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Getting Things Done

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Our GTD podcasts are here to support you at every stage of your GTD practice. You will hear interviews with people from all walks of life about their journey with GTD, from beginners to those who have been at it for years. The podcasts include personal and professional stories, as well as practical tips about GTD systems for desktop and mobile, using apps and paper. Start listening now and you'll be well on your way to stress-free productivity.
90 Episodes
In this episode, Meg Edwards shares how she performs an outdoor Mind Sweep.  She models for us how a Mind Sweep can be done anywhere, and how this process can be used to bring additional items to mind when you're in a given context. If you'd like to hear more about the Mind Sweep and how it can serve you in capturing more items to gain control, listen to episode 3 where David Allen guides you through a full Mind Sweep.
In this episode we present an excerpt from a talk that David gave in front of a live audience. It covers procrastination, what type of people are the most susceptible to getting stuck, and how to stop procrastinating on your taxes….and everything else.
A bit of a repeat if you've listened to my other tips, but one I just wanted to reinforce. Outcome and Action Thinking. Outcome and action are the two core elements of productivity. What do I want to produce or experience? And how do I need to allocate or reallocate my resources to make it happen? So that kind of thinking, as simple as that sounds, is something that we need to train ourselves to do. It's really a cognitive muscle you need to work with. So anything that's got your attention, anything that's either worrying or bothering you. That's the time to practice this sort of cognitive muscle. To use it. What would you like to have true? Instead of whatever is currently true. And how do you need to reallocate, or allocate your attention, your activities, your resources, to make that happen? For those of you asking "What's that huge pile of books back there David?" Frankly, the outcome was, I had a bunch of archives of all of the translated versions of my book in the different languages that we were going to throw away when we moved to Amsterdam. We said, nah we should probably keep at least one copy of each, but we live in an apartment. So, a small space. Outcome... How do you do that? That's a great bookshelf you can get from a company called Design Within Reach in the U.S. that actually works, where you can stack all those things up and they don't fall over. Anyway, so that's what that is. So, outcome and action thinking. I just challenge you, invite you, to apply that somewhere that you might be not thinking you ought to apply that, or that you haven't done that yet. So, what's the outcome you're after? What's the action step you need to take to move toward it? In many many cases now, that's become something that's just habit in my life given what I teach and what I've explored over all these years about how to keep your head clear. So hopefully this will be just a reminder for those of you already familiar with that idea. To apply it wherever you need to apply it now.
You know this is another one of those kind of out of the box things but this could be a really good time to do some reflection on new stuff. New relationships. New ways to manage your relationships. New ways of managing yourself. Being able to work more independently, even if you're still part of an organization, and need to be connected to it. We grow with challenges, so the challenges that we may all be in right now or experiencing in some way, shape, or form they're going to teach a strength, patience, and tolerance I've discovered after my 75 years. That tends to show up and expand, and kind of add to the quality of my life. Add to the relaxation of my life. Add to the focus of my life. One very useful key many times, is journaling. If you're not doing that already you might want to consider just sitting down and just writing. Just writing out. I've done journaling on both my computer as well as with a great fountain pen and a wonderful journal, over the years in my life. There have been times that was really really helpful. Just to help kind of uncork, unload and open up some creative thinking that could go on when you're in times that sort of force some reflection where reflection could be highly useful to you. So, be crazy about what could be cool in your life, in lots of different ways. Be open to all the options for that.
