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It's time to get things done

Published on Friday, 23 Apr 2010
Illustration: Bay Leung
Book: Making it All Work
Author: David Allen
Publisher: Piatkus Books

Whether we want to reduce stress in our lives or manage our time at work more effectively, we know how it feels to need a lifeline at one time or another.

A practical guide addresses such concerns. Making It All Work, written by David Allen, author of international bestseller Getting Things Done and an authority on productivity and developing personal and organisational capacity, attempts to answer people's need to be able to make things happen.

Allen's work over the past two decades includes developing and implementing productivity improvement programmes for more than one million professionals at Fortune Global 1000 companies. He operates on the premise that, to lead an effective life, we need to learn how to self-manage positively by following his mantra of getting things done (GTD).

We need to engage with our world by making choices and executing them efficiently so that we are supplied with the experiences and results we seek.

His latest book shares the GTD method for getting things on track and making life a successful enterprise. It deals with what the author sees as the two core aspects of self-management - gaining control and achieving perspective.

Allen says that, as with any exercise, the games of life and work have their own rules. Winning these games is about internalising responses and behaviour that are consistently successful when applied to any aspect of life or work that could be functioning better. These learned responses and behaviour help us unleash control, energy, focus and creativity - and, of course, GTD.

Ways in which to do this include setting up a customised productivity system. This embraces anything from setting up huge projects, such as a product launch, to cleaning up our in-baskets.

It also involves learning to visualise achieving success by asking yourself, "if [I] was wildly successful in the coming years, what [would I] imagine or see [myself] doing or being"? The aim of this is to help us focus on our long-term lifestyle, career goals and directions. Next, we should define actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps. Organising reminders and information should be in the most streamlined way by putting things into appropriate categories based on how and when we need to access them.

Finally, Allen suggests, "[keep] current and `on your game' with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your commitment - purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects and actions". By constantly monitoring and refreshing these six areas, the author says we can keep our public and private worlds in order and achieve our dreams.

Making It All Work is not the easiest of books to read, given its sometimes dense style and reliance on rather impenetrable jargon. However, readers who have the patience to follow its suggestions are likely to find it provides a helping hand.

In terms of having the courage not only to get things done, but to work out what they actually want to achieve in the first place, it leads businesspeople, students, homemakers and romantic partners towards achieving their goals.



  • If you want to face up to your commitments, get organised and get focused
  • Get organised by getting in control
  • It's tough to define what your work is about - but get your priorities right by clarifying your objectives
  • Don't feel lost - know where you are and where you want to go by making a map for your life
  • Don't distinguish between what's work and what's personal - your life and work are not mutually exclusive


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