Getting Things Done® Fri, 22 Jul 2016 19:57:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Episode #19 – GTD and Global Sustainability Wed, 20 Jul 2016 15:57:33 +0000 Listen as David Allen talks with Gillian Martin Mehers, who has dedicated her career to helping people doing good work in organizations focusing on global sustainability. As a highly enthusiastic GTDer and experienced professional in training and development, she shares many of her own successful techniques for spreading those best practices to others.


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David Allen on 5 Reasons for a Meeting Fri, 15 Jul 2016 20:22:08 +0000 Ever find yourself wondering why you’re in a meeting or what the meeting is trying to accomplish? Here is a classic article from David Allen on 5 Reasons for a Meeting. Enjoy!

There are five reasons to have a meeting. Each may be a perfectly fine reason. Make sure everyone at your meeting knows and agrees with which of these you are there to accomplish.

“Hello everyone. I’ve brought you all together today to let you know what’s been going on about the pending lawsuit. I’d like you to leave here today understanding what’s going on, and with as much background as you need to be able to answer questions that may arise from our customers.”

“Thanks for coming. We’ve invited you all here to find out from everyone what we should be aware of that’s going on in your division relative to the new product roll-out. We want to know what’s happening at all levels in the organization about this, so we can make some adjustments in our plans accordingly.”

“We’d like to spend this afternoon surfacing, formulating, and exploring as many possible ways to deal with the problem we’ve just uncovered in the new system implementation. We want to make sure we’ve got everyone’s perspectives and all the possible
alternatives formulated.”

“We’ve brought you all together this morning to present to you the three proposed approaches to launching our new product, and get a consensus decision on which one to pursue.”

“There are three agenda items we would like to cover today. And though we could have done this by email, we wanted to have an opportunity to bring the new team together in one place, and get some time to get to know each other between the lines…”

You may often have more than one of these agendas—sometimes even all five. “Today I’m going to share some information with you, and get some information from you as well. We’re then going to explore some possible approaches to the situation, and then decide our best course of action. Meanwhile it will give us a chance to get to know each other a little more as real people…”

Pretty common sense stuff. Right. But, ever sat in a room with someone trying to make a decision, someone else just wanting to do some brainstorming about some possibilities, some people just wanting to get to know who they’re working with, and someone else just wanting to get some information about the situation? And they all wind up wanting to kill each other?

It’s very valuable to get clarification and agreement on the front end, as to which of the five reasons for a meeting you have going on.
–David Allen

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Take a GTD Challenge Around Your “Stuff” Wed, 29 Jun 2016 16:47:28 +0000 Things do not get rid of themselves. There seems to be a universal law of physics that goes like this: things that exist want to keep existing, even if there’s no good reason. And I think they have strange, secret, invisible agents that lurk in our psyche, planting little numbing seeds like “it’s there, so there must be a good reason it’s there.”

And stuff changes. What’s useful today may not be so useful tomorrow and by next week may be irrelevant and by next month may be seriously in the way of us getting things done. In addition to inconveniently taking up physical space, it consumes psychic space, of which we can all use as much as we can get.

When was the last time you did an inventory of what you really don’t need anymore?

-in your center drawer
-in your briefcase
-in your closet
-in your garage
-in your bathroom cabinets
-in the trunk (boot) of your car
-on your bookshelves
-on your staff
-on your calendar
-on your computer
-in your product line
-in your relationships
-in your habits
-in your mind

Many of the things you will find have probably at some point become “someday/maybe” kinds of things, and perhaps there’s a decent reason to keep them around, just to keep the option open – “But what if I might need it?” At least consider migrating those to a deeper storage area, and limit that space, so as you add things to it, it forces you to move even older nostalgia out into the dumpster.

–David Allen

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Episode #18 – Sharing GTD with Kids & Teens Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:29:18 +0000 Coaches Meg Edwards and Mike Williams share strategies, techniques, and insights for engaging kids and teens in GTD. They’ll weave in personal stories from their own experience as parents, and give practical exercises for bringing the power of GTD to young people in your life.


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The 5 Stages of GTD® Tue, 21 Jun 2016 17:21:42 +0000 Where are you in the 5 I’s? David Allen explains the 5 stages you can expect with GTD:

If you’re not at “Integration” yet, here are some ideas to continue on the Path of GTD Mastery:

  • Read (or reread!) the Getting Things Done book. David Allen has often said it is “the” manual for learning this methodology and will give you the big picture as well as tactical tips and tricks.
  • Get coached virtually or in-person by a Certified GTD Coach
  • Take a GTD Fundamentals course, offered around the world.
  • Join where you can learn GTD at your own pace, through webinars and a huge multimedia library.

Wherever you are in the 5 I’s, we hope GTD is bringing you value!

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The GTD Workflow Map Sun, 19 Jun 2016 16:35:12 +0000 The GTD® Workflow Map is now available as a PDF download. This Map is a beautiful visual learning tool for understanding how David Allen’s models for control & perspective come together.

We also offer the Map as a printed poster.



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Who are the biggest procrastinators? Tue, 14 Jun 2016 15:28:04 +0000 The biggest procrastinators are usually the most sophisticated, sensitive, creative, and intelligent people.

Nailed you, did I? Well, I assume you’re in the sophisticated, creative, and intelligent category. That probably means you have large numbers of things stuck in your mind, in your briefcase, and on your desk about which things are not moving forward quite as consistently as they could be.

Major reason: the precise next physical visible activity (next action) has probably not been decided on the to-do’s. The bright people usually have some sort of reminders about their projects and things to do on lists, in piles, or lying around, so they won’t forget to think about their commitments. Bully. But every time they catch the briefest glimpse of any of them, they instantly race forward in their mind, rapidly and intelligently creating images of all the possible pieces that have to fit together and all the things that might have to be involved in getting them to happen and all the possible negative consequences if any one of them slips (and all the things that they might be forgetting in all this). Whew! Freaked themselves right out. I’d quit, too.

Three solutions: (1) frontal lobotomy, (2) bottle-in-front-of-me, or (3) figure out the very next action required to move each of those projects forward. Each will take some of the pressure off, but I recommend option #3 for the most permanent and elegant fix.

I was recently reminded about this again graphically, coaching several executives on Wall Street one-on-one. You couldn’t find many savvier, more creative, industrious, successful folks, yet each had varying degrees of “stuckness” about many important projects and issues. They simply hadn’t thought these things quite through enough to get to the very next action step. When I got them to make that decision, tons of things uncorked and their own peace of mind went up dramatically. What amazed them the most was that it only took a few seconds to decide the next step, and that they didn’t have to have the project totally figured out to get moving on it. Big surprise.

Don’t just decide that you need to set a meeting—decide whether that’s an email to send or a phone call to make, and to whom. Watch things move…and how much more deserving of the “sophisticated, sensitive, creative, and intelligent” label you’ll feel!

–David Allen

This article appeared in David’s monthly newsletter, Productive Living. Subscribe for free.

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Episode #17 – Ten Common Questions About GTD Fri, 10 Jun 2016 16:29:32 +0000 We hope you enjoy this very special Q&A conversation between David Allen and Senior Coach Marian Bateman, interviewed by Rick Kantor. They answer ten of the most frequently asked questions regarding GTD, including “How do you set priorities?”, “What do you do when you’re interrupted constantly?”, and “How do I get back on track when I miss Weekly Reviews?”

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Welcome to another episode of Getting Things Done, GDT for shorthand. My name is Andrew J. Mason and this podcast is all about helping you on your journey learning the art of stress-free productivity.

Recently, we’ve introduced a new segment of this podcast entitled: One Question with David and we thought it would be fun to take an entire episode loaded with GTD Q&A.

So today, we have a very special conversation with Rick Kantor, asking David Allen and Marian Bateman ten questions regarding GTD, including: How do you set priorities? What do you do when you’re interrupted constantly? Or: Do you have any tips for staying on track after falling off the weekly review wagon?

Now if you’re just joining us on this podcast, we encourage you to go back and check out a few of the previous episodes with guests like Charles Duhigg, Daniel Pink and the Simpsons writers. Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there’s literally hundreds of other interviews, available as part of GTD Connect, so head on over to, and click on GTD Connect to start listening and learning from the community today and hang out until the end of this podcast for a significant discount code when you decide to join.

Without further ado, here’s Rick Kantor, David Allen and Marian Bateman for Ten Questions About GTD.

RICK KANTOR: Hi, I’m Rick Kantor and we’re here today to talk with David Allen, the author of the bestselling book Getting Things Done; The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and Marian Bateman, welcome to both of you, Marian.

MARIAN BATEMAN: Thank you. Delighted to be here.


RICK KANTOR: Today we’re gonna go through some of the most often asked questions about productivity and achieving work/life balance. These questions have been compiled from people, both those working with the Getting Things Done system and people out there who are just looking for ways to control some of the overwhelm and overload sense they have of their lives.

One of the questions we hear most often is something that goes like this: Things have changed in my work and life and I feel overwhelmed. Is there hope?

How would you answer that?

DAVID ALLEN: Well, since I’m in the business, of course there’s hope. I mean I have to let people know that and there really is hope. I think the good news is is that there actually are definable behaviors and definable and doable and implementable techniques that are not hard to do that actually give us a sense of sort of getting in control of this, instead of feeling buried by it and uh those can be done. We’re not born doing those things. They do need to be learned and need to be practiced, but they’re easy to implement.

MARIAN BATEMAN: Overwhelm, from my point of view, comes from not having your agreements defined with yourself. So what happens is you have sense of being flooded with information. You’re not really sure what’s first, what’s second, what’s third – eh – you’ve got stuff coming at you from every corner and you have no way of knowing where to begin.

The beauty about GTD or learning Getting Things Done is it provides a structure for you. Its like, “Wow! I can turn from feeling overwhelmed into feeling in charge about my work and my life. This is a big win!”

RICK KANTOR: So you could actually have too much to do, too much on your plate, but still not feel overwhelmed?

DAVID ALLEN: I think that there’s a sense of always more to do than we can do. If you think about it, it’s like well that’s either infinite opportunity or infinite stress. It’s kind of half-empty/half-full is the glass. Like you can only really do one of those things at a time anyway, so how many undone things you have is really not the issue as long as you’re, as Marian said, on doing sort of what you know you should be doing, given all those options and all the possibilities. I think the biggest problem that most people have is identifying where the stress is coming from and as we’ve uncovered the necessity to uncover and discover and clarify and codify, if you will, what are my agreements, so I can see them very quickly? Then I can start to identify where the pressure’s coming from and as the ultimate way out of this is to be able to renegotiate your agreements with yourself, look at it all and say, “That’s okay that I’m not doing those 600 or 200 or 800 things right now”, but you better know what those are.