Upgrade, you know if you have any downtime at all, with that kind of backed off time that we have, in the pandemic. It's the situation we're dealing with right now. This is a time to think, it's part of one of those backlog things, one of those things you may have had in the back of your mind. I need to upgrade my computer. I need to upgrade my operating system. I need to upgrade this piece of software. I need to upgrade any of my technology, and any of my tools. If you're painting, do you have the right brushes? Do you need to upgrade those? If you're playing the flute, or the piano, do you need to upgrade any of the music that you have to be able to practice with? So I know this is kind of an off-the-wall question. But, a good idea to sort of access, is there anything that you might want to bring up to current speed? That you enjoy, that you love, or you need to be involved with. I love Kevin Kelly's book from a few years ago, talking about the inevitable, talking about the inevitable trends that are happening to all of us, no matter what. He basically made the point that, you're never going to get really any good at anything because there are going to be constant upgrades, especially in software. So, I used to think that I could just resist upgrades to my Quicken because I thought I could manage it, but now I can't afford to do that because, who knows, to be able to manage Quicken and my accounting stuff personally I need to have the current version. So it's kind of like, trust that you're never going to get truly on board with everything, currently and totally, but some of those things might need to be upgraded, and that could be just a process. You kind of get the zen of that. OK, let me just keep upgrading, getting better at, getting more stuff that might work. So, just in case that triggers any kind of a thought. Any kind of a thing you might want to add to your list. Hopefully that's helpful.
How much money do you actually have in your bank account? How do you and the people in your family really feel right now? Really.  What's really going on in your professional environment? In your personal environment? Not generalizing or exaggerating. Most people have a tendency, me too, to generalize. Everybody's leaving. It's so awful. Everybody's leaving the company, what do you mean? Everybody's leaving. It's so awful. Everybody's leaving the company? What do you mean? Well, Sally said she thought she might want to get a new career. And over 35 years of my consulting and coaching practices, I've often seen, And over 35 years of my consulting and coaching practices, I've often seen, all I have to do is to start to address, what is the real current reality?   And there are lots of ways to do that, but I would highly recommend you examine whether you're running any exaggerations or generalizations. That may be creating more pressure than you need. What's really true? What do you know what's really true? What do you know is actually really true? Not "What do you think is true?", or "What do people say is true?"  But, what do you *know* it actually really true? It gives you a grounded base to actually make decisions from. I could spin on that for a long time, but let me just say if that rings any of your bells at all, notice whether you're generalizing and exaggerating. And if so, stop it! Just say what's really true right now? Because you need to know what's the current reality so that you can then move from a ground base of reality. Not from some expectation of that, or generalization of that, or exaggeration of that.
I'll steal a play from Marie Kondo's work that she's been doing, by getting people to clean up closets and clean up their environment. And only keep the things you love and that turn you on. Mine's a little more universal. Look, there's a lot of things that don't turn you on that you still need to keep. There's a lot of things that you need to kind of look at and say, yeah I'm not sure whether I want to throw that away or not. That's fine. But it's not a bad idea, especially in times like these, if you have any kind of extra time at all, to, as I say, bring up the rear guard. I've mentioned this in several of my other two-minute tips, but this is sort of the universal clean up. Clean up your computer. Clean up your closets. Clean up the boot or the trunk of your car. Your garage, your attic, any spaces that you have. Any rented spaces that you have, to hold old stuff. The world is just so addicted to hanging onto a lot of stuff, as opposed to being clean and clear. So I highly recommend you look around. What books need to be given away? What clothes need to be given away? What shoes have you not worn for two years? Where can you give those things away that people might be able to use that? So look around your environment and say, how functional is it? How useful is it? How current is it in terms of the reality of these things and their meaning to you? And that's fine. There's no right or wrong in terms of whatever that volume is. It may be whatever it is that you want, how ever much you feel comfortable. But most people feel slightly uncomfortable about what's still in their closet, what's still in the drawers of their desk, what's still anywhere. So now's a good time, when I say "When in doubt, clean a drawer", it'll help a ton.
Well, you may already have a groove, but I imagine your groove has been disturbed to a large degree by whatever has been going on in the world lately. And especially in turbulent times, it's going to disturb your groove. Get into a new one. So ask yourself. What about my groove do I need to put into a groove? That I can comfortably now, given the world, and given what's been going on. Whether that's when to take a walk, how often you need to exercise, how often you need to talk to people you need to talk to people about. Any of that. It's a good idea to get into a groove, because some part of us really loves to have a habit, it loves to have something traditional that we do regularly. So that we don't have to be thinking so much about that. But we use that as an opportunity to sort of lift our thinking, relax. Kind of look at the world from a higher perspective of things. So what's your groove now? Does your groove work? If it doesn't, think about what would you need to do to improve your groove? I highly recommend that you think about that. And think, what are the simple things you could do? They don't have to be complex, or expensive, or anything. What do I need to do to get myself into a more regular, consistent basis? To handle the world that's now changed for me and that I need to be engaging with appropriately. So, are you in your groove? If not, what do you need to do to improve your groove? And boy that could look like a lot of different things. But give yourself permission to be creative about that. Reflect a little bit on that, and perhaps take any necessary actions you need to take, to make that groove sort of more automatic and easy to do.
