I recently re-read and listened to the audio book by David Allen Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. The difference this time - I was ready to put the techniques to use and have discovered a system that works for me. The major aha for me was realizing my "to do" list is not enough. The key step I was missing was taking the time to think about and record the "next action" to take in order to move a project forward to my desired outcome.
The basic premise of the book is to get everything out of your head, off your mind and into a trusted system you know you will use. Older time/resource management systems are inefficient in today's fast-paced, multi-tasking world. Our minds are powerful instruments - constantly reminding us of things to do, unfinished projects, seemingly endless "open loops" of information. Our stress levels are increased when we don't have a method of emptying these thoughts and collecting them in a system that we individually trust and know we will use. The book goes into detail on how to do exactly that.
A review of key principles that I've integrated into my Action Management System:
Two key questions to ask for all projects and to do.
- What is the successful outcome? What has to happen so this can be checked off as completed? If it takes more than one step it's a project.
- What is the next action? If this was the only thing you had to get done, what is the very next physical thing you would have to do?
5 Phases of the Workflow Process
- Collect - capture everything you need to remember, track or act on in a container or bucket - a physical inbox, to do list, a mobile app, voice recorder, email inbox. You must empty the buckets regularly. Keep the collection buckets to a minimum.
- Process - Deal with one item at a time. Never put anything back into "in".
- If the item requires action:
- Do it (if it takes less than two minutes) OR
- Delegate it, OR
- Defer it
- If the item does not require action:
- File it for reference, OR
- Throw it Away, OR
- Incubate it for possible action later
- If the item requires action:
- Organize and keep track of items awaiting action
- Next actions - every project always has a next action to move it forward
- Projects - every "open loop" that has more than one action needed to accomplish it
- Waiting for - Items you have delegated to someone else
- Someday/maybe - Things you want to do at some point in the future
- Review - as often as needed to keep your head empty
- Loose papers
- Process your notes
- Calendar items
- Projects, Next Action lists, Waiting for lists, Someday/maybe lists
- Empty your head
- Do - in the moment, guided by intuition, supported by the four previous phases, influenced by the reality of current situation
- time available
- energy available
There are abundant resources, blogs and fans of GTD on the Internet. Here are a few I recommend:
- David Allen's Website Be sure to download the free Advanced Workflow diagram
- 43Folders - Getting Started with "Getting Things Done"
- The Ultimate Getting Things Done Index