We began this series by introducing you to author David Allen’s book that addresses stress-free productivity. As you recall, there are five stages of mastering your flow of work:
This article will focus on the second stage – Process.
Remember that your goal is to “empty” your brain of these things you must do if you want to decrease your level of stress.
In order to do that, you must identify and collect those things that are on your mind and then make a plan about how you will handle them.
Why is there so much stuff in your brain? Simple.
You have not determined what you ultimately want the outcome to be.
You have not determined what the very next physical action should be that will move you toward completion.
You have no system for keeping reminders of what needs to be done, when, how, etc.
There are three basic requirements for managing your tasks if you want to be stress-free rather than frazzled, exhausted, and overwhelmed!
If it is on your mind, then you can’t clear your mind. This is where the “collect” stage comes from. You take what’s on your mind and collect into various categories that you will address at some point.
In order to complete a task, you need to clarify what it is you must do.
Once you’ve got the decisions made about your plan of action, you will need to develop a system of reminders that you can view on a regular basis
– this makes up stage 2 – organize!
The first step in organizing your “stuff” is the ask yourself a simple question:
What do you need to do about each email, voice-mail, memo, or self-generated ideas that are collected?
The answer to this will form the basis for how you organize your work.
So rather than throwing all of your emails, for example, into a pile, you will organize your emails based on the action you have determined to take on each one. Here’s how you do it.
Let’s say your basket of emails is full. Take those emails and use as practice to learn the process for organizing.
1. What is It?
Stupid question? Not at all! What is the email about? Is it a company memo sent via email about the change in dress code?
Maybe it’s an email that outlines the process for using the company insurance. Take the time to look at each one so that you know what it is.
2. Is it Actionable?
Obviously, there are two answers: Yes or No
If no action is required, you’ve got three choices about how to handle that email.
- Throw it in the trash
*No action is needed now, but might need it later (incubate)
- This is useful info that you may need for later (reference)
If action is required, you’ll have to determine two things about each item.
*What “project” or outcome have you committed to?
* What’s the next action required?
If it’s about a project, you can start a “Projects” list where it will serve as a reminder that action is required.
The next action” is the very next physical, visible activity that needs to be done in order to move toward completion.
3. Do It, Delegate It, or Defer It.
Once you have decided what action needs to be taken, you have three options.
*Do It: If your action can be done in less than two minutes, then do it as soon as you make your decision to act.
*Delegate It: If your “action” will take longer than two minutes, ask yourself if you really have to be the one to do it? If someone else can just as easily take the action, delegate it right away.
*Defer It: If it may take longer than two minutes, but you are the one who must do the action, you can defer acting upon it until later.
You can put it on your calendar with a specific due date or you can determine that you will do it as soon as you can.
You are well on your way to getting a handle on your workflow if you begin using the first two stages. Next time, we will look at organizing your results!