Monday, 4 June 2012

The Waiting For List

Whether you do GTD or not, having a 'Waiting For' list is one of the single most valuable tools you can use.

The GTD Waiting For list is meant for Actions that are not yours to do, but ones that you still need to know about. In other words, it's a list of things you're waiting for other people to do.

I've been using it for years and its value to me is immeasurable.

I use it whenever I:

a- delegate an item to someone,

b- leave a voicemail or email with a request to get back to me or

c- any time someone makes a promise that they're going to do an action I need to know about.

Waiting For includes all of those "the ball is in your court" situations. The Waiting For list is a way to track all of those balls in all of those other courts.

One very important habit that should be used to optimize this list's full potential is to include when and how the item was delegated or requested.
Some examples:

e.g.1- "July 3, left voicemail with John at A&A landscaping- re: where's my quote for that job? John 555-5698"... "left another voicemail July 9, told him I'll have to get a quote from somewhere else".

Include the phone number here, even if you have it written down somewhere else. It just makes it that much easier to complete the follow up actions. And including the dates gives you specifics about how long you’ve been waiting.

Or e.g.2- "Waiting for James to hold a team meeting by July 7, per my June 28 email"

Including the date of the email you sent makes it easier to find it in your ‘send’ folder. You can open that sent email and forward another (more firmly worded) reminder. 

Or e.g.3- "Waiting for mattress supplier to ship remainder of purchase order 1259009, Restwell Mattresses 555-9865"

Include as much relevant info as is practical for you. Phone numbers are a must. And including the P.O.# in this kind of case is important, because when you call the supplier, you know they’re going to ask for it.

You could have a separate "waiting for" email folder, but I find it valuable to have
ALL of my Waiting Fors on one list. This means, if you want to track everyting via email, you either email yourself a note about all non-email Waiting Fors or you file the email as normal (maybe under "project support") and refer to the email on your normal Waiting For list, like in e.g.2 above.

One of the reasons I like using the Waiting For list is that you can almost always follow up on them instantly via phone or email. So if you're at your office (context) you can make a call or email everyone on your waiting for list that needs a prompt or reminder. When you include the date of the delegation or request, you'll be able to see at a glance any that are overdue. 

People will be amazed at your ability to 'recall' when you last reminded them or when they promised to have an action completed.

As with any GTD habit, it requires conscious effort to engrain it into your brain. I believe the habit of using the Waiting For list is well worth the effort.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Doing the NEXT Next Action

If you’ve done GTD, you know that the concept of doing your thinking up-front is one of the most powerful tools in the GTD arsenal. Clarifying the precise ACTION and its context when defining a Next Action lets you maintain your productivity level even when your brain is running on fumes.

And planning a Next Action means just that. You don’t need to plan beyond what’s next. So what do you do when that Next Action is done?

 a- Do you skip between pre-defined Next Actions, from Project 1 to Project 2 to Project 3, checking them off one by one and tell your mind that, tomorrow, it will have to re-think where you left off in your project and come up with the next Next Action or

b- Stick with Project 1 and do the next Next Action right now, and the next one after that.

Here’s why you should choose b:

“Next Action” is meant as a kick-start to get your brain into the flow of a project. The engagement actually doing that Next Action immerses your mind and body in the reality of the Project, giving you a much clearer picture of what to do next than you would tomorrow during your morning planning session.

By going with the flow, and sticking with Project 1 as long as your context allows, you cut down on the time needed to “define your work”, since you’re not planning every Next Action. You’re just doing them.

Getting Things Done is about getting things DONE, not about checking actions off a list. Get to “action Z” (project DONE) faster by going with the flow and sticking with one project for as long as possible.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Understanding David Allen’s GTD Perspectives Model:

Here’s a brief refresher for those of you who may have forgotten the ins and outs of David Allen’s altitude-horizons model. And, hopefully, a sensible introduction to anyone who has no idea what GTD is.

In “Making it All Work”, David Allen describes the two main overarching considerations to succeed in “the game of work and the business of life”. Those two things are Control and Perspective.

Control is about HOW you’re going to get things done.

Perspective is about WHAT you should be doing, or what you should be focussing on.

David uses an altitude metaphor to help us get our heads around Perspective. I’ll describe and explain the metaphor from the top down:

50,000 feet: Purpose.
At this altitude, you can see an overview of your entire life. You’re able to see as far into the future as you can imagine. At this altitude, you’re asking, “Why am I on the planet?”. Knowing the answer to this, you’re able to shape your Vision of what your life should be like in 5 years.

40,000 feet: Vision.
At this altitude, you’re thinking up to 5 years into the future. At this level, you have a clear picture of all of your Goals and can prioritize them or reshape them to better fit this vision.

30,000 feet: Goals
You can’t see quite as much at 30,000 feet. At this altitude, you’re creating goals that will help you realize your Vision. A clear picture of your Goals will enable you to generate the right Projects (10,000 feet) as well as help you decide whether your Areas of Focus (20,000 feet) are fitting into your life the way they should.

20,000 feet: Areas of Focus
Areas of Focus are mainly those things in your life that you need to maintain to keep up a certain standard in your life. Think of the 5-7 areas of responsibility at your job (like scheduling, keeping the trucks running, payroll etc.) and 5-7 areas in your personal life (health/fitness, finances, fatherhood etc). Areas of Focus is at this altitude because clarity here will generate Projects (10,000 feet) that will help you to automate or systematize things at the Areas of Focus level.

10,000 feet: Projects
Everyone’s favourite horizon! At this level, you know all of the Projects you’re intending to complete to achieve your Goals or support your Areas of Focus.  Every Project should have a Next Action attached.

0 feet, the Runway: Next Actions
At ground level, you don’t really have perspective. You’re just doing. (This ‘doing’ will be a mix of pre-defined Next Actions and ad hoc actions that happen throughout our lives) This is where you influence your world and mould it to complete projects, which support your Areas of Focus or your Goals which support your Vision which supports your Purpose.

So, HOW do you DO Perspective?  By thinking about it, writing it down, reviewing it. That’s how.

Consistent, day to day Capturing and periodic Mind Sweeping (a guided brainstorm of everything you should be focussing on) will let you maintain a full list of items at every horizon.

If you have a FULL inventory of everything in your life that you need to do something about written down under all of these horizons, and if you’re reviewing it, you’ve got Perspective.

The emphasis on Perspective is part of the beauty of GTD. David Allen realized that our brains will automatically prioritize things for us at a low level when we’re clear about things at a higher level. Perspective automates the prioritization process. A full, captured, inventory also frees your mind to do the things it’s good at doing.

How to get started:
Write down the heading:  “Purpose:…” and actually state your purpose; why you’re on the planet.

Write down: “Vision…”. Write down in as much detail as possible what your ideal life will look like in 5 years.

Write down: “Goals…” . List your goals.

Write down: “Areas of Focus…”. Create a full list of these.

Write down the heading: “Projects”. Create a full inventory of your projects.

Write down “Next Actions”: Create separate Context lists, based on where you need to physically be to perform the action.

When you make these lists, and review them, you’ve got yourself Perspective. When you’ve got perspective, you’ve got an important ingredient for winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life.