Get a Grip – It’s Liberating!

A little while ago I skirted with using the famed Getting Things Done method for planning tasks. Essentially (but not ‘just’) a list management process, it is a very popular productivity method, although the somewhat precocious reference by some to having a ‘GTD Practice’ as if they were medical or legal professionals, does smack a little of narcissism.

The method revolves in part around a philosophical statement which its founder, David Allen, uses. He says, “You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what it is.” That may well be a statement that addresses a cause of stress that is almost intangible in nature. Do you feel the most stress when you have so much to do that you can’t even begin to list them all? Cue Allen and GTD.

Allen suggests that the first thing any stressed producer should do (after setting up the office / workspace / home in preparation for the whole process) is capture everything that is on their mind. Everything. He starts by suggesting you go around whatever space you’re working on in the moment, and make notes about things that don’t belong where they are, in the condition they’re in, or need action taken I some other regard. That addresses the physical environment.

Next, he suggests a Mind Sweep, where you consider all the things on your mind. For police officers and staff, that’s your list of cases, projects, tasks, calls to make, people to see, appointments to make, and so on. (In his book, “Getting Things Done” Allen provides trigger words to help you remember such things.)

He suggests you note each separate ‘thing’ on separate sheets of paper, because once you’ve finished making the whole list you’ll have a lot. And they are easier to work with as separate sheets, than a list of umpteen things on one page.

NB: You aren’t allowed to DO anything about these discoveries at first – only list them.

Once that’s done, you go through your pile of paper and clarify what each one means, and what’s your next action. (GTD Specialists – I’m really breaking it down!) Now, at least, you know what you have to get done. As you do that, you organise those tasks into ‘where or when can I do them’ lists, like At Computer, At Office, At Home, At Phone, etc, but that’s for another blog.

Why do I mention this? For the first time, last week I did all that properly, and I took three days doing it. I walked around my house and listed the things in the wrong place or that needed action taken on them. I used the trigger list to do a sweep of my mind. I captured about 100 thoughts and used up 100 pages of an A5 notebook.  I then went through them all and decided where I’d have to be and what I’d have to do to get them done. I put them on the appropriate ‘At’ lists.

BTW, the initial sweeps I did on paper, but the final ‘At’ lists are on my ‘phones Microsoft To Do app, which synchs with all my devices, including my desktop. Which means they are with me everywhere I go ,so I can do some, or add to the lists, as tasks come to mind or opportunities arise to get them done. And I have a permanent ‘Errands’ list for shopping…….*

And in the two days since I did that, I have been so productive at getting them done (and capturing and clarifying more stuff as it arose) that I amazed myself. Half the resultant list is gone already, and the rest are awaiting the appropriate time, money or other resources needed to get them done.

Stress. Free.

Something new comes up – what is it, what is the next action, where/how/with what can I take that action? And act when you can. You know what you can and can’t do, you know what it is you still have to do, but you NEVER panic about what you’ve forgotten about – because you need never forget about anything.

I recommend this as one of the cures for what ails ya. Not the only one, but certainly a good one.

*And when the phone ‘pings’ because you’ve ticked off a task…!

Published by policetimemanagement

30 year policing veteran and time management authority. Now I've combined the two.

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