You know, any good therapist where people show up and generalized, “I’m – you know – things are awful!”

“Well what exactly is awful?” So how do you identify what that is, but that’s very difficult to do if you haven’t got a good system in place to manage your commitments and keep that inventory.

MARIAN BATEMAN: It’s still brand new that it really works to have your thinking externalized, that there is great freedom in being able to see all of your successful outcomes in front of you and then I can turn on a dime and renegotiate my agreements, come back to center, start again, and you may begin that process over and over, depending on how much – what the surprise factor is in your life, but having a system that enables you to respond quickly and effectively, sure creates that sense of freedom.

DAVID ALLEN: And don’t get us wrong. You don’t get rid of challenges and problems in your life by implementing, you know, a good system. What it does is it clarifies what they so that you can negotiate with them, through and around them appropriately.

So you wouldn’t want to get rid of challenges. Essentially people say, “Gee David, stress-free productivity, can you really have stress-free productivity?”

And the answer is, “Well yes and no. No you can’t have stress-free productivity in the sense that anytime you want to do something that hasn’t been done yet, you’ve created a dissonance or a kind of a stress or a tension, if you will, in your life.

I want to be out of the room – I’m not out of the room. That’s gonna create tension, or I want to have a gazillion dollars and I’m in debt. That creates tension. Whether that’s a negative tension depends on whether you’re sort of moving appropriately toward what it is that you’re committed to finish or complete in some way that you feel like “I’m on” in terms of where I’m going.

And so that kind of tension in your life actually creates expansion and expression and growth, so you wouldn’t want to get rid of that, but the problem though is that people oftentimes can’t negotiate towards that cleanly and clearly and feel sort of victims of too much because they didn’t – just haven’t gotten control of what it is.

So having a big list and understanding what all you’re committed to, doesn’t suddenly make life seem easy, but you wouldn’t want it that way. But what it does is it makes it negotiable and I think that’s the big key.

RICK KANTOR: Well that brings us to the second question, which people often ask, which is: When I get everything out and on my lists and I think you say that you’ll find that you have something like 70 to 100 projects and 120 next actions. When they get all that out there, they don’t know how to prioritize and I know that Getting Things Done system specifically does not use an A, B, C priority code for instance. So the question that comes to people is: How do I prioritize what’s on my plate?

DAVID ALLEN: Well that’s a big question. As a matter of fact, I’ve just been working on a whole seminar, just simply about managing multiple priorities and it’s a whole day’s worth of information to look at all the different things that we need to look at. It’s not a simple answer. The reason we don’t use A, B and C is that’s too oversimplified a context for how to evaluate your priorities.

You know, as soon as you go to sleep, you just said taking care of the health of your body is more important than anything else in your life, ‘cause you decided to go to sleep instead of have a conversation with your spouse, or work on your strategic plan. So every time you do something different, you’re making a priority decision. The trick is is to feel comfortable that what you decided to do was the appropriate thing.

So understanding how you set priorities, you have to, first of all have the appropriately strategic perspective; where are we going, what are we doing, what’s important to us? That multiple horizons of that, both personally and professionally. But it also requires you to be, what I call, tactically intelligent. You need to say, “Well look, I’m organizing my friend’s wedding, do I have it under control? Have I organized this project, essentially something that has my attention, in some coherent way so I know what to do about that?”

And then, not only do you have strategic perspective called how important is that project, and tactical intelligence called have I thought through that project appropriately? But then you need to have the work flow process set up in your life so that you can maintain a clear focus as you’re going through your day and you can also execute seamlessly. I need to know what’s next on all of these projects, be able to see all of that so: Wow! I’m at phone, I have five minutes. What could I do right now?

If you had a list of every single thing you needed to so that you could do at a phone that would only take five minutes that would come out of all of that thinking, you’d probably pretty much trust what you do. But if you haven’t, if any of that’s missing, pretty hard to trust that your judgment call is what you really need to be doing.

All of that’s to say, there’s a lot of variables and complexity that go into, you know, the criterion that we would use to decide my priorities right now. But it’s just not that simple, like a good simple structure might lead you to believe. So it’s much more complex. So it’s not that we don’t coach or teach priorities. What we do is just make sure that you don’t try to over structure in a false way what your priorities really are and all the different variables that come into play when you have to make a judgment call at any moment about what to do.

MARIAN BATEMAN: That said, if I was brand new and I was listening to that explanation, I might think, “Wow, I don’t know that I could ever understand this.” Or, “It sounds too big or too complex”. What David is describing is actually a natural process that we all do all the time. What we’ve been able to do though in the GTD methodology is really create a very specific structure that allows you to go through that process that he was just describing in a very step-by-step way, so that when you learn this thinking you automatically do that. It just makes it conscious, so you’re moving from unconscious and unaware to conscious and aware about what you do naturally. It’s just not as simple as A, B, C, because we’re not that simple.

DAVID ALLEN: I think a big thing that we coach people on, that takes a big step in making it a lot easier to set priorities is just getting everything out of your head and getting it in front of your face. People aren’t stupid. I mean, if everybody truly looked at a list of every single phone call they needed to make in their life about anything, it probably wouldn’t take anybody longer than 10 seconds to decide which of those calls would give them the highest personal payoff that they made that call, versus some other call on that list.

So I don’t think that we lack the intelligence to be able to make priority decisions, but right to begin with, if you don’t have all the options out in front of you, it makes it a lot tougher to really trust your choices. So a lot of our initial training of people is just to make sure that all the stuff gets out of your head and in some objective format. So that’s gonna move you way forward.

Now that’s not to say that there’s not a lot more sophistication that we all could use to think – what’s our strategy, where are we going, what are the core values in our life, and those are changing because as we all mature our values or our awareness of them changes and matures. So it’s a constantly shifting game out there to get better and better about deciding which of those phone calls is the most important call to make. So it’s not that you just solve all the problems simply by getting them out, but it’s an important laying of the groundwork and that just makes a huge difference, just right there.

RICK KANTOR: Well the third question we have kind of goes in the face of the externalizing process, what you say is getting it out of your head so that you can look at things and that question is, “I feel like the fire hose of reality, that I have everything all planned and in order and then I go into my office and suddenly, I can’t get to my lists, I can’t get to my to-do’s and my projects because I’m interrupted constantly.” What do you do about that?

DAVID ALLEN: Actually you wouldn’t want to get rid of interruptions, because interruptions are oftentimes where the great source or seed of creative, spontaneous, new and really real priorities oftentimes come in the unexpected forms like that.

Very successful senior executives will hardly talk about being interrupted. That’s actually how they manipulate and manage their world is the next thing they don’t expect coming at them on the phone or walking in their door and it’s a great opportunity. That’s why though, those kinds of senior executives will get very pristine about making sure there’s no residue, making sure the deck is clear and making sure they don’t have a lot of things pulling on their psyche, so they are free to give that interruption the attention it deserves. So I guess that’s one way of saying, one of the reasons to implement a good collection, processing and organizing system is so that it allows you a lot more freedom to then engage spontaneously with things coming towards you.

In other words, it’s a lot easier to deal with an interruption if you got a clear deck, then if you got a bunch of backlog that’s pulling on your psyche.

MARIAN BATEMAN: One of the problems, I think, if you don’t have a system like GTD is every time you’re interrupted, you’re trying to re-invent the wheel. So you’re coming back, you’re writing everything down again, you’re literally reinventing your life and your work over and over again. So the beauty about having a system where there is a structure, is that you can literally create a placeholder and move to what is important in the moment and whether your work is at home or whether it’s in the workplace, surprises happen all the time and they’re a part of life. So it gives you the ability to decide in the moment: What’s the best use of your time and energy?

DAVID ALLEN: And Rick, that question of interruption is really – it’s interesting in that it brings to the fore one of the most mundane techniques that we teach, is the most critical for that. Marian just mentioned it and that’s being able to manage placeholders.

In the very simple thing, at the low tech level of having a physical in-basket on your desk and having pads of paper right there, so when you’re working on something, if the phone rings and interrupts you and you decide to pick up that phone instead of whatever you were doing, you just throw what you were doing back into your in-basket, pick up the phone, make sure you’re taking notes on the phone call. When you hang up the phone, somebody walks in your door, interrupts you, take the notes from the phone call, throw them in your in-basket. The person walks in and assuming that you know how to process your in-basket, which is another story and assuming that you actually do process your in-basket so it gets to zero every 24 to 48 hours, which is another story, but if those behaviors are in place, then some part of you, interruptions are just, “Ah! I can handle that – I can handle that – I can handle that – because I’ve got placeholders for them and I can turn and walk free and clear with my psyche not being disturbed by that because I know I can pick those things up where I left off and then deal with them in my own timing.”

If you don’t have a system you trust, every interruption that you know you still need to do something about, tends to have to be handled in the moment it came to you, because you don’t trust your system will hold it for you.

So you know you have to deal with it, but you know you should be doing something else, so then you go deal with the interruption and then you feel frustrated because you know you should be doing something else and the simple technique to know how to grab placeholders for things, truly – and I’m quite serious, just with pieces of paper and a pen and your in-basket, is your salvation.

RICK KANTOR: Well a corollary question and maybe you’ve answered it, but I’ll ask it ‘cause it’s here, is: I know you coach some of the top CEOs in the country and the world and some very senior executives. What behaviors do they perform, what do they do that I don’t do? How are they able to manage multiple companies and the number of priorities and projects they do that I can’t do? Can you tell me what those specific kinds of behaviors or attitudes are? – is the question.

DAVID ALLEN: I know people have probably done more studying rigorously in terms of some of those behaviors that I have then I have. Mine is anecdotal and I certainly read about it and seen it validated from my own experience in working with the senior people that I worked with is that those people have a tendency to make decisions about things on the front end and then park or place the results of that decision making into trusted people and systems.

Oftentimes they’ll just have staff where they can make a decision, hand it off to staff and they’ve got people that they trust and you know, a system that they trust, but they – I think a common denominator is that they don’t allow a lot of non-decision stuff to lie – clog up their psyche, that they’re almost ruthless with how they get stuff off their mind and into the system by making decisions about it and where it needs to go. I mean that tends to be a tendency. That sort of self-management, executive style, where I, something comes in, I make a decision about it sooner than later and then I park that result into some good trusted place so I don’t have to sit there and be chewing about it while somebody else is trying to get my attention and that ability to stay free, no residue, front end decision making I’d say is probably a real – real critical piece of that.

