Ready for Anything

by David Allen

Cover image

Publisher: Penguin
Copyright: 2003
ISBN: 0-14-303454-5
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 165

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Last spring when I started studying time management, I was very impressed by David Allen's Getting Things Done. It took a while to get used to the language and presentation, which were full of business-speak and obviously aimed more at corporate executives than someone like me, but his techniques and attitude towards planning struck a chord with me. On re-reading the book, I liked it even more, and each time I've read it I've gotten a burst of productivity and enthusiasm from it.

Ready for Anything is similarly about productivity, but comes at it from a different angle. It's a collection of essays and articles (with some editing and revision) that Allen had previously sent out in his newsletter. Rather than setting up a system or walking through specific planning and organization tasks, it collects motivational essays and seeds for thought. Each of the fifty-two included essays is at most four pages, and usually two or three, suitable for reading as a spark for thought. They're similar in tone and focus to the asides in Getting Things Done about the way the brain works, the core principles of a planning system, and helpful mental tricks or bits of philosophy.

If you haven't read Getting Things Done, or particularly if you have read it but didn't care for it, I don't think you'll get much out of this book. It's not as insightful and it doesn't lay the groundwork and present a systematic philosophy and method the way Getting Things Done does. Neither does it add more to the structure of the earlier book; instead, it explores the side paths, musings, and underpinnings of practical advice. I think it's best read as a reminder, follow-on, and internal discussion seed for those who read and enjoyed Getting Things Done, which makes the degree of duplication and repetition from the previous book somewhat annoying.

Similarly, if you like Allen's practical systems and specific advice but were frustrated by or uninterested in his philosophical musings, general life encouragement, and musings about the workings of the brain, avoid Ready for Anything. It's not devoid of specific practical advice, but that's not the purpose.

With those warnings, and a note that its origin as a collection of unrelated essays shows, I still found it thought-provoking and inspiring in places. I was originally turned off by Allen's wordings and self-help style, but the more I read and re-read his books, the more I think I see what he's getting at and find it useful. He also collects interesting quotes and peppers the sidebars of his books with them (even more densely here than in Getting Things Done), which for me goes a long way towards making the book worth the time to read it.

Start with Getting Things Done if you're at all curious about Allen's time management approach, but if you liked that and want more, I cautiously recommend Ready for Anything. Just keep the caveats above in mind so that you don't expect something other than what you're getting (and consider whether it's worth buying, as it's relatively expensive for the length, rather than just subscribing to Allen's newsletter).

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2007-04-05

Last modified and spun 2015-09-01