You have collected info, processed what to do about it, organized, and reviewed. Now we are ready to turn to the last step in mastering your workflow – Doing! Since you have done the proper pre-planning in the first four steps, you are now ready to take care of things efficiently and quickly.
If you are like most of us, you will have a large list of actions that you are not doing at the moment. So how do you figure out what to do and what not to do, and feel good about your choices?
The answer is at once simple and complex – trust your gut/intuition. If you have worked through the first four steps, then you can use your gut along with your thought processes to make good decisions. The author, David Allen, came up with three models that will help in your decision-making process. And while you won’t be given any answers, you will be able to frame your options more intelligently and practically.
The Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment
You are sitting at your desk at 9:00 AM trying to figure out how you will choose what to do. There are four criteria you can apply.
- Context: While some actions can be done anywhere (phone calls, drafting a letter, etc.), there are others that require a specific location (sitting at your computer, etc.). This is the first factor in deciding what you can do now.
- Time Available: When do you have to do something, or how much time will it take to do it? If you have an action that will require 30 minutes, but you have a meeting in 15 minutes, you won’t be able to do that particular action now.
- Energy Available: Are you tired? Some actions require more mental and physical effort than others.
- Priority: Given your responses to the first three criteria, what action will give you the best payoff? This is where your “gut” comes in to play. You have to learn to trust your judgment right now!
The Threefold Model for Evaluating Daily Work
When you are busy getting things done, there are 3 different kinds of activities that you can be engaged in.
- Doing Predefined Work: This means you are working from your “Next Actions” list. This is the stuff you previously determined need to be done.
- Doing Work as It Shows Up: We’ve all been there – things pop up without any warning. It’s up to you to decide if you really need to attend to them at that moment or if you can put them off.
- Defining Your Work: This means you need to clear up your in-basket, emails, voice mails, and breaking down your new projects into actionable steps. You will be defining things that need to be done at some point, but not right now. You are adding to your lists so that they are complete and your ADD brain is free from distractions.
The Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work
In order to know what your priorities are, you have to know what you must work on. This model helps you decide what your priorities need to be. Allen uses an aerospace analogy.
- 50,000+ feet: Life
- 40,000 feet: 3-5 year vision
- 30,000 feet: 1-2 year goals
- 20,000 feet: Areas of responsibility
- 10,000 feet: Current Projects
- Runway: Current Actions
Runway: Current Actions – This is the entire list of accumulated actions you need to take – calls, errands, emails, social activities, etc. This makes up for a ton of hours, about 300-500 hours worth, if you stopped and began doing everything now.
10,000 Feet: Current Projects - There are probably about 30-100 things you have to do. Most of these things are short-term activities but need to be done now.
20,000 Feet: Areas of Responsibility – Most of the projects or actions that you need to take are because you have certain responsibilities. Your job holds different responsibilities than those of your family, your personal life, etc. Listing and knowing these responsibilities helps you determine what to do now versus later.
30,000 Feet: 1-2 Year Goals – These are things that you either want to do or to get rid of to accomplish your goals.
40,000 Feet: 3-5 Year Vision - These are your even more long-term goals that have the possibility of changing what it is you need to do now.
50,000 Feet: Life – This is your “big picture” view of what you want your life to be like, to stand for, what you ultimately want to accomplish.
Neither of these models is better than the other. It is purely a matter of your choosing what works best for you. It is also a choice of what makes the most sense to you and to your gut.
Now you have the entire plan for getting your ADD brain and life organized and running smoothly. Get out there and get going!