MARIAN BATEMAN: That said, I know that we’ve worked with a lot very, very successful CEOs and you know, C-level people that do not necessarily uh think – they’re terrific at what they do, but they have a lot of stress doing it. Even though you’ve arrived at that level doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s not an art of work that you could benefit from learning.

DAVID ALLEN: I often say, the definition of a successful executive is those who solve bigger problems than they create. But sometimes that equation can be in question, but you know, so there’s many of them still have a big improvement opportunity in terms of how well they do that.

And you know, being organized is not the essence to success. I think following your heart, your intuition, making great judgment calls, being at the right time and place – I don’t know, good karma, whatever it is, there’s a lot of other factors that could be – what one would call success. If you said, maintaining a sustainable relaxed productive life and work style, I would say, that to me is a large format of what I would call successful and those are the kind of behaviors, the kinds that we coach and work with about you know, capturing, clarifying, organizing, you know having good systematic approach, manage the inventory of all of those things and no residue and being ruthless, essentially being seamless and squeaky clean about commitments.

RICK KANTOR: Well I notice in your list of capturing, clarifying, organizing, you stopped before what the next question brings up, which is: Somebody who employs the Getting Things Done system, which specifically talks about every week, having a weekly review so that you’re reviewing what your commitments are in your world. And in your life and this person writes: I don’t seem to be able to accomplish my weekly review every week. Do you have a system or some way that I can get back on track with doing my weekly review?

DAVID ALLEN: You know Rick, that is probably the most common uh – not so much a complaint but the most common frustration for people once they begin to catch how powerful implementing the Getting Things Done methodology is and probably any good system that really sort of relieves the pressure and lets you feel more focused, etcetera. But they require behaviors to maintain them and one of the requirements it that you have to come back and reflect and review on your system and care and feed it and make sure that it stays current.

See a lot of the value of Getting Things Done methodology is being able to offload off your psyche the job of remembering and reminding. In order to do that though, you can’t fool your own mind. It knows whether or not you’ve looked at what you need to look at as often as you need to look at it and if you’re not doing that, that’s not just the weekly review, but if you’re not looking daily at your calendar and you know you need to, then some part of you is gonna be bothered by that all the time.

That’s why I say, you know, you have to train yourself that there are behaviors that you do that then get your mind to stop that sense of, “Gee, I should be thinking, I should be thinking – what should I be thinking about?” A lot of people are thinking about how they need to be thinking about what they need to be thinking about, because they actually don’t finish the exercise and we figured out what you actually can do that finishes that exercise. You need to get the strategic plan off your mind. You need to get your projects off your mind. If you’re not working on them, just being on your mind for the most part is gonna be a distraction. It’s not gonna be a help. But in order to get it off your mind, you’ve got to put it in front of your face, step up to the plate, get current and say, “Where am I about that? Oh, that’s the next step. Oh, I can’t do anything about it ‘til they get back to me. That’s fine. Put it to bed.” And that just won’t happen in your head. Life is much too complex.

So I think you know, it’d be nice if we were born doing those behaviors but we’re not. We have to train ourselves to become much more aware of a) that we have those pressures and tensions and b) that those kinds of reflective and reviewing behaviors are the ones that get rid of it.

MARIAN BATEMAN: There are some ways you can trick yourself too when you’re learning to do a weekly review. I always suggest: marry it with something that you enjoy, so if you like listening to music, if you can create a beautiful environment for yourself, if you know someone else that’s trying to do their weekly review, ask them to buddy up with you. So even the practical things that – it’s like if you’re going to exercise, if you just at least put on the clothes, you’re more likely to go out and do it. So give yourself permission to use those tips and tricks when you’re beginning.

DAVID ALLEN: There’s a funny thing and it’s not just about the weekly review. It’s really about staying on with the system but it applies to this – to the weekly review behavior and habit as well. And that is, if you’re still trusting your mind, not your system, then you won’t be motivated to do it. So one of the best tricks in the world is to truly jump off the end of the pier and put everything in the system so you have to go look at the system to know what to do.

One of our indicators of you being black belt in this martial art of Getting Things Done and the martial art of work is when you have to look at your calls list to know who to call, because it’s not on your mind, but then you have to go look – I’m at a phone, who do I have to call? If your mind has still got that list, you won’t be motivated to go do what you need to do to maintain it. So offloading the job of remembering and reminding to your system and then, you know, enough so that you then start to trust it and then have to trust it, that change in behavior can take a while. So people need to lighten up a little bit and not feel like because I know this is easy to do and I should be doing it – it takes quite a bit of habit change to get to that place.

If you’re at the place where you’re just doing a monthly weekly review, you know, you’re way ahead of the planet. So you just keep going and keep going and just more and more start trusting the system instead of your psyche uh and that will then – the more you do that, then it’ll speed up the process of that sticking.

RICK KANTOR: And I know David, one of the things you’ve shared with me, which I found most helpful in my own weekly review practice was – you’ll probably remember this, you said something about the price I pay if I don’t do the weekly review, how often I’m actually doing it. Can you repeat that?

DAVID ALLEN: Yeah, well the problem is if you’re not really doing a weekly review, you’re doing a weekly review all the time, but you’re never really doing it. You just know you should be and so you’re sort of thinking about what you should be thinking about, what you should be thinking about and you can’t get that monkey off your back until you actually sit down and finish the thinking.

So it’s like if you’re not reviewing any of these things, you’re reviewing them all the time, but not really, not fully doing it. So you’re sort of being a failure all the time at what you know you should be thinking about, the way you should be thinking about it, if you don’t build a systematic approach that gets it done.

RICK KANTOR: Yeah, that was a great incentive to actually do it.

I have a question here about Getting Things Done methodology and personal home life. In your system you don’t differentiate between work place and home to-do’s and action lists. Why is that?

MARIAN BATEMAN: Well your mind doesn’t separate those things. You know, I always say, well, if you’re gonna be woken up at 2:00 o’clock in the morning, you’re mind doesn’t go, “Well I’m so sorry, I won’t wake you up, this is a personal item.” Ha, ha, ha.

So give yourself permission to integrate your life completely and that means usually one system and allow yourself to externalize your thinking for all of your life, not just part of your life.

DAVID ALLEN: We do make distinctions in the system about where you want to be reminded about things. Uh, in other words, I don’t need to be reminded about things to do at home that I can only do at home unless I’m at home, so indeed I don’t want to be having in front of my face all the things I need to do in my life all the time. As a matter of fact, we coach people exactly the opposite. Actually you should only have in front of you only the things you could possibly do right now.

The problem is is that you’re likely to think about something, about any of these things anywhere, so you need a capture capability about any of your life anywhere, because that’s where these things show up and then once you process and organize them, then you need to be reminded of things if you just want to be efficient, where you could potentially do those. You need to be reminded of your errands when you’re going out for errands. You need to be reminded of things to talk to your boss about if they’re sitting in front of you. But if they’re not, get those out of my face. We got enough to deal with.

So we’ve discovered over the years that it’s not about really personal versus professional. It’s just like, look, where can you with the least amount of effort, manage this thought? And what do you need to be reminded of? Like, you don’t need to be reminded of the bill you need to pay at home when you’re at work, as long as you’ve got a system at home, then you just go home and that’s where you do it. But you know, again, so it’s not so much that there’s a system that combines them. Just our systematic approach just says, “Look, where’s the thought, where does that mean, how can you not have that thought more than once and what do you need to be reminded of most efficiently, where do you need to see it?”

MARIAN BATEMAN: Yes, let me clarify that. I wasn’t saying you need to have one system, but just the concept that you’re a whole person not a half person and you can choose your organizational preference. It’s just there’s tremendous value of getting it all out of your head.

One thing I say when we’re coaching is: Would you like to trust 100% or 80%?

DAVID ALLEN: And to Marian’s point, many people are just not used to combining those things in their psyche. I mean, many executives that we coach, their big ah ha is to give themselves permission after we work with them to go home and create a system at home for all the stuff with the same kind of rigor that they set up their professional world, ‘cause a lot of them, their personal life’s kind of gone to hell in a hand basket, because they didn’t focus on their personal life.

Many people have very successful behaviors but they’re not aware of those behaviors, so they can’t translate them to other areas in their life, so you know, many people have successful behaviors at work but they don’t apply those into their personal life. But, as Marian says, we – you know, those behaviors and those things you work with are universal things, so once you catch that then you have the freedom and you probably would want to.

A lot of people get very excited, they go home and create a home office and to manage all their stuff, really because all of those things are as much impinging on them and getting those off their mind is as important as anything as well.

RICK KANTOR: Uh, this next question, the person feels like they have their organizational systems intact, they’ve implemented a lot of the Getting Things Done methodology, but they just don’t ever seem to be able to get to the creative part. They don’t seem to be able to make enough time to be creative or do this strategic planning.  Do you have any coaching on how best to be able to find time for that?

DAVID ALLEN: A lot of the feedback over the years has been even that people start to implement our stuff and really get a good personal tactical system on a daily basis, starting to work the thing and they’ve got their list and their head is pretty clear with the day to day, but their next level would be what you’re talking about. How do I now move up to making sure that I’m looking at 20, 30, 40 thousand foot kinds of things like I’m looking at the other stuff. It’s more subtle.

You know, when we talk about stuff, meaning the things that you have attention on that haven’t been clarified yet and sorted and parked in the appropriate places, uh as you move up the horizons of focus, they get more subtle.

If I say, “How are you doing about health?” You know, “How are you doing about relationships? How are you doing about parenting? How are you doing about your assets?”

People go, “Oh yeah! Oh that’s been bugging me, but I didn’t write it down on a list because it wasn’t that obvious.” And then you know you get up to well, what’s really, really, really important to you? Or where do you really want to be five years from now. You start to think at those levels and its subtler kinds of open loops, if you will. They’re still the same kind of open loops that if you catch the GTD methodology, you would have caught them as soon as you were aware of it. So oftentimes it takes a little maturity and a little sophistication and a little experience with the process to start to recognize those more subtle kinds of things that you would want grab.

Like, “Well I need to be more creative”.

“About what?”

You know and, “Oh yeah, I need more time to plan …”

“Right, so what’s your next action?” So you get down to actually starting to structure real actions and real formats for your creativity, just like anything else.

MARIAN BATEMAN: We also use the term “psychic ram”. In other words, well you only have so much available. And if you feel like you’re drowning in e-mails or those pads of paper around you or the meeting notes, it’s pretty hard to think, “Wow, I’d sure love to plan…” X or Y or Z …“activity.” So one of the approaches that we take is to collect all of that, then to process and organize it, make decisions about all of that. That results in freeing up your creativity, so you have more space internally available to even begin to have those discussions that you want to have.

DAVID ALLEN: I think there’s a personal thing too. I think different people have different personal styles. I know for me, it took a number of years to learn that I need to give myself time at the end of the day to do nothing and wander around with no agenda. That there’s a part of my creative process that ties to that kind of non-activity and non-intentional focus, but I had to focus on that, because it’s very easy for me to get wrapped around my axels just like anybody else and I’ve had to just be aware of that and just so again, another good reason to implement my own stuff. And we do eat our own dog food, you know. It’s like I got to go implement my own GTD so that I can clear my head, so that I truly can just walk around for an hour and not have any agenda, ‘cause that is truly where some of my most creative stuff shows up.


Uh, this is a very common question I get and it has two sides to it. The one side is: I’ve read your book, but I just can’t seem to get started. And the flip side of it is: I seem to have fallen off the wagon.

How do you best coach people on either of those?

MARIAN BATEMAN: So if you’re a beginner, one of the things we recommend is to learn the art of workflow. So there’s a lot of resources out there for you, our website is terrific, there’s free articles, there’s the book, attend a seminar, contact us and we can support you in coaching. All of this is designed to support you in learning the stages of workflow. So you can start small. Collect just the area of your desk. Target a place in your home. Separate out what’s action, what’s reference, and then begin to give yourself the gift of learning this methodology.

For those of you who are more advanced GTD users and you’re feeling like what I call you’re flat lining. In other words, your systems seem like you’re not relating to them anymore. Chances are you may have moved on in your thinking but not given yourself the gift of your own time to really reflect and integrate those – whatever those new ideas are or new directions are into your current systems. So wow – jump start yourself with a weekly review or a mind sweep so you can move in to making that alive for you again.

DAVID ALLEN: I think a key is recognizing if you’re a beginner that you don’t need really any new tools. I think if you’re a beginner a key is recognizing that you don’t need new tools. It’s not some foreign thing like a foreign language or technology that’s unfamiliar. These are familiar things you’re already doing. You probably have some version of an in-basket, you have a mailbox – that’s already an in-basket. And you’re already doing a lot of these behaviors. What our information does is help you format that in such a way where you can get your arms around it, where there’s a real set of things to go do that automatically kind of get you up onto the game and into the game.

You do need to dedicate some time to it, so we would recommend that you know a block of time is a good thing to do to where you sit down and actually get something of our methodology, get a sense of how to get started with it and block out some time to insert yourself into it. It’s kind of like you don’t want to just rearrange just half a kitchen. So sometimes if you really get into this, you’ll want to give yourself enough time, and oftentimes that would be you know, somewhere, at least a half a day where you would want to sit down and dedicate to it. But you can start with, as Marian said, you can start small, you can just start in a small space and start to practice some of these things.

Some of the keys that we’ve come up with, like the Two Minute Rule, any action you can take in two minutes, the first time you see it, you should do it right then. You can start implementing that right now. So it’s not like you have to have the whole thing before you know all these parts can be very useful, just in and of themselves, so becoming familiar with what they are and giving yourself a little bit of time appropriately to insert and start to implement some of that stuff is the way to stick the wedge you know, into the system and start going.

And I would recommend for people who have fallen off, it’s true that oftentimes we’ve just jumped ahead of our system and we need to catch up. So usually that’s time to block out some time as well and just clean up the system, get rid of the old dead work in there and get rid of the musty things that have – should have been marked off a long time ago, reassess whether things should really be on your list or not and catch up. Usually what’s happened is that your head has started to become your system again, not your system. So again, you need to offload, you know, do another really good mindsweep and get the stuff out of your head and then refresh everything almost from scratch. It won’t be from scratch. A lot of them will still be alive and vital, but you just need to become more conscious about it.

RICK KANTOR: This person writes that: I visited your website and I read about your seminar and you mention about horizontal and vertical focus. Can you explain what that means?

DAVID ALLEN: We talk about horizontal focus as being a way to get control and vertical focus as being a way to maintain perspective and those are two critical elements to really managing yourself. I need to make sure that I’m looking at the right thing at the right time and have the right focus at any point in time, you know, whether that’s a meeting or your life, or what I’m doing in my job, whenever I need the right focus. But at the same time, you know, once I have that focus, I also need to, first of all, clear up my life so that I have the ability to focus. If you got 300 e-mails or 3,000 e-mails, yelling at you that you don’t know what they mean, it’s kind of hard to focus appropriately. So the horizontal control is really more about getting control about just all the stuff that’s on our desk, in our life, in our face and knowing how to manage those things and make quick decisions about them tactically, so that we can organize those and that’s our collect, process, organize, you know, kind of procedure where you take incoming and you know how to capture it and you know how to then put it somewhere and then you know how to make decisions about what it means.

What the horizontal doesn’t do is then lift you back up to what’s the strategic plan and what’s important to your life and the various vertical, essentially altitudes that you need to go to. So you really need both perspective and control and sometimes control is the first thing you need to get because it’s hard to have perspective if you’re out of control. So that’s why we tend to focus initially when we work with people on the horizontal piece and then once that’s intact, you have both a clearer head and you also have a better ability to implement the things that you focus on. Then it’s a lot easier to lift up and think about the bigger game and the bigger picture stuff.

MARIAN BATEMAN: Most people experience tremendous relief when they allow themselves to collect everything they have attention on. So imagine just getting all out of your head. So once you’ve got that in front of you, then the part of you that is the executive internally can make decisions on all of that, rather than just reacting to what’s showing up. It’s a very powerful experience.

RICK KANTOR: People don’t find it overwhelming to write all of that down?

MARIAN BATEMAN: Well I often get the question when we’re coaching, it’s like, “Wow! Does everybody have this much stuff?”

And I smile and it’s like, “Yes they do.” It’s amazing the power of the human mind and how much we really can hold internally and I think it’s a very common reaction. People are very surprised how much they’re carrying in their head. So sometimes yes, there’s a sense of – this is amazing, but what’s really empowering about our work and I know that’s a buzz-word out there, but we don’t talk about that a lot in terms of empowerment, but it’s a direct result of learning this work, is you then can engage with each item that you’ve just written down and decide what to do about it.

It’s like, wow – there’s a lot of freedom in saying, “You know, I’m not gonna do this activity.” Or, “Yes, this is what’s important to me.” And it’s very hard to make those decisions if they’re not in front of you, because a lot of it then is unconscious and that to me is what really just is a tremendous energy drain.

DAVID ALLEN: It’s true, it is very overwhelming and if it’s not managed in an appropriate way, the mind cannot deal with it very effectively and that creates numbness. Very simply, if people combine in stacks, reading material they want to read and reading material that should thrown away and reading material that should be filed. If it’s all in the same stack, you’ll be numb to the stack because it’s too complex for the brain to keep having to resort that every time it looks at it, so it just creates a psychological buffer to it. So many people have buffered their lives tremendously because there wasn’t clarify in terms of meaning and context for their commitments about their stuff. So a lot of our methodology helps people clarify what those commitments are, so they’re sorted appropriately, so the brain can relax and refresh itself again, instead of being numbed out to the confusion.

So yes, it seems awesome to begin with, that’s why people have numbed out to it. But kind of the way out is through. You don’t get rid of the pressure by numbing to the pressure. You have to make it more conscious, but then also park it in appropriate places, so then it will relieve the brain’s job of having to constantly keep rethinking it.

RICK KANTOR: Marian, you mentioned freedom in your answer and this last question specifically asked that. It says: I’ve embarked on other time management organization type systems in the past and I feel like they constrained me. Is Getting Things Done system different?

MARIAN BATEMAN: Yes it is different and one of the reasons it’s different, it’s not really about time management. One of the things we address is, well if you have eight hours, it doesn’t magically become nine hours, but what can happen is you again can learn to put that part of you that’s in charge about well what do I really want to do with those eight hours? So learning the GTD methodology enables you to prioritize the most effective use of your time and that results in freedom.

So what our work is about is: Yes, there is a discipline. Let’s be honest here. It’s like the discipline then results in the freedom. The beauty of that though is that there is a structure that you can learn that provides a sense of being relaxed and in control about your work and your life.

DAVID ALLEN: There’s a wonderful quote from Winston Churchill. I won’t do it justice, but something like, “The first 25 years of my life I was after freedom and the second 25 years of my life I was after order, and then finally I discovered that freedom comes the order.”

So there’s a lot of truth to that I think, that you don’t want to constrain yourself, the structure is only there for freedom. As a matter of fact, anytime any of the structures we recommend to people if they’re gonna create any kind of a constraint, then we say, “Stop! That’s enough. We don’t want to create constraint with the form.” But you know again, usually the form is there so that we do have the freedom and like I talk about the line in the center of the road is a structure that people usually don’t complain about because what it does is it gives me the freedom to not have to worry about people driving into me. And so I’m not thinking about the line, so I don’t think about my systems, I’m using my systems. I only think about the system when something is feeling un-free and then I need to shore things up in my system so I get back to the freedom again.

So people often ask, “Well how much of this do I need to implement?”

I say, “Well is your head empty yet?” ‘Cause that’s the coolest place to operate from and if it’s not, there’s probably more you need to do, because if it’s on your mind, it’s probably not getting done and it’s probably not organized appropriately. Your mind is still trying to be your system and it just doesn’t do that nearly as well as a good systematic approach can manage.

MARIAN BATEMAN: Most of the people that we coach or that are introduced to our work through the seminars or the book, I think they are just amazed at the relief and the sense of energy that comes forward, when they get things out of their head. Because they are not used to being aware of how much they’re carrying internally.

RICK KANTOR: So for people out there listening who are reminded by what you’ve said, of the power of it, if you were to give them one next action, something that they could focus on today as they’re listening to this, to bring them some relief or back to the well, what would that be?

MARIAN BATEMAN: Well it sounds like a simple question of course, but it would depend on where you are in your own learning curve with GTD. For those of you who are more advanced it might be giving yourself the gift of a weekly review. It’s like give yourself the gift of your own time. You know, look at your systems again, energize whatever you’ve created so far by collecting again and getting everything out of your head.

