Monday, January 10, 2011

Book review: The Pledge

From time to time I read books on productivity, self help and similar topics. Last weekend I read Michael Masterson's "The Pledge: your plan for an abundant life". While there were some useful takeaways from, on the whole I was disappointed.

The book is short, an attribute which I generally rate as positive for this genre. Masterson covers a number of topics such as productivity, personal choices, relationships and the mental attitudes needed for success. Most of these topics get covered in more depth in single books by other authors. While people who have no read anything on these topics may find the relatively high level summary type coverage a useful introduction, having read a number of books on all of the topics covered, I found nothing new. At times I felt I was skim reading the Cliff Notes version of a more detailed book. Part of Masterson's commentary on prioritising work was openly lifted straight out of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".

There were some things which I regarded as very wrong and/or unworkable. To give two examples:

1. the suggestion that you should only look at your e-mails once a day and at the end of the day. If I did that I would lose most of my clients. I am paid to be responsive (as are most professionals). Also, a lot of the e-mails I receive require either same day action or delegation. Waiting until the day is over before actioning them is inefficient and sends a very wrong message to clients and colleagues alike. While I am sure that there are some people for whom this approach works and agree that constantly looking at e-mail damages productivity, this is not a solution that is viable for most people;

2. the use of monthly and daily folders for tasks. Not viable in my opinion. I would end up spending more time dealing with the folders than I would save by using them. I'll stick with my three task lists (clients, office and personal) divided into short term and longer term completion targets.

I did laugh when his schedule showed a fixed time slot for speaking with his wife.

Some things I did like:

3. Masterson partially calls bull on Tim Ferris's "The Four Hour Work Week" (which I rate as a nice fantasy with some good ideas but generally non-viable for most people);

4. Masterson calls bull on the "Think and Grow Rich" school of thought which holds that all that is necessary to achieve success is to visualise it - scientific studies show that dreaming about success without doing more is actually counterproductive.

In summary, an average read for people new to productivity and self help books with several good ideas (and a few bad ones), but offers nothing new for those who have read other books on these topics.

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