Reading Notes: Making It All Work

Author:  David Allen

Format: Audible

Subject:  Productivity

Rating: 2/10


I am a big fan of David Allen’s book:  Getting Things Done, so I was very excited to listen to Making It All Work.  Unfortunately, that excitement quickly disappeared, and then turn to disappointment the more I listened.

I thought this book would serve as either a building block for the GTD system, but it is pretty much a rehashing of the previous book.  The core focus of the book seemed to be implementing the GTD system into your personal life.  That is all fine and well, because I really like the system.  In fact, incorporated GTD into all aspects of my life while reading the first book.

I listened to about two-thirds of Making It All Work before I gave up on it.  I am quite certain that I won’t be missing out on any key information that I won’t pick up on somewhere else.

What I liked Most About the Book:  The topic of the GTD system.

What I liked Most About the Book:  The lack of any new pertinent ideas or techniques.  The Horizons discussed in the book are hardly new concepts.

New GTD Concept:  Horizons

  • Projects: 10,000 Feet – The are the shorter items that take need to be completed in about a year’s time and will take more than one action to complete.  Pretty much standard GTD.
  • Areas of Focus:   20,000 Feet – This is essentially a list of all the roles you assume or want to assume in life:  husband, father, accountant, mentor, manager…  So the purpose of this list is to serve as a trigger for your weekly review.
  • Goals and Objectives:   30,000 Feet – A list of Projects that will take more than a year to complete.  You only need to review once a quarter or so.  This list will help trigger projects.
  • Vision:   40,000 Feet – Where do you want to be in five years.  Are your actions taking you there?  What about your projects?
  • Purpose:  50,000 Feet – What is your reason for being? to your ancestors, your descendents, or your god?

Reading Notes: The 4 Hour Workweek

Author:  Timothy Ferriss

Format: Audible

Subject:  Lifestyle Management

Rating: 4/10


The title “The 4 Hour Workweek” instantly signals the skeptic in me.  So But I chose to take a chance on this book since it had so many raving reviews.  It is written in a semi-instructional / semi-narrative format and is theoretically based on Ferriss’s own experiences.

I enjoyed the concept of lifestyle management and  “having freedom of time and location,” when it comes work.  There were also a few other nuggets of knowledge buried throughout the first half of the book.

However, the second half of The 4 Hour Workweek is a half-baked mix of getting “Newly Rich” quick schemes scattered in between boastful tales of Ferriss’s adventures in life and business.

To be fair, maybe I just didn’t get the message Ferriss was pushing in the later parts of the book.  After all, early on in the book he aptly advises the readers to not waste their time reading information that doesn’t add any value to their lives.  I failed to heed his warning and wasted several more hours of my life listening to the author ramble on about nothing of any serious value.

What I liked Most About the Book:  The 4 Hour Workweek is the first book I have read on lifestyle management.

What I liked Least About the Book:  In theory the author’s experiences should make him a well-rounded and very interesting person.  However, after listening to his many tales of adventure he comes across as pretty much a shell of a real person without any real substance.

Knowledge Nuggets:

  • Apply the Pareto Principle (80% of results come from 20% of the effort) to as much of your life as possible.
  • Master the art of “Not Finishing.”  As soon as you determine that any particular activity is wasting your time, stop doing it.  This advice makes a ton of sense, but sort of goes against the way most of us were taught to behave.
    • Side Note:  I wish I would have applied the art of “Not Finishing” to this book, but I digress.
  • Become fanatical about delegating unimportant tasks, empowering subordinates, and eliminating anything that is not a key in driving results.
  • It is smarter to Ask for Forgiveness, then to Ask for Permission.  I have been applying this mentality for years.
  • Focus on increasing your expertise in certain areas as opposed to overcoming your weaknesses.

Terrible Tip:

  • Ferriss advocates a “Low-information Diet,” which he applies to pretty much all information.  I agree that much of the information that most of us consume is pretty meaningless.  But, knowledge is power.  And new information is critical to our continued growth as well-rounded people.

Reading Notes: Traction–Get a Grip on Your Business

eos-systemAuthor:  Gino Wickman

Format: Hardback

Subject:  Business Management

Rating: 8/10


Traction is an instructional manual that documents the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS.  EOS is designed to allow business leaders  maintain traction toward the company’s vision.  I actually read it the book in November 2015 as I prepared to start as CFO for Staley Inc.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and EOS process, and have since gone on to participate in local round tables on the EOS implementation process.  I am convinced that I would be twice as successful as I am today if I had read this book ten years sooner.

The concept of Rocks would have been very beneficial to several of my colleagues in past jobs.  The ability to prioritize efforts around a long-term vision is easy to understand.  But many managers have a difficult time accepting  that it means allowing other issues to fester until a later date.

Six Parts of the EOS System.

  • Vision:  Successful business owners have compelling visions for their organizations and diligently communicate those visions to ensure that everyone one in the organization has a clear image of where the company is going and how it is going to get there.
  • People:  Successful leaders surround themselves with great people.  You can’t build a great company without great help.
  • Data:  The best leaders rely on a handful of metrics to help manage their business which frees you from the quagmire of managing personalities, egos, subjective issues, emotions.
  • Issues:  Issues are obstacles that must be faced to execute your vision. Just as an individual’s success is directly proportionate to his or her ability to solve any issues that arise, the same holds true for a company.

Issues should be documented on one of three list until they are resolved.

VTO Issues List: Issue that are not a priority for this quarter

Leadership Team Issues List:  Tactical issues that must be solved this week or quarter, and that must be solved at the highest level in the company.

Departmental Issues List.  All Tactical issues that live at the department level.

  • Process:  Processes are your way of doing business.  Successful organizations see their way and constantly refine it.  This is the most neglected of the Six Key Components.
  • Traction:  In the end, the most successful business leaders are the ones with traction.  They execute well and they know how to bring focus, accountability and discipline to their organization.

Successful companies make use of the Vision, Traction, Organizer, or VTO:

  1. What are your core values?
  2. What is your core focus (also known as Vision Statement, Mission Statement, Sweet Spot…)?
  3. What is your 10-year target (or long-term strategy)?
  4. What is your marketing strategy?
    1. 3 Uniques
    2. Your Proven Process
    3. Your Guarantee
    4. Target Market
  5. What is your 3-year focus (short-term strategy)?
  6. One is your 1-year plan? (tactics)
  7. What are your quarterly rocks?  Company Level
  8. What are your issues?   Company Level

Accountability Chart:  An organizational chart that lays out all of the positions in the company along with their Core Responsibilities

Right People in the Right Seats:

  • Right People = Core Values + People Analyzer
  • Right Seats = Unique Abilities + Accountability Chart

Rocks:  Are short time priorities that help you achieve your vision.  Establish the 3-7 most important priorities that must be done in the next 90 days.  These priorities are called rocks.  The company has rocks. The leadership team has rocks, and team members have rocks.   The primary purpose is to help focus the organization, and to break the habit of trying to focus on everything at once.

L10 Meeting (Level 10):  Meetings with a specific agenda that are held with the same people, in the same space, and at the same time each week:

L10 Agenda:

  • Check-in
  • Review Rocks
  • Review Scorecard
  • Announcements
  • Issues Solving
  • Score the Meeting