When it comes to making things happen, does your world look like this?
Things that need your attention arrive. Some are generated by other people and appear without any effort on your part, like email, or your friends’ Facebook posts. Other things that grab your attention come from your own thoughts, and emerge as you make your way through your day. You see an ad for a car and think, “I’d like to test drive that.” Or it occurs to you that you haven’t had your holiday plans approved by your boss.
As things have arrived, you make decisions about them. What’s to be done about this email from the client? Do I want to hold on to the brochure from the new local restaurant that arrived in the post today? Do I want to re-tweet that inspiring quote I just saw? In effect what you’re asking, for each thing is, “what’s my commitment here?”
Having made decisions about things, some of them you’ll do straight away (like the re-tweet). For other things, you have organizational tools you use to hold on to reminders of those decisions. I’ve committed to attend the meeting with the new project team next Wednesday at 2pm (the tool for that reminder is your calendar, of course). We need to buy shampoo (maybe a shopping list for that one). I want to keep that person’s contact details in case I get the urge to call them some day (a good one for some form of contacts list).
Then you have a look at your organizational tools when it makes sense, to remind you of things you might do. You look at your calendar every morning, to remind yourself what you have on today. You look at your shopping list when you’re at the store. You also change the reminders in your tools so they reflect your reality. The meeting with the project team gets cancelled? Then the entry in your calendar gets deleted.
And finally, when you’re ready to be productive, you make decisions about what you’ll do next. Reply to that email? Make that phone call? Walk down the hall and get a cup of tea? Productivity-wise this is where the rubber meets the road, where we get things done.
So there you have it. I’m guessing you’ll have recognized here a description of the way things happen in your life, a model of your productive workflow.
Interestingly, this model is valid whether or not you know anything about Getting Things Done. The flow I’ve described holds for all of us.
In working with GTD we use the model to help us both increase throughput, and to lessen stress. The model breaks down “work” into component parts – each of the 5 paragraphs above corresponds to one of the phases of the GTD workflow model: capturing, clarifying, organising, reviewing, and doing.
To refine how we work, we ask questions for each phase – “what would best practice look like in this phase, for me? How can I work more effectively and efficiently, with less stress?”
Getting better at this is a journey, not a destination. Like learning to play the guitar or to cook, the question isn’t “when am I done learning this?” the question is “how good do I want to be?”
Are you interested in eliminating, as far as possible, the things that stand in the way of your ability to be productive and stress free?
Welcome to the journey.