Are you getting things done?

I remember years ago, I read the book called First Things First from Stephen Covey, in which the author talks about what are the most important things in your life... Do they get as much care, emphasis, and time as you'd like to give them?

Covey teaches an organising process that helps you categorize tasks so you focus on what is important, not merely what is urgent. First you divide tasks into these quadrants:

  1. Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects)
  2. Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning, relationships)
  3. Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters)
  4. Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters)

Like most people I am sure I spend most of my time in quadrants 1 and 3 however quadrant 2 is where quality happens!

"Doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right things," says Covey. He points you toward the real human needs "to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy" and how to balance your time to achieve a meaningful life, not just get things done.

Is STUFF getting in your way?

Stuff (?st?f) (verb)
1a: to pack or fill (something) completely; (cram)
2a: to fill by intellectual effort (stuffing their heads with facts)
2b: to pack full of something immaterial (a book stuffed with information)

In my case, stuff bounces around in my head causing anxiety and stress; meetings, incomplete tasks, email, telephone calls, empty rolls of toilet paper, pieces of paper, clutter and imminent jury duty all compete for attention in my brain. Stuff has no home and, consequently, no place to go, so it just keeps rattling around.

Come in GTD

[flowchart demonstrating Getting Things Done steps]A couple of years ago I then scanned the contents of a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen that has given me the tools necessary to regain my focus.

Our lives, says Allen, are filled with too much Stuff: we think about Stuff, we worry about Stuff, we never get all the Stuff done that we need to do. His solution is to gather all of the Stuff into a single Collection Bucket. When all the Stuff is in one place, the top item in the Bucket is processed. When the first item has been processed, the second item is processed. Everything in the Collection Bucket is processed ? one item at a time ? until there?s nothing left.

So how does GTD work?

This is a really summarised version, but here it is

  1. identify all the stuff in your life that isn?t in the right place (close all open loops)
  2. get rid of the stuff that isn?t yours or you don?t need right now
  3. create a right place that you trust and that supports your working style and values
  4. put your stuff in the right place, consistently
  5. do your stuff in a way that honors your time, your energy, and the context of any given moment
  6. iterate and refactor mercilessly

Basically, you make your stuff into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of. Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment?both now and well into the future. This gives you an amazing kind of confidence that a) nothing gets lost and b) you always understand what?s on or off your plate.

So what now?

So I have read these things but I am not practising them... Even David Allen says he's fallen off the rails... So its time to refocus, refine and rebuild.

What are your thoughts?

I think that we are all surrounded by Stuff! and I bet like me you have had enough! Do you want to be part of the solution? Do you want to see change in your life... Then perhaps we can do it together! Add your comments below... I am interested!

External links

I look forward to your comments and feedback..


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Submitted by rfernando on July 16, 2008 - 17:42.

Thanks for the thought I have read this awhile ago but it is something I wish I could keep up with.

Stuff .... and more stuff
Submitted by jtaylor on August 12, 2008 - 09:33.

Thanks Russ, need to refocus again.

You know, long ago I thought that the family, especially the children were the most important thing; and at that time they probably were.

Then they all grew up and I realised that, whilst they were important, they were only given on loan and the most important person was still there..... time to refocus. But in the refocusing, priorities shifted and work intervened and the most important person was taken out of focus. Again.....

Ok .... refocus .... back on track ..... work sent to it's rightful place and most important people and things to the fore.

Oh Oh !!! grandchildren now .... importance changing again...... and again ...... and again.

Life goes on .... priorities need to be reset once more ..... and thank you for the timely reminder ....