Making it All Work

Today our attention is on Perspective, one of two major components of David Allen’s Making It All Work.

The ideas in Making It All Work are not new.  Most every successful person will tell you that to maintain direction, focus and a clear vision, you need to take regular time out for reflection and planning.  What is unique about Allen’s latest book is the specific instruction and schedule that it provides.  (Appendix 5 is a one page checklist of what to cover with yourself during your weekly review.)

Perhaps what people connect most with in Allen’s books is the tangible, reality based guidance that he provides within his pages.  He elegantly explains the importance of each activity, and then provides a step by step “how to” on each suggested action.  His teachings for gaining (and maintaining) perspective are no different.

Allen’s model for perspective is what he calls the “six horizons of focus”.  Those horizons are:

Runway: Action; Current activities and action steps
10,000 feet: Projects; tasks expected to take 12 months or less to complete
20,000 feet: Areas of responsibility; the different “hats” you wear in your life and what’s expected of you in each role.
30,000 feet: Goals; targets for yourself to complete within the next 1–3 years.
40,000 feet: Vision; the life you see for yourself within the next 5–10 years.
50,000 feet: Purpose & Principles:  What you want your life to mean and how you want to be seen by others.

While every aspect of this planning is important, we are going to focus on the “how to’s” of the Weekly Review, a pre-arranged time to regularly visit the first three Horizons of Focus.

Golden Egg

“Get Clear, Get Current, Get Creative”

“There are times when slowing down and retreating into a more reflective mode is called for.  That’s actually not slowing down, however; it’s slowing the body down, so that the mind can continue to be active at a more dynamic level.”

Making It All Work, page 192

If you need to, think of it as a pit stop or an oil change for your car; it’s not optional if you want to get long life and high performance out of your car.  True, with a car you could always run the thing into the ground and buy a new one.  You only get one body though; you only get one life.  You need to take time out for direction and perspective.  Consider it a mental oil change.

Allen recommends scheduling 2 hours each week where you can disconnect from emails, phone calls and “drop ins” to focus on planning and vision.  Personally, I’ve found Friday morning to be the most effective time to complete this weekly review, but others swear by Sundays.  The time and day is up to you, but regardless of when it’s scheduled, this block of time should be treated as a “can’t miss” meeting with your most important client: you.

We bent the rules this week and are bringing you three GEMs (mostly because the Golden Egg of “Get Clear, Get Current, Get Creative” lends itself so nicely to three action points!) So here you go:

GEM #1

Go For Zero

“A great target is to reach a zero with all your input every twenty-four to forty-eight hours.  Bigger pileups will always happen, but those should be the exception, not the rule.”

Making It All Work, page 277

How many inboxes do you have?

Seriously.  How many email accounts?  How many voicemail boxes?  How many “collection-of-stuff areas” in your life?  While (possibly) necessary, all of these are a distraction unless addressed and managed regularly.  Allen suggests minimizing the number of inboxes in your life; really, you should have a couple voicemail boxes (home, work, cell) a max of 2 email inboxes (work and personal) and as few physical collection spots as possible.  And once a week, MINIMUM, you should be working to reduce the number of items in those boxes to ZERO. (Refer to last week’s article, or the article on Getting Things Done for more direction on how to effectively work through your inboxes.)

GEM #2

Eyes On the Horizon(s)

“What do I need to complete?”

Making It All Work, page 217

You’ve heard the expression, “Can’t see the forest for the trees”?  Often times we get caught in the “can’t see the week for the days”.  In addition to collecting new “to dos” from your recent week of activity, the weekly review is your opportunity to look ahead – scan your calendar for the next two weeks and visualize the events you have scheduled.  What do you need to prepare?  How long will it take to do excellently?  What extra could you do to make this event your masterpiece?  The weekly review offers as much benefit looking forward as it does looking back.

GEM #3

What Dreams May Come

“…grant permission to identify with the ‘what’ of success before they have the ‘how’”.

Making It All Work, page 243

Dream.  Don’t hope, or wish, but dream.  The difference, in my mind, is that a dream follows the path you’re already on (or are seriously contemplating) and takes a “what if?” approach.

“What if you were to have wild success in the next 6 months. What would that look like?
“What if you were able to get access to the CEOs of your ideal client company?”
“What if you budgeted for a trip to Spain and asked for a month off a year in advance?”

A crucial part of the weekly review (and the major reason why you want to block off two hours) is for the dreaming.  Once you have the last week filed and out of your head, and once you have your ducks in a row for the next two weeks, spend some time getting creative.  Let your mind go and imagine performing with excellence.  Imagine leaving your customer breathless at your level of dedication and detail.  What would that look like?  What could you charge for that, and what could you provide?  Worry about the “what” first – use the rest of the week to figure out the how.

I’ll tell you from personal experience, nothing makes Friday evening more enjoyable than knowing everything is in its rightful place at home and at the office, and that the weekend is for relaxing and dreaming.  Regular planning and redirection is crucial to living a successful, purposeful life.  Do yourself a favor and schedule the “pit stop”.

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Chris Taylor

ABOUT Chris Taylor

Founder of Actionable Books, Chris Taylor is a writer, entrepreneur and speaker. He spends his daylight hours helping consultants and employees alike find meaning in their work and discover rich team relationships through his company, Actionablebooks...
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