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Ready for Anything

52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life

By David Allen
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Ready for Anything by David Allen

In Ready for Anything, productivity expert David Allen presents a variety of techniques that will help you clear your mind and your desk, deal with the things that hold you back, and prepare for all the creative, challenging and rewarding projects that will come your way. Additionally, the book serves as an introduction to the general principles of Allen’s groundbreaking productivity system.

Key idea 1 of 9

Having too many things on your mind will hamper your creativity.

Unlike those tasks that don't demand much from your brain – like filling out forms, writing a shopping list or responding to a routine email – creative work requires lots of “mental horsepower.”

Why is this?

First, creative work is a mental balancing act. At any one time, a creative act requires that you keep in mind – and evaluate – many different considerations simultaneously.

For example, when a screenwriter is in the process of writing a script, she has to reckon with many different things. She must come up with a convincing story and a compelling narrative. She will need to invent effective visual metaphors for the characters' emotional states – like, using heavy rainfall to symbolize sadness. She'll have to ensure that the script doesn't require too many different shooting locations, as that will increase production costs. And she'll also have to do a lot of background research, especially if her story is set in an ancient era, or something similar.

Balancing all of these factors simultaneously requires a lot of mental effort. Moreover, that effort depends on us having a kind of mental “storage space.” However, for most of us, this space is at a premium.

All of the information that will be relevant in the short- to mid-term is stored in what we'll call a kind of psychic RAM. The information that we store there ranges from the subtotal of a bill that you're calculating to the fact that you need to buy milk. Crucially, creative thought also depends on this psychic RAM.

Unfortunately, though, the capacity of psychic RAM is limited. Attempting to keep in mind a lot of information at once will result in your RAM becoming too full to process any new ideas. Which means, of course, that your creativity will suffer.

If we cannot be creative while our heads are filled with mundane details, memos, facts and so on, then it follows that we must find a way to clear our minds of such information.

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