email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""Who Could That Be at This Hour?"3 Willows4th of July99 DaysA Beautiful MindA Change in AltitudeA Corner Of The UniverseA Frog ThingA Great and Terrible BeautyA People's History of ChristianityA Question of BloodA Slight Trick of the MindA Step Toward FallingA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Tragic Kind of WonderfulA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December Abraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesAfter DarkAgainst EmpathyAgainst Medical AdviceAll the Bright PlacesAll the Way HomeAll Unquiet ThingsAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAmerica AmericaAmong the DepartedAn EducationAn Object of BeautyAnatomy of a MisfitAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaBad BoyBad RatsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeauty QueensBed of RosesBefore I DieBefore I FallBefore the FrostBig BrotherBiteBlack Elk SpeaksBlameBleed for MeBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBody SurfingBog ChildBoneMan's DaughtersBoomsdayBorder CrossingBorn Standing UpBoys Are DogsBoys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They Can Look Up Your Skirt)Brava, ValentineBreak Through PainBreathingBridge of SighsBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBrutalBy BloodC StreetCalm Beneath the WavesCanadaCellCemetery DanceChange Your Brain, Change Your LifeCheeverCinnamon KissCleopatraClose Your EyesCompulsionCross CountryCyborgasmDakotaDancing at the Shame PromDarkest FearDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDead EvenDead Little Mean GirlDear Zoe,Death Without TenureDeceptionDefending JacobDefine NormalDeliriumDevil in the DetailsDiscovering Pig MagicDisturbing GroundDivergentDivine JusticeDivisaderoDoing ItDown the Rabbit HoleDr. Andrew Weil's Mindbody ToolkitDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDriftlessEven Dogs in the WildEvery Exquisite ThingEvery Little Thing in the WorldEye ContactFaith, Hope, and Ivy JuneFaking NormalFalling ManFamily FirstFans of the Impossible LifeFear of the DarkFellsideField of BloodFile Under: 13 Suspicious IncidentsFiregirlForest of the PygmiesFortunate SonFraudFreak the MightyFree RefillsFull Steam Ahead!Furiously HappyGenerosityGenomeGetting a Good Night's SleepGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGiftedGirl in TranslationGod Is DeadGod Is Not OneGods and BeastsGoing BovineGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGraysonHappy FamilyHappy Mutant Baby PillsHarmlessHe's Just Not That Into YouHealthy AgingHeartbeatHeftHigh HeatHolidays on IceHot MilkHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel WorldHotels of North AmericaHow a Gunman Says GoodbyeHow Full Is Your Bucket?How Successful People ThinkHow to Build a HouseHow to See Yourself As You Really AreHow to Set a Fire and WhyHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurt Go HappyHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenI Am Not Joey PigzaI Can See YouI Drink for a ReasonI Feel Bad About My NeckI'd Know You AnywhereIdiot AmericaIf a Tree Falls at Lunch PeriodIf I StayIf You StayImagine Me GoneIn ZanesvilleInfinite JestInheritanceInnocentInside the O'BriensInvincibleInvisibleIt Takes OneJennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, ElizabethJust LifeKiss of Broken GlassKissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys)Leaping BeautyLies My Girlfriend Told MeLife After LifeLife InterruptedLife of PiLife StrategiesLisey's StoryLitLittle Black LiesLittle ScarletLive For Your Listening PleasureLiving Your DreamLong Shadow of Small GhostsLooking for BobowiczLost in the ForestLove Is a Mix TapeLove Times ThreeLove, AubreyLowboyMadappleMade For YouMagical ThinkingMagnificenceMaliceMan in the WoodsMeditation in a New York MinuteMeetings with a Remarkable ManMiddlesexMind MappingMindfulness for BeginnersMirrorMaskMischlingMissing PresumedMolly Moon's Incredible Book of HypnotismMommies Who DrinkMunich AirportMy AbandonmentMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Name Is RedMy One Hundred AdventuresMy Sister's KeeperName All the AnimalsNelson