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Book Review: Do It Badly And Ahead Of Time! Three Easy-To-Start Habits That Will Make You Awesome Possum

It’s a book.

It’s good.

Let me tell you why 😉 .


「前倒し」仕事術! ムリなく始められる、3つの習慣
中井 紀之 (著)

Do It Badly And Ahead Of Time! Three Easy-To-Start Habits That Will Make You Awesome Possum
Noriyuki NAKAI
Language: Japanese
Veracity: Non-fiction
Furigana: No
Genre: Business book



  • Simple ideas but expressed in an insightful way that feels really fresh
  • Clear writing
  • Has this really cool, textured cover
  • Touches on concepts like timeboxing and Parkinson’s Law, but without naming them
  • Perfect antidote to the perfectionism masquerading as professionalism/maturity that seems to be eating away at so many people nowadays
  • NAKAI is kind. You know how some business authors are mean because they think it’s cool? Yeah, he’s not like that.
  • The first two-thirds of the book is pure gold. The final third isn’t as good, but that’s fine because all the lameness is sequestered over there, leaving the vast majority of the book pristine.
  • Doesn’t beat you over the head with its titular “habits”, quite unlike certain plodding, quasi-theological business books that shall remain nameless. OK that was mean. But seriously…that book should have been a pamphlet. Freakin’ a.
  • Judicious use of images and highlighting — in keeping with the illustrious traditions of the modern Japanese business book.
  • Assumes that you work at a company
  • The ideas are so simple that it’s tempting to ignore the book
  • The final third of the book is a bit too focussed on specific tools — Gmail, iPhone, iPod touch — with usage suggestions that are (1) not at all fresh, and (2) only tangentially related to the core ideas of the book, which are fresh.
    • It all just seems unnecessarily trendy to me. In fact, I feel like it actually just lowers the timelessness and universality of the book. It adds pages, but not value. In other words, it’s filler. Fortunately, it all comes at the end, where it can’t mar the rest of the book.
    • I imagine that this travesty was probably an idea of the publisher’s rather than the author’s. 2010 has been a banner year for Japanese business books centered around how artifacts like the iPhone and cloud services like Gmail and DropBox will cure cancer, increase nighttime stamina and make you more productive than an ant on speed.
      • All us geeks know in our hearts of hearts that while tools like the iPhone are great fun to play around with, they rarely actually help (of course there are major exceptions, like SRS — a smartphone is worth it for the mobile SRS capability alone). In many crucial ways, these toys are yet to match the speed, reliability and resilience of good old BallPointPen and A4Paper.
    • IMHO, it comes down to this: the key to being awesome possum is almost always lies in mindset rather than tools. A new PDA will not make it all better. Being mindful of Parkinson’s Law, on the other hand, will. A good tool with the wrong mindset is just a waste of plastic and minor precious metals.


The great lie of the productivity world is that some new artifact — some kind of device or planner — will come along and make it all better. I believed this lie for the greater part of my youth. But I think that I had a good reason for believing it: the alternative was well-meaning adults who tell you to “just suck it up”. **** you. If that worked so well, I’d be doing it, wouldn’t I?Here’s the thing: the key to being awesome, the key to so-called productivity, is not the tools, but an understanding of human behavior — yours. Once we understand human behavior, we can, as we say in Japanese “give life” to the tools. In other words, tools are helpful and useful only in proportion to the user’s ability to use them and not be used by them.

So, SRS in the wrong hands creates burnout, a Franklin Planner in the wrong hands is just expensive leather binding and refills (actually, a Franklin Planner in the right hands is just expensive leather binding and refills, but…yeah), a PDA in the wrong hands is just an overpriced mini-touchscreen.

A person who knows about the Pareto Principle, Parkinson’s Law, Temporal Motivation Theory, Operant Conditioning — even if she doesn’t know these concepts by name — this is a person who’s ready for tools. But…here is the irony — as your understanding of human behavior goes up, your need to amass tools goes down.

Tools definitely can and do help. I’m a happy user of many of them. But they really only help at all when and because they magnify the existing mindset of the user. Give a scatterbrained, overworked perfectionist an iPhone, and what you create is a scatterbrained, overworked perfectionist…with an iPhone. Reminds me of the famous Mojo Jojo quote:

“I was once a vengeful mad genius bent on destroying the world. But now I’m a vengeful mad genius bent on destroying the world…with super powers!” ~ Mojo Jojo of The Powerpuff Girls, commenting immediately after his acquisition of super powers

Um…I forgot what I was actually talking about. Oh yeah, this book. Yeah, it’s really cool. The first two thirds give you the mental tools to use the physical tools introduced in the final third. The concrete suggestions in the final third of the book aren’t as bad as I made them out to be earlier in this review; it’s just, I guess…I’m tired of iPhone-and-Gmail books. I mean…dayom. Way to skirt the core issues.

OK, in keeping with the growing tradition of these book reviews (lots of tradition to keep today), let me pull out a couple of pearls of wisdom I picked up from this bad boy:

  • 準備するから遅くなる: You run late because you prepare. Stop preparing and just start doing something.
  • 「大きな一歩」にこだわるから、スタート出来ない。「小さな一歩」なら、頑張らなくても踏み出せる:You run late because you try to take big steps. If you take small steps, if you just inch your way there, you won’t even have to try.
  • 時間にルーズな相手からの電話を待ってはいけない:Don’t wait for phone calls from people who don’t keep time.
  • 文章は、出出しの1行を考えるのに時間が掛かる。2行目から始めれば、直ぐに書ければ:It takes a long time to learn write that first line. Don’t even bother. Just start writing from the second line!
    • This is genius writing advice.
  • 記念日にこだわるから遅くなる。「今日」を記念日にす[る]:Waiting for special days makes you late. Make today the special day.
  • タイムリミットは、早ければ早いほどいい:The lower the time limit, the better. The less time you have, the better.
  • 「期日の無い仕事」が、「いそがしい」「仕事が終わらない」の元凶:Work that has no deadline is the source of that overworked, overbusy feeling.
  • 「迷ったら捨てる」を鉄則に:If in doubt, throw it out.

That’s it from me. Sorry for this sucky, pedestrian review. The book itself is really cool, though, so… 😀

  1 comment for “Book Review: Do It Badly And Ahead Of Time! Three Easy-To-Start Habits That Will Make You Awesome Possum

  1. William Garza
    November 16, 2010 at 10:31

    Thanks for another great review!

    Also, a bit off topic. Why college/education – in its current state – is a but a joke.


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