.
      15. Teaching music — If you’re skilled with a musical instrument, you can earn money by offering lessons.
      16. Mystery shopping — Mystery shoppers check the conditions and service at a store and report back to the store’s higher-ups.
      17. Offering research services — Just by reading up on a topic and compiling a report on it can earn you money.
      18. Personal shopping — Personal shoppers typically select gifts, apparel and other products for clients, helping them save time.
      19. Pet breeding — Purebred pets can be quite value, especially if you can verify their pedigree.
      20. Removing snow — During the winter months, shoveling walks can still be a reliable way to earn money. You might be asked to take care of the driveway too.
      21. Utility auditing — As people become environmentally-concious, they want to know just how efficient their homes are. With some simple testing, you can tell them.
      22. Offering web hosting services — Providing server space can be lucrative, particularly if you can provide tech support to your clients.
      23. Cutting lawns — An old standby, cutting lawns and other landscaping services can provide a second income in the summer.
      24. Auctioning items on eBay — Want to get rid of all your old stuff? Stick it up on eBay and auction it off.
      25. Babysitting — Child care of all kinds, from babysitting to nannying, can offer constant opportunities.
      26. Freelance writing — If you’ve got the skills to write clearly, you can sell your pen for everything from blogs to advertising copy.
      27. Selling blog and website themes — Do a little designing on the side? Customers that don’t want to pay full price for a website will often pay for a template or theme.
      28. Offering computer help — Particularly with people new to computers, you can earn money by providing in-home computer help.
      29. Designing websites — It may require a little skilled effort, but designing websites remains a reliable source of income.
      30. Selling stock photography — For shutterbugs, an easy way to put a photography collection to work is to post it to a stock photography site.
      31. Freelance designing — Check with local businesses: you can provide brochures, business cards and other design work and get paid a good fee.
      32. Tutoring — Math and languages reamin the easiest subjects to find tutoring gigs for, but there is demand for other fields as well.
      33. Housesitting / petsitting — Stopping in to check on a house or pet can earn you some money, and maybe even a place to stay.
      34. Building niche websites — If you can put together a site on a very specific topic, you can put targeted ads on it and make money quickly.
      35. Translating — The variety of translating work available is huge: written word, on the spot and more is easy to find even on a part-time basis.
      36. Creating custom crafts — No matter what kind of crafts you make, there’s likely a market for it. Etsy remains one of the easiest places to sell crafts.
      37. Setting up a wi-fi hotspot — With a little bit of equipment, you can set up a wi-fi hotspot and charge your neighbors for the access they’ve been ‘borrowing.’
      38. Selling an e-book — You can write an e-book about almost anything and put it up for sale online.
      39. Affiliate marketing — If you’re willing to market other companies’ products, you can earn a cut of the sales.
      40. Renting out your spare room — From looking for a long-term roommate to listing your guest room on couch surfing sites, that spare room can make you money.
      41. Offering handy man services — Handling small household tasks can provide you with plenty of work, although you’ll probably be expected to have your own tools.
      42. Teaching an online class — Share your expertise through a website, an online seminar or variety of other methods.
      43. Building furniture — For those with the skill to create handmade furniture, selling their creations is often just a matter of advertising.
      44. Providing personal chef services — Personal chefs prepare meals ahead of time for customers, leaving their customers with a full freezer and no mess.
      45. Event planning — From planning corporate events to bar mitzvahs, an event planning business can require plenty of work and offer plenty of pay.
      46. Installing home safety products — Particularly as Baby Boomers age, people able to install handrails and other home safety products are in demand.
      47. Altering / tailoring — If your sewing skills are up to par, altering garments is coming back as people try to stretch more wear out of their clothing.
      48. Offering in-home beauty services — Hair cuts, makeup and other beauty services that can be performed at home have a growing demand.
      49. Business coaching — Helping others to establish and develop their businesses can provide many opportunities to earn money.
      50. Writing resumes — Writing resumes can provide a reliable income, especially if you can put a polish on a client’s credentials.

      There are plenty of offers that claim to provide you with the opportunity to make thousands of dollars a week. Unfortunately, none of these businesses will provide that sort of income, but they aren’t scams either. They were chosen because they all require a minimum investment to get started — some require nothing more than a flyer advertising your business. Even better, if you do enjoy any of these businesses, there is a potential with most of them to continue to expand — perhaps even to the point of going full time.

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      Featured photo credit: Omar Prestwich via unsplash.com

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