getting things done

February 15, 2005

Being in a major life transition, I see this as a good time to create some healthy new patterns of how I go about some things. I’m not actually that unhappy with how I organize my productivity, but I do know I could sharpen it, which motivated me to read Getting Things Done, by David Allen. The book was pretty straight-forward for the most part, but it affirmed a few things I do well, and definitely pointed out a number of ways I could do things more effectively.

I’m sickened and in awe sometimes of how much more it seems like some people are able to get done than I am. Most of us have probably experienced this, and just assume we will never be able to get as much done as some of those people. We think that we just aren’t as competent, or will never be able to work as hard as they do. Perhaps there is some truth in that, but it’s not the whole story. It’s not that we need to learn how to work harder, we just need to learn how to be more productive with how we utilize our time. There is a big difference. Below are a few thoughts shaped from the book that are worth passing along. Some of these are straight from the book, and some are my own variations.

The two-minute rule.When you are going through email, voice mail, etc., if you run across something that can be done in two minutes or less, do it. Get it done and get it out of your mind. One of the greatest enemies of productivity is how often we have to revisit things because we didn’t take care of them the first time. If someone sends you an email with their address in it, add it to your contacts and be done with it.

Write it down.Always carry a PDA, a moleskine or something similar so you can write down thoughts and ideas. Get them off your mind so that you can focus on whatever is in front of you, whether a book you’re reading, a project you’re working on, or throwing a football with your kid. Take a few moments at the end or start of the day to act on these thoughts. Add them to your to-do list, or, for those that can be done in two minutes, do them!

“What is the next action?” Don’t add general or vague things to your to-do list. Always put things down in terms of the next action step. If there is a leak in your roof, don’t just put down “fix leak in roof” because that requires more thought when you are going through your to-do list, so you will be inclined to avoid it. Think specifically in terms of what is the next action step, (“Call Vern for roofer recommendation”) and put it down.

I hope these are helpful to you. May your working times be more productive, your relationships more enjoyable, and your times of Sabbath more restful as a result.

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