I’ve finished reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and I have to say it was great. I wanted to share the concept that really hit home the most..
As a perfection-lover, control-freak and high-achiever (in my mind, at least) I really like to get things RIGHT. So much, that these “things” spin around in my head a lot. Sometimes they even keep me up at night. But not any more, it seems…
Is this because I’ve got no problems anymore? Or am I now perfect?
No – I just followed David Allen’s advice: 2 simple questions…
But first, why do things spin around in my head?
According to Allen, the human brain has a kind of RAM (short-term memory ability) like a computer. The RAM holds whatever is needed in real-time in order to quickly access it for usage. It doesn’t have a concept of “un-real time” and only knows the here-and-now. And it is limited. So it gets full if you don’t treat it right. The aim, according to Allen, is to empty the RAM and this is only done by “closing open loop”.
How do you close open loops?
Its easy: Tell the RAM that its done. To achieve this, you need to get it satisfactorily out of your head and somewhere else.
My chosen somewhere else is my calendar/task-bar…
…but the key is that word “satisfactorily”. To achieve THAT, you have to be CONCRETE and GOAL-ORIENTED.
What do you mean concrete and goal-oriented?
For anything that comes your way, you won’t stop thinking about it until you are satisfied with the action-based-answer you have found. It doesn’t matter what the answer is, but it need to be clear, action-oriented and the first step to getting things done the way you want them done.
Everything else can wait, but not the first step…
Ask 2 questions to empty your RAM
I have been asking these 2 questions for about 2 weeks now and I can say that I really feel different. Check it out…
For anything that comes into your inbox (RAM…mind) ask:
- What would be a satisfactory outcome for me? (Not perfect, just “OK for me”)
- What is the next concrete action I need to take? (Not everything, just “next”)
That’s it! Whatever the answer is, write it down or put it in your calendar or on a list to do or give it someone else …. and then forget about it.
(Read the book for more details on strategies for the last part)
Thanks Mr Allen
Thanks for reading!
Leave a comment
This blog post has been written as support for homework for participants from my training on “Creating Influence”.
…but the exercise described below is an excellent approach to defining strategic action for any mission you may undertake.
First, let’s describe “strategic action”
How is strategic action different to normal action? It considers one’s current position in close relationship to the mission. In this way, strategic action is focussed on high level priority-driven steps that are more likely to get us to where we want to be.
Example: Suppose I want to complete an IronMan race. I might be inclined to imagine that swim-training is the best action to undertake. But if I first do a good strategic positioning exercise, I might realise that my priority is in fact to first develop my business offer in order to earn more more so that I can liberate more time for training. If I don’t do this, I will have to a) squeeze in training in an already busy schedule and b) end up paying divorce costs due to marital negligence
Ready to think strategic??
STEP 1: Start by defining your mission
There is no sense in doing a positioning exercise if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve.
Example: If I ask you if I am strong, depending on what objective you imagine me working on, you may come up with completely different answers…
When defining your mission, be sure to use quality goals. Read my other blog post on PERSONAL goal-setting for some starter ideas..
STEP 2: …then assess your current position
One of my favourite tools for doing this remains the SWOT analysis. A good SWOT will give you ideas on recurring themes for improvement. Note: I said a GOOD SWOT !
- Read here for some of my favourite SWOT questions
- …and here for some tips on how to be complete in your general approach to SWOT
Another tool I really like regarding personal influence is the network influence-grid proposed by Jo Owen in his book “How to Influence“. He suggests that for all the people in your network, you need to assess them in terms of whether or not you have a good relationship with them and whether or not they have power (to help you in your mission). A network influence-grid therefore has 4 quadrants…
When the people you know are mapped out in their relevant quadrants, you will better focus on people who are realy useful (top-right) or think about how to better leverage the existing relationships you have to get what you need.
STEP 3: Now, look for priority areas for action
I find that if I have done a good job of assessing my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, when I look at the results there are recurring and linking themes. These are the things to work on. Don’t worry about action yet, just look at which things seem to come back and back.
For example, in my last SWOT exercise I saw that:
- My network was very complete
- …but that I wasn’t using it well enough
- I have great references for training work
- …but never ask for referrals
- There was an opportunity to better develop my own client base
An obvious priority strategic action: Leverage own network.
STEP 4: When your priorities are clear, plan baby steps
I am finally reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen right now. One of my clients said it was a great book, but I thought: What else could there be to learn about priority management? In the first 10 pages I had my answer:
Turn unmanageable TO-DO lists into “next concrete action” (baby-steps) lists.
In the scope of our exercise, this means asking 2 questions for each of the priority strategic actions noted previously:
- What would be an ACCEPTABLE outcome?
- What is the NEXT CONCRETE ACTION you need to take?
If you’ve followed the 4 steps ahead, you should have some good ideas to get moving with.
Thanks for reading
Please leave a comment
…or visit www.infinitelearning.be