I recently finished Getting Things Done by David Allen. It’s a 269-page book on how to get things done. Which might seem like overkill but it’s full of good information on task-management.
In the book, Allen makes his case for a system that he’s designed to get things done. The root idea is to come up with a system to process all the “stuff” that comes up in life. Stuff is any to-do. From a rebranding project at work to getting your kitchen sink fixed. It’s all stuff that can float up in your mind at any given point in a day and interrupt and ruin your workflow.
The most value I took away is creating a to-do system to capture your ideas in a way that is actionable to you.
Here are three points that I’ll be incorporating into my routine:
- A Weekly Review
- Next Action Decisions
- Focusing on the Outcome
The Weekly Review
For me, one of the most satisfying feelings is heading out on vacation with all the loose ends at work tied up. It feels so great to be on top of everything, right? Of course, a few days off doesn’t hurt either.
That feeling is the weekly review. Every week have an hour on your calendar where you cover what happened over the last week.
Over a week, things get messy, and you get pulled into unexpected directions. It’s good to close the loop on your tasks and review your to-do list.
After this hour, your to-do list is clean and clarified. If there’s a simple task lingering on your to-do list, finish it up during the review. Catch up on emails, support tickets, and other stuff. And finally, set what you need to do for the next 5-7 days.
The weekly review is critical to a well-working to-do system. Without it, the whole process falls apart. It clears your mind and sets you up for success.
Next Action Decisions
Straightforward and sweet. Next action decision is asking What’s next? It empowers you to be able to move actions, to-dos, and projects to the next step and keep things running.
Before reading Getting Things Done, on my to-do list I had:
What the heck does that mean? It’s not a to-do, nor does it show what action is necessary. In reality, that meant clear the corrosion off of Katie’s car battery. The next action was getting the supplies to clear off the corrosion.
Next action decisions take vague stuff into actionable items. This is valuable for many reasons. Maybe you’re groggy on a Monday morning and looking for a quick win to spark your week. Look at your to-do list for something with a simple next action and get it done! Or, maybe you’re towards the end of 1-hour meeting that you don’t remember the purpose of. Ask “What are the next action steps?” this sets ground rules and expectations for what’s to be accomplished after the meeting.
Focusing on the Outcome
It’s hard to create a task when you don’t know what the end product looks like. As the famous quote goes:
A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task are the hope of the world.
By being able to focus on the outcome, you’re able to create the tasks to achieve the outcome.
Say you want to onboard a new support employee. Focus on the elements of what a successful onboarding would look like for that employee. Create tasks to achieve those elements.
The ideas behind these thoughts come from Getting Things Done. If you download a to-do app never to return to it, I suggest giving the book a read.