How Can I Get Anything Done?
By Philip E. Elworth
Have you ever awoken at night with the thought that you need to do something, and are sure you do not have it written down somewhere; therefore it is not possible to go back to sleep? This is sadly, an all too common occurrence. So how can you avoid this situation?
David Allen, author of the book Getting Things Done, claims that if something is on your mind, then your mind will not be clear to do what it needs to do at that moment. Clear to sleep or clear to work on a project, the issues of distraction are the same as waking up at night. So, how do you clear your mind? According to Allen, you clear your mind by transferring the issue to a trusted system, outside your brain, that you are sure to come back to over and over. Let’s work through this concept in three parts using a project as an example.
As with any project you first need to clarify what the project is to accomplish. Next, you need to decide what steps are necessary to accomplish the project or at least to make progress toward completing it.
Second, record these steps in a system that you can review on a continual basis. They do not need to be detailed, only enough to keep you on track.
Third, keep reminders of the steps you need to accomplish in order to finish the project but more importantly to concentrate on the one next step you need to complete to keep the project moving forward.
This concept of the next step is the most important part of any system. When you are looking at a large project or commitment it can be overwhelming. If you concentrate, however on the one next step you need to accomplish to keep the project moving, it is not so intimidating. This is especially important when you are managing multiple commitments. If you have say, five projects, you could have 25 or more steps to accomplish, but if you concentrate on the one next task to be accomplished with each of them, you will not be overwhelmed with 25 steps but can concentrate on only 5. This is much more manageable to our minds. When this task is complete, then establish the next one task to be accomplished. It is easy to keep progress moving forward, one step at a time.
Everyone works differently with this process. Some people like lists where they can cross things off, others are more big picture oriented and want to see the whole project. There is no right answer here. I happen to use a white board on the wall of my office. I work with multiple clients and projects, plus my own life issues. I create boxes on my white board then put the critical tasks to be done under each project, but then mark or highlight the one next step for each project that needs to be done. This allows me to keep each area of my life working toward that particular goal and frees my mind to work the process rather than worry about what I missed. I encourage each of you to find the system that works best for you and remember the one next step you need to do.