For those of you who are just beginning, it might be, wow – give yourself the gift of just learning one part of our work. First separate your reference and action, or just start reading the book, or perhaps it’s just picking one article on the website, but just know that this is an art and like a language it can take some time to learn, but there’s tremendous results if you give yourself that gift.

DAVID ALLEN: I’ll give people a very simple but a very subtle challenge and that is to start to pay attention to what has your attention. There’s a message there, so what’s on your mind, why is it on your mind? If it’s on your mind more than once, that probably means there’s something you’re not being as responsible – that is able to respond about it, as you could or should be. So start to pay attention to what has your attention and then start to, you know grabble with or deal with those things in such a way that it’s starting to move you in a constructive productive way about it and you’ll find that especially implementing the Getting Things Done methodology that once you start to get it out of your head, if it has your attention, start to identify it and then ask yourself the right questions about it, park the things in the appropriate places and then you know stuff tends to move. But I think the first, the first piece is you got to start to realize what is it that does have your attention and as simple as that sounds, it can subtler and subtler.

RICK KANTOR: That’s great. Well thank you for your attention today and for sharing with us, both you Marian and David everything you’ve shared today.

DAVID ALLEN: Our pleasure!


CONCLUSION by Andrew J. Mason: Incredible conversation and more podcasts episodes to come. If you are interested in hearing so many more interviews like this and so many more resources to help you get things done, head on over to, click on GTD Connect and use the coupon code podcast to check out for significant discount.

Well that wraps it up for this episode. And now that you’ve listened to this podcast, what’s your next action?




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What gets in the way of being productive? Fri, 27 May 2016 16:36:25 +0000 Q: What’s the one thing that we do that gets in the way of us being productive?

David Allen: It’s not one thing, but five, all wrapped together: People keep stuff in their head. They don’t decide what they need to do about stuff they know they need to do something about. They don’t organize action reminders and support materials in functional categories. They don’t maintain and review a complete and objective inventory of their commitments. Then they waste energy and burn out, allowing their busy-ness to be driven by what’s latest and loudest, hoping it’s the right thing to do but never feeling the relief that it is.


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Episode #16 – GTD and the Medical Community Wed, 25 May 2016 23:52:05 +0000 This episode features two wonderful doctors and GTD enthusiasts in our GTD community: Dr. Julie Flagg and Dr. Julian Goldman. They join David Allen and Senior Coach Kelly Forrister in a lively and heartfelt discussion about how GTD has helped their stability, clarity, and focus.

