Getting things done … Superbly!

David Allen and Ranjan De SilvaDo you generally find that your email inbox clogged with unattended mail?

Do you find that there are many important things to attended to?

Do you find that some important projects don’t get your required attention?

Do you find that some important task are neglected or delayed?

Do you feel that there are some task that you need to attend but you get drained trying to do them?

Do you find you just don’t have enough time to do tasks you enjoy doing that energizes you?

Well, if the answer to one or many of these questions are yes, then many of the answers are with David Allen, the author of many books including, ‘Getting Things Done’ and inspirational speaker.

I was fortunate to be at David’s session today, organized by Right Selection, the company who also represents me in the Middle East. While I generally have an empty email inbox, have things quite well organized with most things done by the end of each week with, and adequate time to do things I am passionate about, I found David helps put things in perspective and provides concepts and a process that helps get things done.

Here is a summary of the learnings for you.

We cannot find more time as time cannot be expanded but we can find the space required to get things done. When we keep everything we have to do in our head, it stresses us, confuses us, overwhelms us and clogs the space in our mind. Therefore one of the first ideas suggested is to find the space by putting it down on paper or in a device.

Remember how many times you lost your car keys in your house. This is because we don’t have a specific place to put it down. Therefore it is important to have an organized method and places to unload the list of things to be done. A list could be a file where you carry certain documents to attend or a list of items written in a note pad or a list of appointments in a calendar. Therefore we need to have a proper system of creating the list of things to be done.

Thereafter a proper method is needed on how to attend to the items on the list so that all items gets done, ensuring the most important and value adding tasks get done.

Given below is a 5 step process recommended by David.

1. Collect – we first start the process by collecting information in to a minimal number of places, that is easy to access and attend regularly. These can be collected into a high-tech device such as a smart device or computer or to a low tech devise such as a note pad. We need to have 3 types of ‘In trays’; one in the office, one at home and one in transit. This will help us to collect the list of things to be done in a manner that is easily retrievable.

2. Process – we need to then have a method of processing information coming in, starting from a method of knowing when it turns up, knowing when and how to sort them, a method of how and when to collect them in the system designed in step 1 and how to deal with them as listed in the next few steps. This is essentially a ‘Frontal Cortex’ activity that is associated with attention, short-term memory, reward, motivation etc.

3. Organize – this is the step where we decide what to do with the items in the list, starting with deciding if each item is actionable or not. If it is not actionable decide if it needs to be filed for reference, let it incubate for attention later or trash it. If it is actionable we need to decide if it is a task in an ongoing project or a new project. If it is an actionable task then we need to get it done immediately if it can be completed in two minutes. It is amazing to realize how many things we can complete within two minutes. If such things are not attended, they can take a very long time when attending to it later. If it is a task that cannot be done in two minutes, we must decide if it can be delegated or park it for a future time slot, entering it in a calendar with required time allocated for it. If it requires a new project we need to allocate time to plan the project and allocate required resources to get the project done. Thereafter we need to attend to the tasks as explained earlier.

4. Review – the timeframe for review depends on the task horizon. There are 6 possible task horizons; actions, projects, goals, accountabilities, vision and purpose & values. If it is an action review them daily or every other day. Projects could be reviewed  weekly. Goals and accountabilities could be reviewed once a month or once a quarter. Vision and purpose and values could be reviewed half-yearly or yearly. The 3 critical success factors of a review is: get clear regarding the status of the task, get current with regard the task by adjusting to suit the times if required and get creative with regards to dealing with it.

5. Do – this step required instant executive sanity. Firstly being clear about next steps, project status, creating agendas and following up with others who we are waiting for action from. Secondly ensuring we follow the two minutes rule explained in step 3. Next allocating time for reviews and focused action and finally ensuring we integrate work and life in all we do to ensure a balanced life.

Most of us who managed to get to this point of this blog might say; this is interesting but I don’t have time to do this. We need to find the time to do this so that we can find the time to get things done.

We need to use our mind to unclutter our mind. We need to do certain things to find the time to do certain things. You can learn more about David Allen and the concept in this blog by visiting his website and reading his books. Wish you excellence!

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