Mandela's Favorite African FolktalesNemesisNever Let Me GoNight FilmNina: AdolescenceNinety DaysNone of the AboveNurtureShockObjects of My AffectionOlive's OceanOn Chesil BeachOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's NestOutliersPaint It BlackPanicParadise LodgeParanoiaPeace Is Every BreathPeople Who Eat DarknessPharmakonPictures of Hollis WoodsPictures of YouPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying with FirePlease Stop Laughing at UsPositivityPresumed InnocentPretty Girl-13Prisoner of Night and FogPuddlejumpersPunkzillaRacing the DevilReady for AnythingRebuttalRequiemRescueRevolutionary RoadRoomRun for Your LifeSay You're SorryScatSchool of FearSeason to TasteSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSee How SmallSeeds of HopeSex and SpiritSide Effects May VarySilencedSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSix Impossible ThingsSkelligSleeping BeautySnowSo Brave, Young and HandsomeSolitaireSomeday This Pain Will Be Useful to YouSourlandSquirrel Seeks ChipmunkStill MissingStory of a GirlStress ReliefSupreme CourtshipSurviving OpheliaSwimming to ElbaSworn to SilenceSymptoms of Being HumanTeaseTeaseTell the Truth, Shame the DevilTen Minutes to RelaxTestimonyThat Old Cape MagicThe DrifterThe Abortionist's DaughterThe AccidentalThe Accidental BillionairesThe AdultsThe Almost MoonThe Anatomy of HopeThe ArrangementThe Art of ChoosingThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Artist of DisappearanceThe Average American MarriageThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe Beat Goes OnThe Best AwfulThe Big LoveThe Boat RockerThe Book of JoeThe Book of LiesThe Book of the DeadThe Boy Who DaredThe Boyfriend ListThe Brass VerdictThe Breakout PrincipleThe Burden of ProofThe Case for GodThe Case of the Case of Mistaken IdentityThe Cemetery BoysThe ChemistThe Chosen OneThe ClosersThe Consciousness PlagueThe Conspiracy ClubThe Cuckoo's CallingThe Day I Ate Whatever I WantedThe Dead Fathers ClubThe Death of Bunny MunroThe Devotion of Suspect XThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksThe Diviner's TaleThe DollmakerThe Dressmaker of Khair KhanaThe Dynamite RoomThe Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round ThingsThe EndThe Erotic EdgeThe Essential KamasutraThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustThe Forgotten GirlsThe Fortunate OnesThe Geography of You and MeThe Gift of an Ordinary DayThe Gingerbread GirlThe Girl in 6EThe Girl in the GardenThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestThe Girl Who Played with FireThe Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Grief of OthersThe Grim GrottoThe Guise of AnotherThe Guy Not TakenThe Heart of YogaThe Hearts of MenThe Heretic's DaughterThe Ice QueenThe Ice TwinsThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe InseparablesThe InterestingsThe Keeper of Lost CausesThe Keeper of Lost ThingsThe Kings of LondonThe Language God TalksThe Language of SecretsThe Language Of YogaThe Last ChildThe Last MileThe Last Time We Say GoodbyeThe Male BrainThe Man from BeijingThe Man in My BasementThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Map of True PlacesThe Marriage PlotThe Memory Book The Mermaids SingingThe Ministry of Special CasesThe MuralistThe Museum of InnocenceThe Mystery of the Third LucretiaThe Myth of LazinessThe NarrowsThe Necessary Death of Lewis WinterThe New YorkersThe NewleywedsThe NixThe NursesThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Other Side of the StoryThe Outcasts of 19 Schuyler PlaceThe Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe PastThe Penultimate PerilThe PostcardThe Pregnant WidowThe Promise of a LieThe PyramidThe Qi Healing KitThe ReaderThe Republican BrainThe Rule of FourThe Rules of SurvivalThe Savage CityThe ScarecrowThe Second GirlThe Secret Life of BeesThe Secret of Lost ThingsThe Secret ScriptureThe Secret SpeechThe Secret Wisdom of the EarthThe ShallowsThe Shock of the FallThe Silent BoyThe SisterThe Sound of Broken GlassThe SpindlersThe Story HourThe Story of Beautiful GirlThe Sudden Arrival of ViolenceThe Survivors ClubThe Sweet Relief of Missing ChildrenThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieThe Tail of Emily WindsnapThe Tenth JusticeThe Thing About JellyfishThe Third AngelThe TouristThe Treasure Map of BoysThe Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraThe Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossThe UnquietThe Unseen WorldThe VegetarianThe View from SaturdayThe WaveThe Weed That Strings the Hangman's BagThe Weight of the NationThe Whole TruthThe WilloughbysThe Witch's BoyThe Wolves of AndoverThe Words We Live ByThe Wrong Side of GoodbyeThe Year of the FloodThe Year That FollowsThe Yin Yoga KitThirteen Reasons WhyThis Beautiful LifeThis Body of DeathThis Book Is Not Good For YouThis Full HouseThis Is HowThose GirlsThose Who Wish Me DeadTony & SusanToo Much HappinessTooth and NailTouchTransformation TriburbiaTrue BelieverTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTwinmakerTwistedTwo Can PlayTwo Little Girls in BlueUnaccustomed EarthUnder the HarrowUnder the InfluenceUnder WildwoodUniversal HarvesterUnlessUnthinkingUp in the AirVery ValentineVisits from The Drowned GirlVoid MoonWaiting for SunriseWalkingWarWatching the DarkWhat the Dog SawWhen We Were AnimalsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhen You Reach MeWhere She WentWherever You Go, There You AreWhite HotWild AwakeWild ChildWildwoodWill They Ever Trust Us Again?Wolf in White VanWomen's Murder Club Box SetYoga SanctuaryYou Look Different in Real LifeYou Should Have KnownYou Will Know Me
The David Allen Company is a
consulting firm of a dozen or so highly capable people who follow or support
David (and Kathryn) Allen bringing better productivity wisdom and methods to
individuals, groups, and organizations. David Allen previously wrote Getting Things Done (2001), called a
highly successful publication by Simon & Schuster, and he refers to the
title in his leading seminar theme as GTD, that is, getting things done. It's
become a methodology for better productivity, "GTD."
Listening to David Allen may not be
an experience synonymous with seeing him leading a corporate seminar. Being in
someone's presence adds dimensions that one cannot reach by just listening; nor
is the latter effective in the same ways as reading the unabridged hardcover
book. Turning pages explains more and gives the visual cues to ideas--such as
seeing headings--that can't occur on a CD.
So, obtaining value from this
intelligent program makes demands on our attention. We must approach it with
focus, note-taking, selected reviewing, and some self-analysis. This is not to
say, you can't listen to it while driving--perhaps to work and back--but you
will discover you have to review it again at a desk (or kitchen table) where
you can take notes, switch it off and on, click back and forward to hear things
repeatedly before they become meaningful and memorable.
These demands might strike a CD
buyer as obstacles. Got too much on your plate already? Think you'll pass on
Allen's CD? Well, hold on a minute. The universal problem of today's world of
work--too much to do--is the very thing Allen aims to help you handle. His tack
is this: you can do more and be more productive if you relax and use his methods. His methods are all about doing
the objective things, like making lists and cleaning up the small stuff, that
clear your mind to be relaxed, creative, and free of stress.
This is an excellent
self-development program, one that is up-to-the-minute in its use of metaphors
like "mental RAM" and "open loops" and others drawn from
our computer/network age. It speaks to the most contemporary issues in managing
tasks, projects and energy. It draws on the best ideas of various traditions
but is not merely a rehash of them. It sparkles with solid insights. It's worth
listening to over and over.
The topics are many and varied, but
they are all drawn together by some basic principles that plainly dominate
Allen's experience. One of these is something he learned in karate, "the
mind like water" principle. It's a principle about a peaceful, supple mind
that responds to challenges with completely appropriate energy and interaction,
not too much or too little. It's like a pebble thrown into water, he explains.
The water doesn't react; it simply envelops, accommodates the stone and goes
back to its serene state. A mind that can deal with change or challenges this
way is a mind that has plenty of flexible energy and is "ready for
Mind Like Water is a fine metaphor
and this reviewer would have liked to find others of similar interest in the
program as a whole. But this is not a program rich in metaphor or the poetic
side of language. It is plain spoken and, for the most part, a business-like
adaptation of some principles drawn from the wisdom of the ages.
If a listener were to write down
all the principles Allen articulates, he or she will find truths reframing
those we know from the whole history of great ideas. Here are a representative
few: priorities function only at the conscious level; closing open loops
releases energy; if it's on your mind, it's not getting done; creativity shows
up when we make space for it; worry is a waste; energy follows thought; change
in focus leads to changed results; function follows form. And there are many
others. (On his website, Allen says there are "52" principles in this
program. But that figure is not included in the CDs themselves.)
What about these many principles?
Without question, they are great and good principles; they are valuable and
useful. But I find myself curious to know where in Allen's experiences they
showed up. I long for the missing attributions even though I know that business
programs have a long and undistinguished history of eschewing sources (and
hating footnotes). Did I hear some Ben
Franklin in newer garb? More often, I heard references to the training that
dominated the human development movement of the 1970s and 1980s (e.g., "Infinite
opportunity…finite possibility") mixed with the language of computers,
like "RAM" and "open loops." But Allen is a good reporter
and interpreter concerned with results. It's enough.
Also, he ends many sections with a
pithy quote from any one of dozens of famous people. This adds reassurance and
authority to what he teaches.
There are Four Parts to READY for ANYTHING:
I. Clearing your head for
II. Focus and Productivity (or
point of view)…
III. Creating structures that work
(Allen means organization, systems)…
IV. Relax…& get in motion (be
where the action is).
Each part involves many principles and the explanations of
them. The material is dense and moves fast.
I don't quote these titles of each
part exactly, because I can't take notes fast enough, and that's one of the
downsides to working with a CD rather than the book itself. Why Simon & Schuster doesn't include
some printed materials with the CDs, like outlines and the main points of these
four parts, I confess, eludes me. Does the publisher want you to enjoy the CD
and then buy the book--for detail and
reinforcement if you're serious? Well, everybody wants to sell more product.
But I think it would work better the other way--give the listener some written
support and he'll reach out for more. This reviewer takes seriously something
the author says: You don't have to be
the best but "do your best," because there is a big, big difference
between "good and the best" in what you're doing.
Is this abridged presentation doing
Allen's best? It is a question of quality. There are areas where that question
is fairly raised by the program's content. I think the most pressing of these
is the sheer density of the material Allen reads through, even with an added
second voice (a woman's) that reads a version of his principles at the start of
each numbered sub-section (about 18 on each CD). The added second voice seems
to be paraphrasing, and her metaphors have little connection to Allen's. Were
they added by the Simon & Schuster editors to try to remedy Allen's writing
problems? Or were the problems introduced by abridging his material? It sounds like one or the other. Whatever
the source of these little disharmonies, there is something wanting in the
presentations to a listener. The principles are announced, but then Allen
speaks up and says something, supposed to support and explain each principle.
Trouble is, he uses different words, different models, and doesn't ever repeat the main principle. The effect is
that after a few seconds one cannot remember the principle itself and the
points being made seem random, scattered.
Better take notes.
But dense material is also rich and
full of life. Better too dense than as thin as some self-help tapes which
endlessly spin out the same few ideas over and over, saying little. David Allen
has a lot to say, worth studying and applying. Maybe he needs to hire writers
and editors who can help him say it more effectively on CDs--and deliver it
with a conviction, phrasing, and timing stronger than in his seminar
approach--in his future efforts.
© 2005 David Wolf
David Wolf is the author of Philosophy That Works, a
book about the practice of philosophy. His book page for orders (hardback &
paperback) is www.xlibris.com/philosophythatworks
; readers can also see the first chapter there.