Book Review: Making It All Work

I think we often times put too much faith in reviews. We put too much trust in the reviewer, as if they are an accredited source free of personal experience that may cloud their judgment. Here is the thing about reviews that I always try to keep in mind when reading them, they are the opinion of the author. It is for this reason I generally take them with a few grains of salt. It is also why I generally avoid doing them.

With this said, this is the first of what will, hopefully, be regular reviews of books I am reading. I will be writing these from my perspective and, therefore, approaching the books based upon my own personal experiences and desires. I think it is important to state such things, up front, so that you will understand that if I give either a glowing or less so review, your milage may vary. In fact, I encourage you to read each and every book I review, regardless of my take, in order to form your own opinion. In other words, I would like you, gentle reader, to not “read” too much into it (and yes, I am aware of the very “metaness” of the pun I just executed as well as my proclivity towards both parenthetic asides and “quote marks”).

Here was my problem with Making It All Work, the long anticipated follow up to Getting Things Done, by David Allen: I have heard it all before. You see, I was one of the many people who really dug deep into the Getting Things Done philosophy. Not only did I read the book several times, as well as practice the system, and try every GTD application, I also attended his GTD: The Roadmap seminar when it came through town here a couple of years back. I really fell deep into line with the program. Because of this, there was not much more for me to get out of the book. Don’t get me wrong, there were some useful nuggets of wisdom that I found. It was just not the further enlightenment I was hoping for, largely because I was already there.

He spends the first half of the book digging a bit deeper into the concepts that he lays out in Getting Things Done. This deeper exploration does turn up an interesting take or two. I especially enjoyed his “What is true now?” approach to getting “unstuck” and deciding exactly what one thing, out of the many, you should be doing right at that time. For someone who is new to GTD, or never really grokked the principles and meaning behind the methods, this stuff is invaluable to helping to cement the concepts.

The second half of the book he uses to discuss, in great detail, the idea of the Vertical Map. I have written about this concept before. A vertical map is basically how your actions and projects are part of and work towards your entire life’s roles, goals, objectives, principals and values. The thing is, this is what the GTD: The Roadmap seminar I attended, led by David Allen, was all about (another aside, this seminar has now been retitled GTD: Making It All Work). We spent the better part of the day immersed in, and doing the beginning work on, these ideas. In other words, this was all well worn track for me. Vertical mapping is something I engage in as part of my review process. That said, if it is not part of yours than this is where the real value in this book lies for a GTD practitioner who wants to take things to the next level and see that there are actually reasons to get things done beyond their own sake.

So, in summary, if you are brand new to Getting Things Done, start with that book. If you are familiar with Getting Things Done but are seeking a bit of deeper meaning then this book will be a good one for you. If you are a black belt GTD ninja with your special org-fu merit patch, you will likely be left unenlightened.

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