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INTRODUCTION BY ANDREW J. MASON: You’re listening to Getting Things Done, the official podcast of the David Allen Company, with today’s conversation between David Allen and Kelly Forrister, chatting with Dr. Julie Flagg and Dr. Julian Goldman.
Welcome to another episode of Getting Things Done, GTD for shorthand. My name’s Andrew J. Mason and this podcast is all about helping you on your journey learning the art of stress-free productivity. Today we have David Allen and Kelly Forrister chatting with Dr. Julie Flagg and Dr. Julian Goldman, two incredible forces for good in the medical community, but first from time to time, we get GTD questions on certain subjects and if we think it’s a question that a lot of people would like the answer to, we’ll go ahead and pose it to David himself and let him answer it for us.
Today we’re asking him, is there ever a time that you look at everything on your lists and don’t feel okay or get overwhelmed. Here’s what David had to say:
DA: You know it’s funny, I don’t get overwhelmed looking at my list. I get overwhelmed when I’m not looking at my list. So the whole purpose of the list is to relieve that pressure, so it’s kind of funny as I think about it, ‘cause the truth is if people are not overwhelmed until they look at their list, I go, “Well they’re just unconscious”, or “They’ve got it on the wrong list, it should be Someday/Maybe.” If you have the commitment but only feel bad when you remember what the commitment is, I kind of don’t get that. I don’t get what that’s about.
For me, looking at the list and knowing that it’s not complete is probably what would create a sense of overwhelm. I think that’s true. If I look at the list and I go, “Oh, I don’t feel good because this is not really all of it”, and there’s more back, and it’s reminding me that I don’t have it all out because I’m looking at my list and my own methodology. I think that’s true and I think for that reason, that’s why some version of the weekly review is what I need to do. Some version of how I do that for myself.
I know there’ve been weeks where I’ve done versions of weekly review almost once or twice a day, simply because things were moving so fast and it was just nuts, or at least I was going nuts if I didn’t sit down and do that.
ANDREW J. MASON: That is awesome. Like we said, today we have Dr. Julie Flagg and Dr. Julian Goldman. The join David Allen and Kelly Forrister in a lively and heartfelt discussion about how GTD has helped their stability, clarity and focus. Now of course, this interview showed up first on GTD Connect, so if you want the latest bleeding edge of all things GDT, head on over to and click on GTD Connect to get started.
And now, here’s David Allen and Kelly Forrister, interviewing Dr. Julie Flagg and Dr. Julian Goldman.
KF: Hi there GTD Connect members, it’s Kelly Forrister. Well I am just thrilled today to bring you another slice of GTD Life. Many of you are familiar with this series, brings inside your fellow GTD practitioners and how they’re managing their GTD system, their world, what inspired them, what’s creative for them and today I invited two special guests. I have Dr. Julie Flagg. Hi there Julie.
DJF: Hi, how are you?
KF: Good. Welcome. And I also have Dr. Julian Goldman. Hi Julian.
DJG: Hi Kelly. Great to be here.
KF: And another special guest we have today is Mr. David Allen. Hi David.
DA: Hi Kelly, hi you guys. We’ve chatted. Delighted to be in conversation with all of you.
KF: Yeah, it’s gonna be great and probably will go something in the order of 30-45 minutes and I would say it probably took longer to coordinate the four schedules than it did to actually have this call, but I’m super excited to do this and before we dive in to our discussion, Julie I want to start with you and have you introduce yourself. You’ve been one of our In Conversation interviewees, as many people know. Wonderful interview. But for those who aren’t familiar with you and just a give a refresh of who you are, kind of work you do and uh what can you say to our members?
DJF: So, first of all, it’s great to be here. I have been a GTD member since uh 2001, when I stumbled on the David’s book and read the book and called and got some coaching and my life was really transformed from that moment on. And since then uh, I’ve been in touch with the GTD group probably several times a year. As a Connect member I log on a couple times a week probably and when I have a question I’ll call uh Kelly or contact Meg or talk to David or call Kam Ross or keep in touch with Kathryn, so it’s a very, very vibrant connection and it’s my background team that almost nobody knows about but it’s very much my working family and so GTD has been absolutely critical. When I try to put a number, I think it probably has increased my productivity, uh probably 25 to 30% from the get-go and that’s been consistent. Uh, it’s improved my sleep probably 100% and in the process I think it has made me a better physician and undoubtedly saved some lives and helped me produce some better work and better home life and more fun and – and uh – still have time for dinner with my 92 year-old mother and have a great partner, life-partner, so I simply couldn’t say enough for it. GTD is the skeleton of my work. There are people in the group that I try and meet up with. There are ideas that I try to talk to people about, so it’s just been – it’s been a really, really, fun thing and the power of picking up a book in the bookstore, probably never more powerful for me.
KF: Wow, what a great story Julie. Thank you.
And Julian, welcome on the line and tell us a little bit about yourself.
DJG: Well thank you and kind of exciting to have David join us. That was a pleasant surprise Kelly. I am an anesthesiologist. I’m a physician at Mass General Hospital in Boston and in addition to my clinical work, I have administrative roles. I’m a medical director of biomedical engineering for our organization at Partners Healthcare and I also run a research program, a federally funded research program that is trying to improve patient safety and innovation by improving the way our medical equipment can communicate, so that we can have the kind of standards in communication in healthcare that we have everywhere else, like in computers and electronics, and so on. So my work life is very diverse from intense clinical care in the operating room, taking care of patients, running around, being too busy to write almost anything down and certainly too busy to be distracted by mundane things that need to be remembered on a different day at a different time, to other days where I’m involved in back-to-back meetings and uh have a heavy travel schedule as well for the kind of work that I do.
And I think that I like the whole idea that has been expressed by David and taught that you know most of us who seek and use GTD methodology are people that you know are really excited and feel fortunate to do the work we do, uh but we want to be even better and more productive and I think it was – I guess probably, when was the book published, Getting – with that subtitle, Art of Stress-free Productivity? Was that 2001?
DA: 2000 – 2001, yeah, it was.
DJG: So I kind of stumbled upon it in an airport and uh I thought, “Gee, that sounds magical! Stress-free productivity.” Of course we’ve all learned a lot since then, but anyway that’s a big of my background and you know, very varied work life and the approach, the methodology and the notion of you know, really doing more and being effective has been very appealing to me and I’ve been grateful to have that education and teaching in my professional and personal life.
KF: Terrific. Thank you. And – and Mr. David Allen, what do you do as your day job these days?
DA: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
KF: What keeps you busy?
DA: You know, I take my puppy out for a walk and I’m designing the global education for taking GTD around the world, you know, in all the different languages that we’re now starting to distribute this and figuring how to leverage the heck out of the goldmine of resources, of Julie and Julian that we have in terms of how they’re applying this and how many other people they’re lives and conditions could be improved learning from them.
So Julie I have to say, you just gave me a fabulous image called me and Kelly and Kathryn and company are now the pit crew.
DJF: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
DA: Ha, ha, ha, for these serious racers out there like you guys. And that’s really, I mean, I got to tell you that just so rang my bell. Believe me, I’m gonna get a lot of mileage out of that. So … ha, ha, ha. That’s enough for me Kelly.
KF: Yeah, that actually is a terrific visual, ‘cause I do get e-mails from you every once in a while Julie and it’s fun, ‘cause you’ll, “Kelly how do you do OmiFo? How do you do this in OmiFocus?” Or, “Kelly, what should I do in this …” and it does feel like you’ve been racing and I can imagine Julian your work style is like this as well or you’re busy, busy, busy and then you kind of pause and I love Julian when you pop up on the forums, ‘cause I think, “Oh good, he’s got some breathing time and he can …
DJG: Ha, ha, ha.
KF: …pop into the forums in the community.” But …
DJG: That’s pretty much it. That’s one way to tell, yep …
KF: Yeah.
DJG: … that’s exactly right.
KF: So what I’d love for this conversation to be framed around, of course it can take any direction it wants, but I thought it would be interesting to hear you both give your spots on the question, how has GTD helped you with stability, clarity and focus? And focus could also be presence or being present, but how – how do you think GTD has helped you in that? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. How has it created stability with super busy, you know, highly successful careers and also give you clarity about the kind of work you’re doing and you’re saving lives and also the focus and the direction that you’re doing. I would love any input you – either one of you have on that. So, Julie, Julian; want to start, whoever?
DJF: I uh, being a very busy OB/GYN uh I sometimes have my days and weeks and years pockmarked by really good events and sometimes really catastrophic events and – and uh – we’re – we’re very much – I can’t wait to talk to Julian offline, because there’s a lot of safety stuff, uh ideas, that appeal to be to talk to him about, but the bottom line is and uh – I – some of my events, I have uh catastrophic events, have occurred after I’ve done my weekly review and some of them I have done, they have occurred when I have not done a weekly review and it is hugely, hugely, hugely, hugely different. Uh if I am – have a clear concept of my projects, uh, and my areas of focus, I really think that way. I visually – I have a visual structure in my mind of my areas of focus. Uh, I am always seeking OmniFocus how to uh – uh set up my projects and next actions and uh – it’s just for me, I honestly do not believe that I could be doing clinical medicine right now without GTD and I think probably in a much less level. I am very much involved in going to electronic medical records in our hospital and in our own practice and those transitions are monumental. They require tremendous focus and concentration, tremendous attention to what do we need to accomplish. Uh, I think very much the weekly review is critical, but also kind of – what can I do with these two minutes? Even the two minutes before the call came through – what can I constructively do in these couple of minutes that I have? What are my projects – uh – and then sort of what were my major goals. You know, I remember when I talked to David In Conversation, one of my major goals was to find another life partner. I mean that was a major goal and just focusing on it and it happened and it’s just hugely important and successful and in my mind, I – I honestly don’t think I could have done it without GTD. I think I just would have scattered and – and sort of fizzled. And – and GTD for me has been – has been sort of the anti-fizzle. Uh, it keeps me focused. I’ve had two very, very busy nights and the third time in my career, I cancelled patients today and I said, “I simply am in no condition to see patients”, and I took a long nap and then just sat at my desk and did my weekly review. And it just gives, it’s just a tool. I notice there are other people out there that are working really, really hard, much harder than I am, uh and it just gives me a lot more flexibility. It just is absolutely essential to my continuing to work and I think I’m gonna work for many years to come. It gives me the framework. It absolutely gives me the framework.
KF: Awesome. I love that phrase, “GTD is the anti-fizzle”, ha, ha.
DA: You know, let me insert here, we were just having a conversation, actually with Todd Henry that I just did, a new In Conversation, so he’s the new one coming out and you know, a lot of what he has said about your energy …
DJF: Yeah.
DA: And he’s brought up a thing about energy that says, “Looking pruning is critical to manage your energy.” You know, the vine keeper prunes the most creative, cool new shoots that are coming out so that the old mature really high production things don’t get subsumed by all the new stuff and other things and stuff like that, so you’re just reinforcing that for me Julian and what a great, ha, ha, ha, I’m sorry – how impactful uh your testimony to that is. Thanks.
KF: Yeah, Julian what would you say about that GTD and stability, clarity, focus, anything around that?
DJG: Yeah, it’s really interesting listening to Julie, it’s stimulating some ideas as well and just the nature of the question. Your question Kelly is a very sophisticated one. You didn’t ask, “Well how did GTD help you remember your shopping list when you’re running around, or keep you from having to you know, not forget things?”
This is – this conversation we’re having now, all of us, is a much more sophisticated conversation. I think for people, for example who understand the value of a retreat. For people who understand the value of meditation, the ability to integrate and then work from a stable base. Uh, that seems to reflect the thinking here.
Um, I think of a lot of our work lives are kind of like, I think of it as skiing and I – boy I haven’t skied in a long time, but when I lived in Colorado I used to do that and you know, when you’re skiing on something, it’s really hard to stop. Basically you can pause at the beginning, you may select your line, you may select what you’re going to do, but once you’re going and it’s dynamic, if you try to stop, that’s when you fall, so you have to have a plan and you have to decide, this is the time for action and there’s another time when I stop and I make my plan for the next action.
In my – in my clinical world in anesthesia, it’s very similar. We see a patient before surgery, we take the time to understand all about their medical history, all about the needs of the surgeon, the peculiarities of their own disease interacting with whatever else is being planned, but then when it’s time to go and it’s time to start the anesthesia and start the surgery, that’s not the time when you stop and change your mind or go back and have another conversation. So there’s a time to pause and a time to plan and a time to go.
KF: Hmm.
DJG: And that’s in a sense what GTD, I find brings to a hectic busy life, because if you get – stuff gets thrown your way and you’re busy, you actually have a parking place for it, you know how to handle it.
I remember years ago, I – we were on a call and uh I asked at the time, I think David was leading the call and I asked uh, you know what do I do on my OR days? I can’t even carry things with me. I can’t carry a notebook. I can’t really process. And of course, he said, “Well you shouldn’t be processing. You shouldn’t even be thinking about what you’re gonna do with that. Just write it on a piece of paper and at the end – throw it in your in-box at the end of the day and you’ll deal with it later on when you’re not busy and – or the end of that day when you’re fatigued.”
