Advertising
Advertising

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

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

Making It All Work

    The second major theme in David Allen’s Making It All Work is “perspective”. (The first major theme, “control”, is discussed in part two of this review.) This part of the book expands greatly on the “Horizons of Focus” to which Allen commits only nine pages in the original Getting Things Done.

    Getting perspective means two things for Allen. First, and less importantly, it means consciously sorting your priorities before you ever undertake any work, so that you’re not wondering what you should be doing in the heat of the moment – you’re just doing.

    Second, getting perspective is about answering the question that has become something of a mantra for Allen: “Is what I’m doing right now the most important thing I could be doing in my life?” The power of this question – and the power of asking this question about everything we do – should be apparent. It is about the choices we must make if we are to live a meaningful life.

    Allen uses the metaphor of an airplane ascending from the runway to its cruising altitude at 50,000 feet to explain the various Horizons of Focus. On the runway, life appears… well, as big as life. Problems come at us and need solving, tasks take as long as they take to finish, we are (hopefully) fully engaged in the busy-work of living our lives.

    Advertising

    From 50,000 feet, the minute details of day-to-day life are invisible, and the entirety of our life unfolds below us – this is the “big picture” view of our lives. At each level in between – 20,000 feet, 40,000 feet – a slightly different balance between this big picture and the hubbub of everyday living presents itself to us, allowing for different kinds of planning and thinking.

    Let’s walk through (or, I guess, fly through) the individual Horizons of Focus and the kinds of activities associated with each.

    Runway – Next Actions

    20090204-making-it-all-work-cover

      The runway is where you actually do things. This level overlaps with the “engagement” step of the GTD process, so much of it I already covered in part two of this review. While we can’t always get much perspective from this close up, if we’ve managed the “control” part of GTD, we can work confidently, knowing that we’re doing what we need to be doing.

      10,000 Feet – Projects

      Projects in the GTD sense have always meant something a little different than projects in common usage. For Allen, a project is the process of achieving any short-term (under a year) goal that requires more than two steps to complete. By this definition, most of us can expect to have from 30 to 100 projects at any given moment, from things as simple as buying a new suit to complex ones like writing a book.

      Advertising

      Allen recommends projects be indexed on a master list, and reviewed weekly to make sure we keep on top of them.

      20,000 Feet – Areas of Focus

      The 20,000-foot level is where Making It All Work really starts to expand on Allen’s earlier work. This is the level at which we consider all the areas of our life that we need to maintain or somehow pay attention to. Examples include your career, your family, your health, your house, your car, and so on. How fine-grained this is depends on your particular needs and situation – in your job you might distinguish between the hat you wear as a specialist in some function (say, marketing) and the equally important hat you wear as a manager in your department, while at home your separate roles as father and husband might be folded into “family”.

      A master list of Areas of Focus acts as a trigger list, helping to generate new projects and actions. More importantly, when integrated into your weekly review (or every other, or every fourth, or every quarterly weekly review, depending on how complex your life it), your list of Areas of Focus can help make sure that you are maintaining a healthy balance between the various parts of your life, making it a valuable tool.

      30,000 Feet – Goals and Objectives

      Goals aren’t very clearly distinguished from projects, except that they can (but don’t have to) be longer-term than the year Allen suggests as the timeframe for a project. Things like sending your kids to college, building sufficient savings to enjoy a secure retirement, or writing your memoirs are examples of goals that might take longer than a year; but in the short-term, goals like running a marathon, raising $5000 for charity, or learning how to paint might be reasonable objectives. The difference lies not so much in the length of time needed to complete them, but in the amount of attention they require – an active project should be reviewed weekly, according to Allen, while goals might be reviewed quarterly or even annually.

      The “action” of goals isn’t in the goals themselves but in the projects and next actions they generate. If “run a marathon” is your goal, then suitable projects might be “develop a nutrition plan” and “get a personal trainer” and, indeed, “sign up for a suitable marathon”. The point of consciously setting and recording goals is two-fold: a) to act as another trigger list to make sure you keep making progress by generating projects, and b) to motivate you to act.

      Advertising

      40,000 Feet – Vision

      “If you were wildly successful in the coming years,” Allen asks, “what do you imagine or see yourself doing or being?” Your answer to that question is your vision. Vision acts as a check on your actions, giving you a standard against which to measure the projects, goals, and areas of focus you’ve carved out for yourself. From time to time, and especially when something in your life changes drastically, it is a good idea to ask “How does what I’m doing now measure up against my vision of what I want to be doing 5 years [or however long] from now?” If the answer is that it doesn’t, somehow, then either something in your life needs to change, or you need to rethink your vision.

      50,000 Feet – Purpose

      Finally, purpose is your reason for being, your “higher calling”. Why are you here? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone? How would you defend your life to your ancestors, your descendents, or your god?

