Making it All Work – Part 1

Summary Written by Chris Taylor

The Big Idea

Keep the Gears Greased and Turning

"...more often than not, it seems that people are having thoughts, though not really thinking about what they’re thinking about – at least not in an effective way that resolves, advances, or manages the content."- Making it All Work, Page 35

The Getting Things Done model works because it does what it says: it gets things done. Well, rather, you get things done by following the approach recommended by Allen. The reason the approach works so well is primarily because it keeps you focused on progress; on identifying and then completing the steps necessary to scratch the project off your list. It keeps your mind on the task, rather than just about the task.

You really do need to read the book (or spend a weekend with someone who has) to get the full effect of the GTD approach. Having said that, the following are a couple quick things to keep in mind on a daily basis that can make a noticeable improvement:

Insight #1

Make It All Actionable

"But what are you going to do with the letter?"- Making It All Work, page 106

The premise of the first two stages of Allen’s GTD model is pretty straight forward. (1) collect, into one place, everything that’s not in its permanent home, then (2) decide what to do with that “stuff”, one item at a time. Easy enough, in theory. Sometimes though, certain items can be a bit tricky. Allen uses the example of a thank you letter. Recently I came across a box of old Christmas cards I’d received. And while your mind may naturally disengage, you need to train yourself to make a decision on these things.

What are you going to do with this thing?

Here’s a list of suggested actionable roles your stuff can take:

  • File it
  • Forward it (share it)
  • Reply to it
  • Follow up with a phone call
  • Put it in your tickler for a pleasant surprise later
  • Trash it

Feel free to add to the list, nothing is finite. HOWEVER (big caveat here) make sure that whatever you do with it, you do it intentionally and with a goal of progress or permanence. Either identify the next step for the thing, or put it in it’s home forever (filed or trashed).

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Insight #2

Make Everyone Special

"Many people have several of these lists [agendas], one dedicated to each of the key individuals with whom they interact and one for each upcoming meeting."- Making It All Work, page 158

This is a brilliant addition to the GTD model that I picked up in Making It All Work: take a collection of file folders and label them with the names of the people you speak with regularly. Keep them close at hand, and keep a full sheet of lined paper in the folder for each scheduled call you have with that individual. As an idea pops into your head of something you’d like to speak to them about, write it down. Even if you have the luxury of calling them right now, write it down instead (emergencies not withstanding). Not only does this allow you (and the person you would have been interrupting) to stay focused on your current task at hand, it also naturally creates an agenda for the next, regularly scheduled call.

For me, the biggest advantage has been the incredible reduction in time and mental energy needed to prepare for the call. 10 minutes before we’re scheduled to talk, I simply take out my folder and review the appropriate sheet. It’s such an easy thing to do, and yet can have a huge impact. I highly recommend it.

Progress or permanence; that’s the mantra for peace of mind and high productivity. Everything around you should either be in its home, or moving closer to one. Identify the next action, and set up little systems to make the path that much easier for yourself. Allen’s model for Control is brilliant in its simplicity. Next week we tackle Perspective. Until then, have a great week – here’s to forward momentum.

Read the book

Get Making it All Work – Part 1 on Amazon.

David Allen

David Allen is an author, consultant, international lecturer, and Founder of the David Allen Company. He is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on personal and organizational productivity. His thirty years of pioneering research, coaching and education of some of the world’s highest-performing professionals, corporations and institutions, has earned him “Forbes'” recognition as one of the top five executive coaches in the United States, and as one of the ‘Top 100 thought leaders’ by Leadership magazine. Fast Company hailed David Allen “One of the world’s most influential thinkers” in the arena of personal productivity, for his outstanding programs and writing on time and stress management, the power of aligned focus and vision, and his groundbreaking methodologies in management and executive peak performance. “TIME” magazine labelled his first book, “Getting Things Done” as “the defining self-help business book of the decade.”

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