I´ve been posting a lot recently about finding one´s purpose (via discussions about The Highest Goal, Claiming Your Place at the Fire, The 8th Habit, others) and have spent some time discussing getting started (via a discussion about Art of the Start). This week, I am going to switch gears a bit and discuss personal productivity. Although different, it is really all related because highly productive people are more able to identify and act on and from their purpose.
I had the opportunity to chat with David Allen, productivity expert and author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and Ready for Anything.
As I said yesterday, this post will discuss Allen´s process for corralling and processing all our unfinished stuff and the things that soaking up attention.
The first step Allen suggests is to collect everything into the inbox (or stacked around it). And when he says everything, he means it. All the stacks from all locations. Collect anything that does not belong where it is, the way it is, permenently. This will include incomplete tasks, projects needing decisions, mail, phone slips, collected business cards, meeting notes and items you intend to look into later (you know, those items that are always in the in box, or an overflow). Don´t forget your desk drawers!
What about things that aren´t represented by a piece of paper or file? Here´s what Allen has to say: "Once you feel you´ve collected all the physical things in your environment that need processing, you´ll want to collect anything else that might be residing in your psychic RAM. What has you attention that isn´t represented by something already in your in-basket? This is where the stack of plain paper really comes into play. I recommend that you write out each thought, each idea, each project or thing that has your attention, on a separate sheet of paper." Allen suggests this process will take between 20 and 60 minutes to clear your head and capture things onto separate pages. In Getting Things Done, Allen offers a trigger list to help you think of everything – it´s very comprehensive.
Once you have collected it all, the next step is to process it and empty the In Basket. Nothing in IN, sounds like a fantasy doesn´t it?
Needless to say, Allen has a pretty neat system for emptying your in basket. You will need to dedicate some time for this process, but it will be worth it. Here´s his take on the rewards:
"When you´ve finished processing "in,"?? you will have
(1) trashed what you don´t need;
(2) completed any less-than-two-minute actions;
(3) handed off to others anything that can be delegated;
(4) sorted into your own organizing system reminders of actions that require more than two minutes; and
(5) identified any larger commitments (projects) you now have, based on the input."??
Allen offers a helpful workflow diagram and specific instructions for processing your in basket.
Wouldn´t it be great to start the new year off organized and caught up? If you´d like to give David Allen´s system a try, pick up the book! It´s a clear and easy read.
Tomorrow, I will conclude this series of posts with a few more tidbits from the second half of Getting Things Done. In the mean time, here are the links to his books: