Currently I’m reading David Allen’s second book “Ready for Anything”, which contains 52 productivity principles for work and life (as it says on the cover). I cannot help but think that if I had discovered David Allen’s work in the wrong order, I might have been put off by it. As it is, I am convinced that I have discovered his work in the right order, that is, first I read (or rather, devoured) his very first book “Getting Things Done”, second I listened to his seminar on audio CDs called “Getting Things Done… Fast!” and only now am I reading his second book.

First of all, I probably wouldn’t have been able to really comprehend what David is talking about in “Ready for Anything” if I hadn’t implemented and really used his “Getting Things Done” action management methodology for the past 8 months. Second, I probably wouldn’t have grasped the real depth of the 52 principles outlined in his second book, if I hadn’t had the pleasure of listening to his seminar.

I would like to share one of the principles with you and give you my experience and insight on it as well. By the way, expect more posts like this about some of the other 52 principles in the book.


Principle #2, You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what you’re not doing.

On the two pages of this chapter, David writes about the well-known 5 phases: collect, process, organize, review and do. As many of us have discovered already, breaking down your workflow in these 5 discrete activities makes it easier to deal consistently with your daily “stuff” and it allows you to assume the proper role for each phase (e.g. an executive for decision making, a manager for tactical decisions about what to do when, etc.)

David focuses on the brain dump and collection phase. If you keep “stuff” in your mind – big or small, important or unimportant, urgent or not urgent – you will never get rid of that gnawing sense that something is still unprocessed or unorganized. You cannot expect to get through the other 4 phases successfully if you still feel something is “out there” that you haven’t quite captured yet.

Once you feel that you have dumped everything out of your brain and you have captured all of your open loops in your trusted system, then you will be able to make clear decisions about what you are doing and what you are NOT doing. You will feel good about what you are NOT doing because you know you have captured those things in your trusted system and you will eventually get around to doing them! They are no longer lost somewhere in the dark corners of your mind, waiting to make you feel miserable about not doing them when you least expect it!

From my own experience I frequently decide NOT to do something and it doesn’t bother me one bit, because I know it will be sitting right there in my trusted GTD system AND there is nothing else I am NOT doing. I know how to play the game of GTD, therefore I do not feel stressed or guilty when I turn my back on something and say “I am NOT going to do that right now!”.

Now may be a good time to check your own collection/capturing step in your GTD system. If it contains leaks (and for many people it does) you can never expect to feel that sense of relaxed control that comes from knowing that ALL of your open loops have been put into your trusted system. As long as that it not the case you can NEVER expect to feel good about NOT doing something because you cannot be 100% sure that your system contains everything you are NOT doing right now. Good luck! :)