I'll quote my wonderful wife Kathryn. Laughter and Soap. At some point you just need to laugh, and you need to clean up. She sort of nailed it brilliantly. If you haven't done it lately, at least look for a good joke. At least find some way to find something to laugh about. Something funny, something that makes no sense. Those are always wonderful things to do. And soap, obviously clean up. I've been trained by my wife, when I walk in the door, Wash your hands David! Which I do. And I have to laugh about my hair, which I usually keep fairly short. Pretty soon I'm going to look like I looked in Berkeley in 1970. But that's ok, so I'm kind of laughing about, well David you're gonna have longer hair until your favorite barber comes back in a little while. So anyway, a small little tip for turbulent times, but sometimes it might be quite healthy just to make sure you sort of plug into your world, laughter and soap, and make sure those are sort of regular things. that you engage in and people around you. I hope that's helpful, I know it's silly but it works for me.
In these kinds of times, that's actually in retrospect when we find out we've learned how to grow. We've expanded. We've stretched ourselves. We've challenged ourselves, we've had to look at things from whole new perspectives. So my tip is to shorten that time of reflection and introspection about what these times could mean for us. What we could learn. What you might be doing differently after this in terms of relationships, in terms of your systems, in terms of how you're approaching your career. Your world. Given what we've been dealing with. I'm not saying they're easy answers to that. But again, you won't find answers until you ask the questions. So my tip is, as I have to challenge myself regularly, What am I learning now, given what I'm dealing with? What can I do differently? What will this bring to the plate? In terms of how I could approach my world differently and what I might be able to do more successfully, or more elegantly, more easily, given what I've learned. Learning happens in challenging times, not when times are easy. So I highly recommend you take advantage as best you can. Understand this is not the easiest thing to do, when things are stressful and things are on you and you're so distracted by a lot of what you may be dealing with. But it's also a good time to sit back, reflect, meditate, relax. Reflect and think. What could I be learning now? Reflect and think. What could I be learning now? What could I be doing differently now? And start to build that into your life and your work.
Out of the box here... I Am Unreasonably Joyful. That's an affirmation I've actually used for many many years. And when I heard it, or when I thought of it, I thought, what a cool thing to do. To just take me out of the box. I'm unreasonably joyful. Given the world we're in, and especially the times we're in being joyful about anything seems to be one of the hardest things to do. But if you want a real tip, to just kind of break yourself out of some of the code that we're in. You'll think better, when you're happier, when you're more up, when you have more positive energy. And so creating the affirmation to me, was a useful bandaid to use when things were like insane. When it made no sense to be joyful or happy. And so it's just a big tip. Give yourself permission, for at least a minute, to just pretend that there are all kinds of things to be joyful about. So, be unreasonably joyful. It's a great thing to do. Also, learn to do that when you're in these kinds of stressful up against the wall kind of times. It's a great great thing to do. It's a great tip. It's a great tip I've used for myself, and still have to use on a regular basis. I'm unreasonably joyful, look at my peonies behind me, they so represent that. Ba Da!!
