Getting Things Done – the book – part 9

… starting from the point where the story stopped.

Engaging – or how do you decide what to do at any given point?

As already alluded to in chapter 2, the author has found three priority frameworks to be enormously helpful in the context of deciding actions.

The Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment

This is the most mundane level according to David Allen, but the most practical one from my point of view. In short, you should make your action choices based on the following four criteria, in order:

  • Context
  • Time available
  • Energy available
  • Priority

This is just common sense; in short, …

If you can’t do the action because you’re not in the appropriate location or don’t have the appropriate tools, don’t worry about it. David Allen

In the same line, it’s good to know how much time you have at hand, and you should match productive activity with your vitality level. As for the last criterion, the author refers to the six-horizon commitment model (see below).

The Threefold Model for Evaluating Daily Work

You may be doing things on your action lists, doing things as they come up, or processing incoming inputs to determine what work needs to be done with them, then or later, from your lists . . . many people let themselves get sucked into the second activity—dealing with unplanned and unexpected things that show up—much too easily, and let the other two slide, to their detriment.David Allen

Seemingly, it’s easy to get seduced into ‘busy’ and ‘urgent’ mode, especially when you have a lot of unprocessed and relatively out-of-control work on your desk, in your e-mail, and on your mind. Touché!

“So, what does the GTD method suggest?”
The constant sacrifices of not doing the work you have defined on your lists can be tolerated only if you know what you’re not doing. That requires regular processing of your in-tray (defining your work) and consistent review of complete lists of all your predetermined work.
“That’s it? But, what was supposed to be done is still NOT DONE! What happens to the ‘getting things done’ claim?”
Do unexpected work as it shows up, not because it is the path of least resistance, but because it is the thing you need to do vis-à-vis all the rest.
“Okay. Sorry to be insisting, but these interruptions still prevent me from doing my (other) work. What should I do?”
Your ability to deal with surprise is your competitive edge, and a key to sanity and sustainability in your lifestyle. But at a certain point, if you’re not catching up and getting things under control, staying busy with only the work at hand will undermine your effectiveness.

The Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work

This is where/when the six levels, or horizons, come into play. This topic is the bulk of this chapter. In short, mastering the art of stress-free productivity requires you to clarify your priorities at any level, or more specifically to pay attention to the ones you need to, at the appropriate time, to keep you clear and present with whatever you’re doing.

Horizon 5: Life
Horizon 4: Long-term visions
Horizon 3: One- to two-year goals
Horizon 2: Areas of focus and accountability
Horizon 1: Current projects
Ground: Current actions

Don’t worry about what horizon or what content of your life is the highest priority to deal with—deal with what’s present.David Allen

Still, the author recommends going from the bottom up rather than the opposite. I will not go through his argumentation; enough to say that 1) trying to manage yourself from the top down often creates frustration and that 2) although a bottom-up approach is not a conceptual priority, from a practical perspective it’s a critical factor in achieving a balanced, productive, and comfortable life.

The healthiest approach for relaxed control and inspired productivity is to manage all the levels in a balanced fashion.David Allen

To be continued…

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