Management consultant David Allen’s practical book is a self-help manual that is useful for both adults and older teenagers. The focus of this readable book is on various practical principles that will increase productivity. These principles are behavioral, social, educational, emotional and spiritual, and they are as commonsensical as they are sublime. They show how the business world, the human brain and heart, and the social structures of society work.
Divided into fifty-two short but densely packed chapters, the book is philosophical in a practical way. Aligning philosophy and practicality might seem strange to some who believe that success and productivity in work come naturally. According to Allen, in chapter 41 (“The longer your horizon, the smoother your moves.”) “Too many times, we don’t recognize when reality has shifted but we haven’t, in our forms and behaviors.” The external world of business goals are closely aligned to a person’s inner life.
Yet, knowing the rules, structures, etc is not enough. Balance is also necessary. As Allen says in chapter 41 (“Too controlled is out of control”) a chapter about organizing, “My systems do indeed relieve the mind...but they don’t replace the need for regular executive thinking.” Although this is ostensibly about organization, it’s a statement that is true for the entire book. The wisdom and tools given in this book are principles that a reader must interactive with; mindfulness is always needed. But that mind is most productive when it is educated by Allen’s principles.
Much of what Allen proposes --creativity, ethics, intuition, peace, spiritual awareness, positive thinking, and psychological self-examination– may sound impractical to those who aren’t convinced that intangibles such as the spiritual can affect material matters. Conversely, those who consider business as less creative and “right-minded” than the arts might be surprised at how truly creative and psychically close to the soul business can be.
Chapters deal with such matters as spiritual comfort zones, positive thinking, receptivity to the unexpected, clarity of intention, psychic emotional spaces, decision-making, self-trust and other issues. Veteran business coach Allen, whose writings have been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, among others, does not give mere descriptions of these principles. Most of the chapters have general or personal examples which precede the information he gives to enlighten his readers. The chapters end with a “By the Way” section, questions which allow and invite the reader to ponder that chapter’s information in a personal way. The book ends with a small recap of all the previous information.
In looking at the abundant information, a reader may be surprised to see how many different elements are involved in the matter of productivity. College students, business majors and even creative art majors, will learn how to understand and recognize such matters as defeated thinking, the inability to set goals or set priorities, knowing how to bounce back from setbacks and understand far-reaching consequences, deal with anxiety and responsibility, and deal with internal non-mandatory pressures.
Allen obviously understands business and is both a philosopher and an educator. His readers should learn much from his strategies, both the sublime ones they had not dreamed of and the commonsensical ones they had never learned. Highly recommended.