Actually, it's a tip I'd give anybody any time. And those of you familiar with the Getting Things Done methodology will know this already. The Two Minute Tool. The Two Minute Tool basically says, look, any action you've figured out that you could actually complete within two minutes, of where you are in the context you are, in the location you are, you're better off to that right then than to hang up on it, not do it, put it in the backlog or whatever. Frankly, that's the efficiency factor. It would take you less than two minutes to do it, but it would take you longer than two minutes to look at it again and review it and reflect on it later on. So this is a pure efficiency factor of the Two Minute Rule. Anything you can do in less than two minutes, if you need to do it at all then do it right then. And people say, well if I spent my whole day two minute stuff I'd never get anything else done. Well first of all, you'd be amazed as to how many strategic things have just a two minute action that are required on it. And not only that, why should these things still be around? You either delete them, or if they've shown up, then they should be finished in the moment they're there. I never have any backlog of two minute stuff because they're all done. First of all, the key thing is to decide what's the very next action on something I need to do about any of this change that's happening, any of this stuff I'm involved in right now. What would I need to do next? Once you've decided very clearly and specifically what that is if you can do it in less then two minutes, do it right then. Teflon, boom! In and out. You'll be amazed. I've had many executives tell me that was worth the price of admission. Just for that habit, if they didn't have that already. So hopefully you've built that in, or you will build that in. If it takes less then two minutes, do it.
Two-minute Tips for Turbulent Times with David Allen Clean Up Your Computer Now if you haven't done this already, and you have some down time, or at home time, or whatever. Then, come on guys, it's like when you get your car washed, or your motorcycle washed, or whatever, it drives better. Well very much the same thing with your computer. Come on, this is like a master tool if you're doing any kind of knowledge work at all. This is reference, this is creativity, this is communications. This is your work. And so it's really nice to make sure that this doesn't become like a black hole. It starts to get clogged up with a lot of old stuff. The more old stuff I found that accumulate in my computer the less anxious, or the less interested I am in looking back for something or going back into that area. But there's a lot of creativity that will show up if you actually do that. Like email, what's your backlog? The bigger your backlog of email, the more any kind of change or surprise is going to be bothersome, even the good stuff. So clean up email. There's a lot of tips you'll see on my YouTube channel about just dealing with email and that backlog. I met somebody with thousands of Evernote notes in there, that they never looked at. As they said it's kinda write-only, as opposed to read-only. You stick stuff in, but you never then get back to it. So it's very important that your reference material, and all that stuff, as best you can, is just brought current. So maybe there's stuff you need to move into the cloud, stuff you need to put into Dropbox. Things you need to reorganize, or reframe, or refresh, or whatever. But a real good idea to just look around, and if you've got some down time, one of the best kind of dummy things to do, is clean up. Clean up your digital world. It will help a ton.
Two-minute Tips for Turbulent Times with David Allen Areas of Focus, Responsibility and Interests Revisit or Create an Overview of Your Areas of Focus, Responsibility and Interests It's a different horizon of your commitments. You've got actions you need to take, and you've got projects you need to finish. But the reason you have actions, and projects is because they respond to or they relate to areas of focus and interests. For instance, you may have a project about your kids, well that's because obviously kids and family will be an area of focus. You may have a project about your health, in which case heath and your physical energy is an area of interest or focus. So it's a next level of abstraction, a useful place to visit, especially when things are changing a lot. Where you might need to revisit these different areas and say, how's everything doing? This is like being your own CEO, your own executive, essentially, for your life. Looking across all of your roles, and responsibilities, and accountabilities. If you haven't done this lately, not a bad idea just to brainstorm it. You could just do a mind map. Spiritual Life - Relationships - Fun - My Health - Family It's a way to overview, essentially, sort of the whole context, so that there's a part of you that feels like you're more grounded in space and time, from the larger gestalt. Very helpful thing to do, we've done that over the years, for many thousands of people, who've gone through that exercise. And it's extremely valuable. And it might surprise you, what you'll come up with. If you really identify those things accurately and appropriately and say How am I doing about that? Some of those may be on cruise control, hey that's all fine. Oh, that reminds me, I need to, I better take a look at that, better look at it from that perspective. So getting grounded essentially from that little longer or larger horizon. Very valuable thing to do, especially when things are changing fast. So that some part of you doesn't feel that you're losing your footing, in terms of the whole game.