So David that was a long time ago, it was great advice and it helps with that separation of having a – and that’s what the weekly review is, it’s that stable base, you know, return, retreat, stabilize and then go like crazy again if you have to. You know that’s kind of the way I think about how GTD brings stability or clarity and focus. It’s in that kind of general model of knowing how to get a stable platform so you could really be productive after that.
DA: You know, I have to – uh thanks Julian, that’s fabulous. I mean what a sophisticated way to reflect back on this stuff. We were just In Conversation today with somebody who said, “You know, when you’re riding a bicycle or you’re trying to sort of dynamically steer and stay on course, the fact that you, when something pops into your mind that might throw you off course, because of its distractibility or attraction, either way, as opposed to staying present with what the course is that you’re on, skiing downhill or in the OR, that the ability to write something down, that then took that distraction off that you could then trust would then put it in the appropriate process is a way to stay on course. And the most, you know, to me that’s I get inspired, get chills on my back, I go, “Yes!” The most mundane is the most sophisticated in terms of what we’re doing and what you guys are doing. So that’s a great frame of that and actually example of that, Julian, thanks.
KF: David I’m curious too in your thoughts, how do people know when they need to, when things are unstable when they are unclear and need more clarity or they’re out of focus, what are the signs that people need to go back and do more work at those three levels?
DA: They have stuff on their mind other than what they’re doing.
KF: Hmm.
DJG: Hmm, it’s funny you say that …
DJF: It’s almost like a palpable sensation.
DJG: Um hm.
DJG: It’s like a physical sensation that this does not seem right and I shouldn’t be continuing. I have to stop.
DJG: Yeah, I do that at the beginning. For example, my OR days start quite early of course, that’s the way surgery works, but I’ll still take 15 minutes and uh look at my calendar at home, before I go to work, look at my calendar, think about what my day is like, think about what do I have to address immediately that may slip through the cracks. Do I have to delegate some – something that’s really critical, or perhaps send a pre-emptive e-mail and let someone know they won’t be able to reach me today because I’m busy clinically and it’ll have to wait or who they could contact and by just partitioning things that way and planning accordingly and by having an up to date calendar, which I depend completely on my calendar being, you know, comprehensive and up to date, it changes how I could face the day. Now I can focus and put all of my attention, uh to where it needs to be, which of course is to take care of my patients.
DA: Well you guys are helping frame much more sophisticated sense of Gestalt of how we manage ourselves and our energy because in the old days, you know, yesterday and back …
KF: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
DA: … you know, people would go and surgeons would go and believe you know, physicians who have that kind of drive, are gonna say, “That’s not life critical right now, forget it.” Or, “Maybe somebody will handle it, maybe something will show up and maybe it might be a part of later on, but it’s not the most important thing right now”, and then ignore that and then drop it out of their consciousness, or drop it out of their psyche at that point and then they get whipped back on the back end by that not being handled. And – and that, you know – it’s – it’s almost like understanding the whole Gestalt has to be handled immediately. You can’t, you know, if you’re jumped by four people in a dark alley, you can’t forget that there’s a fifth, and sixth person waiting in that other street, ready to jump you when you handle these four. You know, they are included in that situational awareness. So building a situational awareness and the things that then sensitize that so you know Julian and Julie you guys are absolutely fabulous demonstrations of the difference of taking that sort of responsibility to be accountable for the non-urgent critical – life-critical things in the moment that then if I don’t handle that will then distract me from my ability to handle those ongoing.
DJF: Well I think it’s that capacity that when you’re with your patient – I was with a resident, she said, “Oh it’s …” this kind of a night or that kind of a night.
And I said, “No, this is – we are with this patient right now and this is all that we are. There is nothing more. It doesn’t matter. We aren’t gonna make – she’s gonna get – at the end of the day, she’s gonna get the very best possible outcome.” And – and absolutely GTD enables me to go and I can have four patients that I’m dealing with, but when I’m with that patient, it absolutely lets me just drill right down to, “I am here for you.” That’s all that matters and that is – it just makes me at peace.
DJG: You know it’s interesting you say that Julie and I – I think there are two parts to this, in that there’s a way of thinking about things, in other words there’s a way of thinking and recognizing that one has to be focused on the issue at hand to do a good job. So that’s one aspect. And the other aspect is if you do have everything managed in terms of your information and reminders, it allows you to then practice that focus. And I have to say that certainly, uh – some of – managing all the bits and pieces of my life is an ideal. It’s an ongoing challenge to get to the place where I want to be. At the end of the day in the OR, or whatever else I might be doing, you know, getting home in the evening and having several hundred e-mails to process, I can’t necessarily do that and I certainly have things that slip through the cracks. However, so there’s that data part, but then there’s the – the general model of how to handle something and a problem and understanding – knowing that appropriate focus – or it gets focus that matches the need is to me, seems to be an essential part of the GTD approach to – to handling tasks and projects.
DJF: And actually developing tools that make it happen.
DJG: Yes.
DJF: What do you absolutely have to have? So she said, “Well how do you keep it?”
And I said, “Well here. And we’re totally electronic, but for the mission critical stuff, I still have a small white sheet of paper for each patient that’s got the scoop, because …”
DJG: Me too, same thing.
DJF: I have – I have – “I keep it very close to myself and I do not let anybody else see it, but I have to know that it’s there. And when I sign out the next morning, I can go, ding, ding, ding, ding, and …”
And she said, “Oh, that’s how you do it.” And so while we’re very electronic and very, very savvy, there’s still parts of me that there’s still 3 x 5 cards in my pocket.
DA: Well.
DJF: And I still have the note taker wallet in my back pocket.
DA: Well you …
DJF: You have to have that scoop.
DA: You know Julie, a lot of what I’m doing and we’re doing now to sort of reframe in a much larger scope and I – I think more critical scoping of GTD is creating the right maps.
DJF: Yeah.
DA: What map do you need to orient yourself, so you have your map to orient yourself for that patient? There’s in you pocket. You don’t use the map all the time. You don’t look at your GPS while you’re driving, you’d run into something, but it’s gotta be there and so you need to have that there. So I think that concept of ‘what do I need to do to make sure I’ve captured the appropriate data, clarified and processed it, so that then I can have the display I need where I need it, whether that’s a dashboard in your car or the dashboard you’re walking into doing your rounds. You know – that’s – it’s such a brilliant idea. I mean I keep thinking about Atul Gawande, who is a GTDer by the way.
DJF: Oh, I know, aw.
DA: The whole idea of what map do you need in the OR when you’re taking out of a heart or you’re doing whatever.
DJG: Well we’re doing – you know, interestingly enough we’re – in – in my research lab, we’re working on, on context sensitive check lists that update dynamically.
DJF: Yeah.
DJG: Because it’s the same idea. I mean, if I can, I’ll ask – I’m gonna play Kelly for a minute and ask you a question Julie. On those – on your index cards or on your paper …
DJF: Yeah.
DJG: … you know, I’m assuming that you don’t write everything down about the patient, you just write down those things that you might forget and …
DJF: What we did is when we went to our electronic medical record at the hospital two years ago, before then we had our paper system and we basically did not, you know, maybe one in ten thousand times we would forget a blood clot or something, but – and then when we went to electronic, we went down to pretty much one in one hundred errors, very, very frightening time. So then I started to have a hidden paper sheet and then I started to tape my check-list to the white board in the OR and uh so – and it became a useful tool.
But it is in part to make sure that we don’t forget to get an informed consent, that we don’t forget that she has a clotting problem, that we don’t forget she’s HIV positive and …
DJG: So it takes it off your mind. I think that – what I was aiming at is I think is that the idea is you write things down to make sure they’re not on your mind because they’re on the paper.
DJF: Right. I do not want to be thinking, “Did I get – do I – do I have a blood clot here?” when I’m in up to my elbows in blood. I – I just – I can’t – I can’t do that. Um, I – I have to have everything – I – if I’m gonna be able to say at the end of the day, “I got the best possible result”, I cannot be worrying you know, do I have a blood clot? I just can’t so that’s where we developed this hybrid system and I probably will go to my grave with a 3 x 5 card in my pocket …
KF: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
DJG: Yeah, we all go …
DJF: Because you never know when you’re gonna need it.
DJG: So David, how – how do you envision the – the notion of contextually relevant data is something that uh, you know a lot of people are thinking about, especially health care, but in many areas of course, and we’ve been working on that as a – as a way for example to, you know, why have a check list that tell you, for example, um, to check the patient’s allergies, if you’ve already checked the patient’s allergies and the electronic system knows that it’s been done? Or why have the check list remind you to get informed consent from the patient, if it’s already been done and it’s documented electronically? So why waste, you know, everyone’s time with steps that are unnecessary because they’re already documented somewhere?
DA: Yeah, yeah …
DJG: So how – how are you thinking about that?
DA: Well Julian actually it’s a great question and these are – this is really um, sort of framing the new frontier, because uh – to Julie’s point and Julie I hadn’t heard that before but as soon as you start to go to “Let’s trust the system to do this”, because the system is not nearly as sophisticated as all the variables and subtleties that we don’t really realize are involved in our decision making and critical decision making that – that you can’t trust that system to be able to make that decision for you.
So – the – the two ways to answer that. One is um, I highly distrust contextural stuff simply because of all those variables. You know, some of the early uh stuff they’re doing right now to say, “Well when I get home, show me all the home calls I need to make or show me all the things.” Yeah, but come on, that’s a pretty arbitrary way to try to describe the different categories. You know, I’m sure there’s lots of ways in your context that that would get much more subtle and much more critical that says, “Wait a minute! I still need to know this, even though I’ve checked that off, that’s still something I personally want to know about …” x, y and z. And so …
DJF: I think – especially with electronically you say, “Well electronically we check it, but we have to be really honest with ourselves.” There’s a lot of stuff that’s done electronically that’s frankly not done. It’s checked off, so you know, we’re in this horrible transition period, but we have – you know, we have to be completely effective and truthful and so …
DA: Well …
DJF: … we have to know it’s there.
DJG: That’s my experience too.
KF: And it seems like the theme here too is um, systems are great and of course check lists and getting all that documented, but don’t check your intuition at the door. I would imagine Julie and Julian, you both call on your …
DJG: I like that Kelly.
KF: … intuition quite a bit. Yes?
DJG: That’s great. You hit the nail on the head.
KF: Yeah.
DJG: It can’t be taken away. Exactly.
DA: The key is – what do you need to do to get this off my mind, so I can be present with what I’m challenged to do? So you know, all of you have been speaking to that point, you know and that’s the sort of underlying principle, the GTD principle that says, “Wait a minute! If it’s on your mind, aside from developmental constructive thinking about it, it’s on your mind called – oh that’s a distraction.” And the worst part of it is the subliminal stuff on your mind because it’s not on your conscious mind but you didn’t handle it consciously when it showed up and is still there resident internally and then sucking wind out of your sails when you’re trying to do your top work, so that’s the martial art of all of this and to be able to say, “What is it that’s on my mind when I walk into this person, and when I do my rounds, what do I want to know, what do I want to see?” And I think that’s a very individual call. I don’t see anybody being able to really template that yet, other than how do we build a template that just sort of a template that manages your own template?
DJF: Yeah, it’s just such a very – even since I was a resident, I had templates in my clipboard that I was sort of always evolving and I feel like – I feel the templates on my clipboard, out on a clipboard, I’m still sort of looking for that magic. You know this is really gonna hit the nail on the head, uh to get it just right, so that we can do superb, superb work.
KF: Well Julie – consolation Julie for you on your index cards, one of my favorites uh tools that sits on my desk is actually a stack of index cards and I’ve all my systems and they’re pristine most of the time and all my projects and all my lists and even this morning I was just starting to feel like the wheels on the bus were wobbling a bit with just how much is on my plate at the moment and I pulled out one of my cards and I wrote my punch list, “Here’s what has to happen today. Here’s what has to happen this week.” And it was really just my little mini 3-1/2 x 5 card map that I had next to me and immediately I calmed down, I went – got it. It’s – I’m covered. So even those of us that are super electronic nerds as myself …
DJG: Um hm.
KF: … those cards are just – there’s something about being able to create that kind of ad hoc map as David calls it, just right on the fly, “Show me what I need to know.”
DJG: And Kelly it’s funny you brought up the – you just partitioned something into “It has to happen today – it has to happen this week”, and I – way back when, I guess around 2001, where we started this – this journey, uh, I – I – I really was frustrated at how difficult it was to use a regular electronic device or calendar to put something in that kind of parking spot. It’s either for the week – you know, any time this week is okay, but is has to get done this week, and I think back then what I used were post-it notes on plastic dividers and a loose leaf and so one of them was for the week and one of them was for the day and I could move things back and forth and uh – it’s – it’s funny how hard it is to – to make that happen electronically.
KF: Um hm.
DJG: And uh …
KF: Yeah.
