… Despite an Excess of Tasks, Obligations and Noise
Some years ago I was captivated by a book called “Getting Things Done“.
The title by David Allen caught my attention, because in those days I used to put things off and despite doing some work each day, I did not seem to get the needle moving. I had a lot of great ideas what I could do. And a long list of things I had to do. Writing my diploma thesis was one of them.
The title “Getting Things Done” sounded right for me. It promised that with the right system I could become a mover and shaker.
What’s in it?
The system consists of 5 steps.
Our day is an endless stream of ideas, to-dos, information etc. They constantly scream for our attention, thereby stealing time, focus and energy to get important things done.
David Allen proposes to always have a system handy where you can throw those screaming snippets inside. This can be a mobile app, an online document tool or a physical file folder.
The key is that you get rid of the attention grabbing snippets to alleviate your brain and re-focus on the task at hand. When this information is stored safely, it stops to worry and bother you. You regain your mental and time resources.
In this step you go through your pile of snippets, sift and think through them the first time. First you decide if it is worth doing the snippet. If not, delete is.
If it can be done in 2-5 minutes, do it immediately. Filing those small tasks for later is too ineffective. It’s not worth the mental energy a second time.
If it is a bigger task, file it for steps 3 to 5 of the Allen system. If possible delegate the task, thereby moving your precious time to more valuable duties.
If it can not be “done” but it is information, store it in a well-organized reference system for later.
All the bigger chunks that are left from step 2 are broken down and structured in the “organize” step.
Make a list of small tasks that lead to the whole. Order the tasks by importance and dependencies.
As Brian Tracy said, I paraphrase here, we do not have time to do all the things that come up in life. So it’s a wise strategy to do the most important stuff first.
Regularly go through your lists. Delete, replace or re-order items if something changed. View pursuing big goals rather as a process than just as a rigid series of actions. That is, things can change. In the same way your plans and list must change.
This is the part where you get your hands dirty and get the things done. You work through your to-do lists. As they are well organized small chunks, you have energy to get them done quickly. Check off the items ✔
The order ensures you do important stuff first, which gives a feeling of accomplishment. This can make you become addicted to getting them done and checking them off. ✔
When the day is done, there may be items left on the list. But you stay relaxed, because they are not that important.
My 2 Cents
I have to disclaim that I don’t use the system as Allen describes it. But parts of them found their way into my daily routines. And I can say that they indeed make me more productive.
I put the bleeps into my mobile phone. I write to-do lists and place them in front of me on my desk. I prioritize items. And, as per my own system, I procrastinate occasionally and do easy tasks first 😉
“Getting Things Done” is indeed a good read if you feel drowned in tasks and seem to make poor progress. It’s OK to just pick out some parts of the system. As long as you actually implement them as daily routines you can get done more things with less distraction.
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