Two-minute Tips for Turbulent Times with David Allen Get Your Cockpit Under Control What I mean by that is, your workspace. Where when you sit down, you are ready to fly, you're ready to go. You don't have to rearrange anything in order to be able to do your best work. There's mine, it's been quite functional for several years, something like this. And I don't mean particularly anal or compulsive about this. You just want to not have to rearrange things, look for things, when you're ready to just go to work. And so sit down and be able to do that. Another important aspect of that is I would highly recommend you do not share that space with anybody else. You don't want them rearranging it for themselves and then you have to come back and rearrange it in order to get work done. You want to lower the barrier of entry to engage. You've got a bright idea, you're in the kitchen, you've suddenly thought about something that you need to send an email about or want to surf the web about, or whatever. You need to be able to run right in, sit down, and hit the controls, right there. So you know, simple stuff, just in basket, computer, tools, scissors, pens and so forth. Certainly a writing instrument, a capture tool, to be able to capture stuff right away. As well as right at hand files and folders, etc. Assess, if you haven't done it lately, you might want to look around. Is your workspace set up so that right at any time, you can go to work? And work, meaning anything you might want to do. Based upon being in your cockpit, central control center. And be able to then, navigate, communicate, coordinate, things from there. Get Your Cockpit Under Control If it's not already, or look at how you might want to enhance it.
Two-minute Tips for Turbulent Times with David Allen One Bad Apple Can Spoil the Barrel So this is a cautionary tale. There are times when one situation, project, or circumstance that's particularly important to you, you're not appropriately engaged with yet can color the whole rest of your life, and make it all feel grey, and solemn, and burdensome. Where as it's really just one situation that you need to get ahold of. You know, our Getting Things Done methodology is a lot about creating appropriate engagement with the things that you're committed to do. Are you appropriately engaged with this project? Or with this relationship? Or with your health, etc. And appropriate engagement just means you've identified what it is, what outcome you're after, the action step you need to take to move it forward. and have a trusted system to hold all that. But any one thing, if you're not doing that yet, if you have not yet gotten to that place of appropriate engagement. Can, as I said, discolor the whole rest of your life, emotionally and everything else. It can then make the whole game feel overwhelming Whereas it's only coming from only one source, or one thing that you need to sort of tackle, and to grapple with. And that is, identify what that thing is, that seems to be coloring everything and get appropriately engaged with it. I'm not saying this is easy, folks come on. If life were easy, you'd never grow or challenge, or expand, or express yourself. It's really about how do I get in the driver's seat about that? So it doesn't color my life and sort of affect all the other things I could be doing. So in a way you need to isolate it, identify it, and get appropriately engaged with it.
Two-minute Tips for Turbulent Times with David Allen Renegotiate Your Commitments See a lot of what the Getting Things Done methodology is about has been about inventorying what your commitments are. What have you agreed with yourself you need, would, could, should, ought to be doing, handling or whatever. And so managing those commitments is a whole lot of what the methodology is about to keep yourself clear, so that you don't feel like you're constantly having to do all of those. There's an inherent renegotiation process that needs to happen. Once you've externalized these commitments out of your head You write it down, I need dog food, I need to hire a vice president, I need to figure out where to send my kid to school next year, etc. And those commitments, as you may know, that's very important to make sure get that inventory nice and clear, about what those are. But now in turbulent times, that becomes extra important, to make sure you're looking forward at all those commitments you've got. All those things on your lists. All those appointments that you thought you had. All those relationships that you thought you needed to do something about. How many of those need to be renegotiated right now? And if they're not renegotiated, they will keep spinning on some subliminal level. That's going to undermine your energy, it's going to take wind out of your sails. So it's a real good idea to make sure that you sit down, maybe in a week to review. As we coach in Getting Things Done, at least once a week, step back, take a look across the whole broad spectrum, of your life and work, look at all the commitments you've got, the meetings you've got, the projects you've committed to, and say wait a minute, that goes on someday maybe, or that has to wait until after this situation has been cleared up and changed, or whatever. So, a real good idea to make sure you bring yourself current, bring up the rear guard, with those commitments, and sometimes they're pretty subtle.