DJG: Yeah, a simple thing like that and yet, that’s how we really work and live and – and the electronic tools don’t map very well. I’m pretty comfortable with these different tools. I think I’ve tried, I – I don’t know, probably 80 or 90% of any product that’s been discussed, at least if it’s Mac compatible or web based, I probably tried it. If it’s discussed on the forums or elsewhere and … I’m still a little frustrated.
DA: Well to validate all of you guys, you know, several of the serious GTDers that I’ve come across fairly recently, you know, what they do is the night before or early in the morning just glance through all their systems and take a 3 x 5 card and say, “Okay, if I get any windows today, here are the three or four things I need to handle”, and they – they really go at a low tech to be able to make that work. You were working technologically – I understand that, so I think that can be supported and supported in spades technologically once you get what this is about. So …
DJG: Um hm.
DA: … it’s coming but no promises how soon.
DJG: Well the problem David is that I – I have to stop using an index card for my daily list because I can’t read my handwriting. Only a pharmacist can read it.
KF: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
DJF: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
DA: Got it.
DJG: Yeah, yeah.
DJF: There’s another secret that you have talked about that’s a really cool in terms of just getting things done, ‘cause alternately you know that’s the part – big part of the beauty of your system is just do that bitchin’ thing that you don’t want to do and do it first thing in the morning.
DA: Ha, ha, ha, ha. Yeah.
DJF: Now I will give you one of the things that torments physicians is that we’re required to be board recertified and you’ll get this e-mail that says, “In three days, if you do not do this, it’s going – you’re going to implode and your – your license will be taken …” You just have this horrible sense that the license will be taken. It’s obviously ridiculous, but you know you’re in for a couple of hours of talking to this lady in Dallas about what you need to do. But because of David like I have this funny – I just took off. I said, “Dammit, I’m gonna do this!” And so the first thing I did and it kind of gave me this boost all day long and so it was this goofy thing, but you – somehow in your litany of advice you said, “Do the thing that’s just got that thorn in your side that’s driving you crazy, do it first thing in the morning and you get this sort of lift all day long” which is very nice. It’s like a bonus, it’s a GTD bonus and that’s a nice little thing.
KF: Ha, ha, ha.
DA: And let me graduate that Julie, thank you, and I – me too. I mean I’m talking to myself when I say all that ‘cause I have to deal with the same thing. It’s really about: I need clear space. And I think you know, a lot of my message going forward for the rest of the years of my life, I’m sure, was gonna be, “Come on folks, clear space is where you want to get to, because that gives you the ability to be present for the meaningful things in your life.” So what’s most in the way of clear space? The thorniest things. Right? The things that are distracting and pulling on you and every time I do this I’m going, “Yeah but, oh my God, I should be …” You know, it’s quieting that noise is the critical factor.
DJG: Well David, if I may say that I think in a sense your emphasizing the roots of your work. That’s full circle back to the beginning which is as I’ve heard you say many times, the reason you focus on – on the runway is to allow people to move to the higher level.
DA: Yeah.
DJG: And I think you know that’s – and in a sense that’s what we’ve been talking about during this – this whole conversation.
DA: Exactly.
DJG: Using examples of that.
DA: And you guys are such brilliant examples of your operating from a higher space and you know that. You look around your colleagues, you know you can probably, you know, I’ll – I’ll tell you ‘cause you probably won’t self profess it, but I’ll bet you know, you’re standing out in the crowd.
DJG: In a good way or a bad way, when you say – you know?
DJF: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
DA: A good way to keep assessing your capabilities and attraction and a bad way to all the people around you that – that you then become the result of them having to then manage themselves.
DJG: You see in our profession we’re all used to left-handed complements, we have to be careful.
DJF: Ha, ha, ha. Well with that list, you keep coming back and it drives ‘em nuts, ‘cause you know you remember ‘cause it’s on – it’s on – that accountability list that we all – it all ultimately to be effective, which is what Julian said was, you know, you have to do what you say you’re gonna do and you really need the list to remember what on earth it was you said that you were gonna do last Friday night uh just before you went to sleep. And if you don’t have it written down, you aren’t gonna remember what you said to that person that you love so much and you thought it was related to travel, but you have no idea if it was.
KF: Ha, ha, ha, ha. Um …
DJG: But it’s like in a sense Kelly, if I can share a thought which is – we have it a little bit easier than some people do in terms of prioritizing what we have to get done. When – I – I think and of course I don’t want to speak for Julie, but I’ll give it a try and then Julie, just correct me, but – I – I think we – you know all of us who care for patients make that our priority, when that’s – if it – if there’s a list of things to do, a list of things to focus on or be concerned about, that always becomes number one, so in a sense, it’s almost like cheating. You know our prioritizing – our number one item is the easiest thing we do. Now the rest of the stuff can be a little more difficult. Uh, but at least we have one area where we can easily, you know, it bubbles to the top all the time.
Now that’s a double edged sword, because it’s – it’s easy to – if we didn’t have uh a good system and a methodology it would be easy to lose those other things to that highest priority all the time.
So Julie do you – does that – is that similar or I’m …
DJF: I have always actually thought that in fact being in medicine that is a huge simplifier. I don’t know how people don’t work in medicine. And I think that I absolutely agree. It’s – it’s we are spoiled.
DJG: Yeah.
DJF: We wake up in the middle of the – I – I wake up, they tell me where to go, I go, I smile, I do my work, I do my operations and – and then I go to the next thing that’s on my list. So it’s actually – it’s wonderful. I – I feel I know that I could not do anything else. And I feel really, really, really fortunate and honestly if it were not for GTD, the rest of my life would be a shambles …
DA: You know guys …
DJG: … unequivocally.
DA: I probably told this story somewhere before but you know an old client and friend of mine Erich Rose, who you know ran surgery at Columbia Presbyterian, I think he’s still there and he said, I had dinner with him in New York and he said, “You know David, uh transplanting hearts …” and he was the first guy to transplant a – a – a kid’s heart successfully, he said, “transplanting hearts – that’s easy.” Ha, ha, ha. “That’s no big deal, but now I’m responsible for integrating a surgical department from New Jersey, the hospital that we just bought ….” Or whatever, he said, “I have no idea what to do about any of that.” He said, “Can you just get me the OR?” Ha, ha, ha.
KF: Ha, ha, ha.
DJG: Yeah, that rings true. But uh you know, it’s an interesting way we look at life, I suppose.
KF: Well guys, we’re coming to our end here. As much as I have loved this conversation and I would love to hear some final words from all of you on your focus and what’s coming – what’s on the horizon for you that’s fun, exciting, creative, in any – inspiring for you in your work or personal life, what’s – what’s your focus? Julian what would you say to that?
DA: Uh, I’m gonna hijack this Kelly for a second. Because I’m gonna challenge uh both of you, of something and just gonna ask a favor of you.
DJG: I knew there would be a test. I knew it!
DA: There is a test. If you didn’t have stability and uh clarity and focus that GTD gave you, what’s the price you pay? Because you know, we’re – we’re going out to a much larger world right now and there are a lot of people that think our stuff is really about getting lists and corporate and you know whatever, but when you really get down to, wait a minute, what’s the improvement of the conversation – what’s the improvement of your conversation with yourself and if you didn’t do this, what’s the price you’ll pay? So it may be a tough question in a short period, but I – I couldn’t resist tossing because of what you guys have contributed so far.
DJF: Julian you go first.
DA: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
DJG: I was gonna say, Julie you go first. Okay, I’ll go. Uh, David it’s a great question. Uh, so I in all modesty I’m a little uncomfortable saying just the number of active projects I have that are work-related. I’m – I have a large uh research lab that’s uh – had the opportunity to positively influence health care policy and health care technology and I’m also building out some other – other things within the hospital and have – I wear other hats that relate to uh standards development for medical equipment internationally and my point in mentioning these things is just how diverse they are and I’ve a lot of balls in the air and it’s pretty hard to keep them all up at the same time and manage them and certainly they do drop and I can’t always keep them going, but what gets me out of bed every morning and what gets me excited is the fact that in all the areas of my professional life, these activities are synergistic. The technology, the patient care, health care policy, whatever they are, they’re all synergistic and I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to do what I do and I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have an approach that would let me – and to the best of my ability, manage what I’m doing for the sake of – of the best possible outcomes uh to influence health care in a positive way.
So I – without it – without – without it – I would just be confused all day long. I’d be trying to remember things, trying to continue to forget things and I – I still do. I’m so far from perfect, I’m almost embarrassed to say that I’m modestly successful in some of these things, but I know how pitiful I would be if I didn’t have the approach that I use, and also the help. I, you know, Julie mentioned the help she gets and I’ve had coaching with uh Julie Ireland and it’s been, you know, magnificently helpful to me. So uh, I just basically wouldn’t be nearly as effective as I am, even though I’m still not as effective as I wish I could be.
DA: Wow, thanks.
KF: Julie, you’re up.
DJF: Yeah, I think that for me, it’s really – it’s everything. I have uh I have kind of envisioned that for the last sort of 30 or 40% of my career that I would be just safety oriented in OB/GYN, that would be my main focus and then the computer systems came in and – and then I realized that I was gonna be much more involved in the IT aspects of safety and so I really had to modify what I was gonna be doing. It wasn’t gonna be how quickly can I deliver a baby, uh but you know how was I gonna incorporate the – the computer and really make as fine a medical record as I made way back in 1987, uh that we could make as really superb medical record. So I had – because of the areas of focus, I had to kind of like shift my – that area of focus from pure safety to – I had to modify it and so GTD let me modify it.
Um, with my personal life, just staying committed to rowing every day, to you know, taking care of my mother so then I can just go quickly and go see her uh before this evening and then – but on the way I could pick up my trousers at the dry cleaner so that I could get everything done in a seamless way – it’s really helped me to get it all done and – and not be crazy.
I see so many people leaving medicine because of the changes because they haven’t been able to adapt and they just go, “Forget it!” And I’m seeing great, great, great clinicians leaving medicine and I so miss them. These are superb people but they just didn’t want to make that adaptation and I think honestly that with GTD it kind of makes you say, “Oh you can do this. You know, just take it down into a little bite. You know, call up somebody, get some tutoring. You know, meet them next Friday, you can figure this out. There’s just really this one problem that’s really bugging you.” And so to me that’s what the beauty of GTD is, is that it makes you go, oh this is a big project, but my daddy was a builder. You know he used to take us when we were very little to look at the George Washington bridge and he said, “This is just a million little steps that made this beautiful bridge”, and I think that GTD kind of goes, it really is just a matter of picking up your trousers so that you can go to the meeting after work tomorrow, so you’d have something to wear and you’re not worried about – are you gonna have clean trousers tomorrow.
DA: This is mission critical stuff absolutely.
DJF: Mission critical, so to me, GTD it makes me and it was very important for me to find a partner and I found this most incredible person in the world and it’s just such an amazing thing and I honestly think that without GTD – I – I honestly think that – this – you know, I decided this was damned important and so I made it happen. And – and I just benefit from that every single time. So I feel like it’s kept me – it’s kept my world really fun. It’s let me tend to the other stuff and by God, I’ll have clean trousers for this thing after work tomorrow and you know, and then I get to talk to people like you guys – just unbelievable. It’s an unbelievable thing.
DA: Thanks guys.
KF: Great stuff. I’m so appreciative of all of you for doing this, because it was just such a great, rich conversation. I love the different analogies that – Julian I love the – the image of the skier, it was really interesting just picturing a skier and the elegance of that and you have times where you stop, or in my case you fall, and you just – it’s a really interesting analogy. Yeah.
And Julie, you just make me laugh. You’re just such a delight and I welcome your e-mails and thank you – I’m so glad to be considered your pit-crew, and Julian you can ask the same of us as well.
DJG: I certainly will.
DJF: I will just tell you one other thing, meaning Julian. I had this anesthesia idea and now after this conversation, I know I can call him and …
DJG: Oh yes, we started e-mailing each other right before the call too. It’s kind of cool. It’s good to be chatting.
DJF: Yeah, so it’s been wonderful connections and that’s another richness that is – it’s simply fabulous and I can’t thank you guys enough. That’s really what I would say.
KF: Awesome.
DJG: Indeed. Thank you, I’d like to express my thanks as well and Kelly boy you work, you’re flat out always pulling the community together, answering questions, giving it your all. It’s not unnoticed, very appreciated and David, uh – you’re still expanding the thinking and revisiting and refining which is, you know, is exciting. I’m really eager to see what else you have to bring us.
DA: And your Formula One racers are what keep me in the pit. You know.
DJF: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
DJG: Ha, ha, ha.
DA: Good work.
DJF: Okay, we send our love. You guys are awesome. Thank you.
KF: Thank you all. Alright. Take good care.
DJF: Bye, bye, be safe.
DJG: Bye, bye.
DJF: Bye, bye.
CONCLUSION BY ANDREW J. MASON: Love that conversation. If you’re interested in experiencing so many more resources and interviews like this, head on over to GettingThingsDone/podcast and click on GTD Connect. Well if you’ve enjoyed this episode, there’s no better complement you could give us than a review and rating in ITunes. We have some awesome episodes in the works. We can’t wait to share them with you, but now that you’ve listened to this podcast, what’s your next action?

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