      From your purpose flows your principles, your values. Would you commit adultery, given your avowed purpose in life? Would you lie? Would you support corporations that exploit their workers or make use of products produced using slave labor?

      A clear mission statement and short list of principles can do a great deal of good in helping you keep your head clear when emergencies arise – or just when planning out the next few years of your life. This is the highest level from which we can consider our lives, and having a clear idea of our purpose is the only way we can answer the question of whether what we’re doing , right now in the heat of the moment, is the most important thing we could be doing with our lives – which is to say, the only way we can ever be sure that what we’re doing when we carry out the day-to-day grind of next actions, is going to be in any way meaningful to us as people.

      Conclusion

      Making It All Work is a worthy addition to the GTD collection, though it is hardly the stand-alone volume Allen seems to think it is. Folks looking to get immediately productive should still start with Getting Things Done – and maybe come back to Making It All Work in a year or so.

      Advertising

      What Making It All Work does do is address some of the issues that people who have already spent some time with GTD tend to run into. Getting Things Done offers a methodology for immediate action, but it can be easy after a while to get caught up in next actions and maintaining their lists – and forget why they wanted to be more productive in the first place. Making It All Work is a good reminder that yes, there is a more important reason for all this than getting the next quarterly report done on time, and the next one, and the next one, and….

      The book is not without it’s flaws, however. For one thing, while Allen certainly tries, he never completely manages to escape the corporate world that Getting Things Done was explicitly set in. There is still decidedly more “game of work” and less “business of life” than I think even Allen wanted.

      My other complaint is with the overall tone of the book. Where Getting Things Done succeeded was in its simplicity, and this was mirrored in it’s structure and voice. Getting Things Done was a breezy afternoon read; Making It All Work is a weighty tome. It gets better as you go, though – the first 3 chapters can be skipped entirely, but the rest of the book makes for good reading, if a lot slower than Allen’s earlier work.

      Allen said in an interview with Merlin Mann a few years ago that between Getting Things Done and Ready for Anything, he’d pretty much said all he had to say about GTD. Making It All Work puts the lie to that statement – Allen clearly found something worth adding to the GTD oeuvre. While not for beginners, anyone with a little GTD experience under their belt will likely find a lot to think about – and to inspire them – in Allen’s latest book.

      More by this author

      How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Science of Setting Goals (And Its Effect on Your Brain)

      Trending in Featured

      1 35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated) 2 The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life 3 What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time 4 How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 5 20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on August 6, 2020

      35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

      35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

      Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

      There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

      Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

      It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 35 best productivity apps for iPhone (all categorized based on their functions) to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

      For Getting Things Done

      1. OmniFocus

      This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

      Download it here.

        2. Forest

        Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

        Download it here.

          3. Things

          Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

          Download it here.

             

             

            4. Any.Do

            A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

            Download it here.

              5. PocketLife Calendar

              This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

              Download it here.

                6. Asana

                We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                Download it here.

                Advertising

                  7. ToDoist

                  This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                  Download it here.

                     

                     

                    8. Calendars 5

                    This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track, and complete your to-dos.

                    Download it here.

                      9. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                      A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                      Download it here.

                        10. Due

                        A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                        Download it here.

                          11. Checkmark 2

                          I use this app

                          for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                          Download it here.

                            12. TeuxDeux

                            Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — TeuxDeux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then TeuxDeux will be right up your alley.

                            Download it here.

                               

                               

                              Advertising

                              13. Nirvana

                              For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                              Download it here.

                                14. Priorities

                                An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                Download it here.

                                  For Building Habits

                                  15. Productive

                                  With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day, and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                  Download it here.

                                    16. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                    You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                    Download it here.

                                      17. Streaks

                                      This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                      Download it here.

                                        18. Remember The Milk

                                        Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                        Download it here.

                                          19. Day One Journal

                                          When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                          Download it here.

                                            For Files Organization

                                            20. Evernote

                                            Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote is an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                            Download it here.

                                            Advertising

                                              21. Pocket

                                              You can save an article, video, or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                              Download it here.

                                                22. Sync.Me

                                                This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

                                                Download it here.

                                                  23. Droplr

                                                  One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    24. Dropbox

                                                    Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive on your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                    Download it here.

                                                       

                                                      For Working Smarter

                                                      25. Captio

                                                      A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        26. Drafts

                                                        A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things, and more.

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          27. NoteShelf 2

                                                          This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            28. Doodle

                                                            This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

                                                            Advertising

                                                            Download it here.

                                                              29. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                              I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                30. Launch Center Pro

                                                                A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  31. GoodReader

                                                                  This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    32. LogMeIn

                                                                    Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                      For Improving Security

                                                                      33. 1Password

                                                                      There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        34. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                        You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                        All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass auto-fills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          35. Truecaller

                                                                          Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers, and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                            There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                            Featured photo credit: William Hook via unsplash.com

                                                                            Reference

                                                                            Read Next