Two-minute Tips for Turbulent Times with David Allen Catch Up Your Communications with People Another nice thing to do especially in terms of catching up, it's often times subtle. And depending on your personality style about how much you engage with other people. Who do you owe a thank you to? Who do you owe a communication with to update them? All the best things in my life have actually come from relationships that I've had. Surprising serendipitous stuff. But as a bit of an introvert, I actually am. I often times have to work at making sure that I maintain my communications externally, and that I nurture them and take advantage of that. I highly recommend you think about, what are just some emails to shoot off, simple little things, or come on, get some note cards and write a hand written note. Those things are invaluable, as you probably know. That's another little thing to do, you might want to consider as a project maybe, is you catch up on all of those communications, with family, with friends with network, professional associates, etc. Especially these days when everybody is locked in and not available there. Those kinds of things could have tremendous value. Just in terms of keeping the network warm, and not feeling so mechanical and that we're all so locked down, and out of touch with each other.
Two-minute Tips for Turbulent Times with David Allen What's Really Got Your Attention? Many of my tips are about sort of catching up, and simple things to do kind of keep your energy up, clean things up, catch up. This one is a big one. What circumstance, situation that you're in right now, if that were put onto cruise control, or if you were appropriately engaged with that would make the biggest difference? Would give you the most physic space essentially. Would relieve the most pressure on you. Sometimes that's the thing you need to grapple with. Interestingly, what you think may have your most attention...Once you recognize what has your attention, you may then discover what really has your attention. It can go to some pretty subtle and sublime and deep levels, if you allow it to. Nothing wrong with that, nothing bad about that, as a matter of fact, it's a very powerful thing to do, and to think about. So I highly recommend that you take a little bit of time and say "What most has your attention?" And then "What do you need to do to appropriately engage with that?" So it gets off your mind, gets onto cruise control, gets onto wherever it needs to be. And as you know, if you're a Getting Things Done practitioner, it's all about what's the outcome you're after, and what's the action step you need to take, to move forward on that. Powerful stuff, I have to hold myself to this regularly as well. Even after all these years of working with the materials, I'm a fellow student. What most has your attention? Define what that is, define what you need to do about that, to put that onto cruise control. That could give you the most freedom, the most space of anything else you might be able to do.
Two-minute Tips for Turbulent Times with David Allen Worst Case Scenario Building I know this may sound a little strange, but one of the best and healthiest things you can do is to actually do a scenario of the worst case, and then imagine you getting through that. And could you handle it? Because the worst case scenario is likely to be banging around subliminally anyway. What you need to do is to relieve that pressure, and the way out is through. The best thing to do is to sit down and figure out, what could the worst case be? Can I and could we, tolerate that? That will relieve a bunch of pressure and give you much more freedom to focus on wild success. Obviously you don't want to be dwelling on the negative picture. You don't want to sit there and be fatalistic or dwell in some sort of negative picture building. But you do want to go through that and take a look. That allows you a lot more freedom to then focus effectively and productively as you kind of shoot down the middle. Prepare for the worst, or at least be ready for it, if in case it happens. Imagine the best, and shoot down the middle. My tip for turbulent times. When the pandemic first hit, that very much effected our business, and our income, so I had to sit down and I just pulled up an Excel spreadsheet and ran the numbers for the next year or so. Could we tolerate it? Could we manage it? Yes we could. Now ideally we don't have to or won't have to do that. It allowed me the freedom to then not have that lurking in the background as some sort of a concern. Can I handle the worst case if I can't get to my barber for another month? Worst case might be I'll look like I did in Berkeley in 1970. Or maybe the worst case is I'll be attacked by my wife and her dog shearing tools while I'm asleep and wake up with something a little shorter then it is. Anyway, do the worst case scenario, get through it, relax, and focus on the best.
Comments (3)

Gabriel Almeida Hammes

básicamente ele está sugerindo começar pelo por que?

Apr 19th

Cristian Concha

awesome episode. thanks for sharing.

Nov 10th

David D Conway


Mar 27th
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