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May 2010

Getting Organized

I got it all together, but I forgot where I put it. - Anonymous

Have you ever finished a massive cleaning project and then couldn't remember where you put something because it was in its place?  I hope someone can relate. There is more to getting things done than merely being efficient at getting papers off our desk and ideas out of our head.  Processing our workflow requires a good physical organization system. 
If you've been reading the last few weeks, you've been following along with me as we proceed through David Allen's "Getting Things Done" steps.  So far, we've covered the steps of
Collecting and Processing.  Now, we are ready for the step of Organizing.
Processing and organizing go hand in hand and I've found that in practice it worked for me to develop an organizational structure as a part of the initial processing process.  As I've implemented these steps on my own, I set up a working structure before processing anything and modified it as I went along.  Keep in mind that the organization step is one that can't be set up all at once and takes some experimentation.  Find what works for you. 
For everyone, however, there are  seven primary types of things that will need to be organized: 

  • A "Projects" list
  • Project support material
  • Calendared actions and information
  • "Next Actions" list
  • A "Waiting For" list
  • Reference Material
  • A "Someday/Maybe" list

All we really need is a calendar, lists, and folders...and a process to review our lists so we don't forget what is on them!  We'll discuss the review process next time.  That's when we plan how to get things done


NOTE: For more information about this process, I would be happy to consult with you.   Additionally, check out the book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen.

The Power of One: Thoughtful Thursday

My mom always used to say to me "Janna, you can't save the world" because I was always helping someone with something-homework, "counseling", sports, etc. I still haven't changed and she's still saying that to me.

While I know I can't technically "save" the world, I still haven't given up trying to make an impact on it for good, one person at a time.  Ponder with me today the meaning of this poem in your own life.  Leaders know the power of one. What ONE thing can you do TODAY to make a difference?

The Power of One -Author Unknown

One song can spark a moment
One flower can wake the dream
One tree can start a forest
One bird can herald spring

One smile begins a friendship
One handclasp lifts a soul
One star can guide a ship at sea
One word can frame the goal

One vote can change a nation
One sunbeam lights a room
One candle wipes out darkness
One laugh will conquer doom

One step must start each journey
One word must start each prayer
One hope will raise our spirits
One touch can show you care

One voice can speak with wisdom
One heart can know what's true
One life can make the difference
You see, it's up to you!

Processing the "In" Box

Is your "In" box ever empty? I'm venturing a guess that unless a) you don't have much to do or b) David Allen or one of his "Getting Things Done" coaches or superstar "graduates", the bottom of your "In" box never sees the light of day. Managing workflow for even the most organized of folks often gets a little out of control. However, with a little diligence in pursuing a system, we can get the victory over the box.

Today we continue our overview of the Getting Things Done workflow management system, dubbed the "art of stress-free productivity". In the previous post of this series, we discussed step one of the process, "Collect". Now we are ready to do something with the stuff we collected.  To refresh our memories, the "stuff" is the massive "In" box of items representing the incomplete tasks in our lives.
Once we finish the "Collect" step of David Allen's process for getting things done, we are ready to empty our "In" box with Step 2: Process. It is in the processing phase of workflow management that we ask ourselves questions about each e-mail, voice-mail, memo, or self-generated idea that makes its way into our "In" box.  The key to this step is to make a decision about each item so it doesn't become a permanent fixture on our desk.

Making decisions about each item requires that we ask two questions: 

  1. Is it actionable?
  2. What's the next action?

Items that require no action should either be trashed, filed as reference materials, or incubated for future review.  Actionable items should be captured on a task or project list once we determine the next required action. Then, each actionable item needs to be either done, delegated or deferred.  A basic rule of thumb is that if you can finish an item in two minutes or less, do it now.

Does all of this sound unachievable?  If it does, don't despair.  Just as old habits can be broken, new ones can be made.  Just take things one step at a time and you too can see the bottom of your "In" box. And one more thing...this applies to email too. Happy processing!

Have an "In" box story to share? Leave a comment below!

Homework: This week as you process your  "stuff", take note how often you say "I'll just do this later" to yourself.  Think about this both at home and at work.  If the task would take less than two minutes to complete, why not just do it?

NEXT IN THE SERIES ...  Step 3: Organizing. 
NOTE: For more information about this process, check out "Getting Things Done" by David Allen or contact me for a consultation.

We Can't Get Back Time: Thoughtful Thursday

Time is the one thing we have that once its gone, we can't get back.  In today's Thoughtful Thursday post, consider how your life might be diffferent if you made the best use of your time. Here's the quote:

Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness. - Jean de La Brusre, 17th Century French Essayist


  • How often do you complain about how little time you have?
  • What is the biggest consumer of time and energy in your life?
  • How would you live your life today if you knew you only had six months to live?


Disorganized? Collect Your Stuff

Effective leadership in our fast paced culture requires reliable organizational systems to maintain productivity. However, most people aren't as organized or systemized as they would like to be.  Take one close look inside any office or home and you'll see what I'm talking about.

How organized are you...really?

Hope is available for the disorganized. Last week I gave an overview of what I believe is one of the best systems around for mastering workflow, David Allen's "Getting Things Done". Today, I will continue the theme with the first step in the GTD process: Collect!

Ready...Set...COLLECT! The first step to productivity is collecting all of our "stuff" into one place.

stuff: physical or mental representations of incomplete tasks or objects that don't belong permanently where they are.

Corralling all of our "stuff" into one place at one time can be a daunting task. However, this task can also be freeing once we let go of our horror that our real "In" box is larger than a small filing cabinet. Seeing the mound of our real "In" box can be overwhelming, but relief will follow because at last we know the extent of what we need to get done.  This is good news.  From personal experience, I have found this to be true.
The process of collecting consists of two steps:

  1. Physical gathering: Collecting everything in your environment that doesn't belong where it is permanently and placing it into "In".
  2. Mental gathering: Writing down all of the ideas lurking around our heads that represent projects or tasks, each on a separate piece of paper, and placing those into "In".

Once you've gathered all of your stuff" (don't forget your electronic media items such as email), you are ready for the next step: Process.  Hang in there.  This kind of overhaul takes time but it is well worth the effort.

Connect learning to leading: Take a look around at your current work or living space.  What is on your desk surface? Peak in the drawers, cabinets and closets.  How many items are not in their permanent places & need to be resolved?  What thoughts were triggered?  Put these items in "In" for processing.  Then stay "tuned" until next time.


NOTE: "Getting Things Done" is just one of many tools for managing workflow. If you want an expert on GTD, be sure to visit their website. If you want leadership coaching from a self-proclaimed GTD groupee, call me today for a complimentary consultation at 913-219-7844.