You are in control when you can see it all

Date: Monday, June 14, 2010 by GTD Times Staff

No matter what level or field we find ourselves on, whether it is the corporate/professional aspect or our personal/home life, we set priorities and act on what we think is important. We could call that “simplifying” our lives. And by that we do not mean lowering our standards, but rather focusing on the ones that are most important to us.

This same world view somehow seems to be plagued with jargon about priorities: how to set them, how to classify them, and how to sort them out. It claims to give us a sense that we are somehow in control. Several of my clients are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of the stuff they have to process and even more so as their resources to make the things they need to make happen get reduced, sometimes to the point of scarcity. So their question is “how do I set my priorities in any given day, so I know I am not wasting my time? So I know I am doing the right thing?”  The underlying question may well be, “How do I know that I am in control, so that what I am doing is the most relevant; the one that adds the most value?”
No one really knows what the best choice is until everything that is really “on his or her plate” can be seen accurately. Our suggestion is that you work from a complete life-list, where the inventories of everything you need to do, have agreed to do, be responsible for, would love in your life, are waiting for, etc. is listed and reviewed regularly. When that happens, you can rest assured that any decision you make regarding what you do is the best possible decision you can make.

That is because you really have got all the elements at play and the good feeling you will have about a particular choice, that excludes other actions that could also be acted upon, will come from knowing exactly what your choices are.

“You have more to do than you can possibly do. You just need to feel good about your choices.” David Allen

In the Getting Things Done seminar, we go over a model for choosing actions in the moment, based on 4 criteria: Context, Time Available, Energy Available, and Priority. Context refers to the location and setting you’re in. Are you in the location where the action can happen; do you have the tools you need: office, home, phone, computer, etc. The time available will determine what kind of work you’re willing and able to do. If you have 5 minutes or 2 hours, time will affect your choices. The third criterion is your energy level. How much energy do you have? There are times when you’re fresh and ready for clients, and other times when you’re toast and it’s best to purge the files, water the plants and/or fill your stapler… And finally, after you’ve considered your context, time and energy, now you can ask, “What’s the best thing for me to be doing?” (This info can be found in more detail in David’s book,  Getting Things Done, Chapter 9, “Doing: Making the Best Action Choices.”)

“Every decision to act is an intuitive one. The challenge is to migrate from hoping it’s the right choice to trusting it’s the right choice.” David Allen

David Allen has said it more than once, “You can only feel good about what you are not doing, when you know what you are not doing.” It is important then to keep collecting, processing and organizing information, so that the system you review periodically earns your trust.  Paradoxically, your outer environment will still do what it does, regardless of your efforts to make it do something “better.” Creating a system that captures the “whims” of the outer environment does and will help you do the best you can with what you’ve got. Thus it is called “controlling” your inner environment.

Ana Maria Gonzalez is responsible for comprehensive planning and management of the international expansion strategy for the David Allen Company.  Ana Maria has more than 10 years of experience as executive coach and trilingual management development trainer with The David Allen Company.

2 Responses to “You are in control when you can see it all”

  1. Jonathan says:

    Great article with a timely message! Thank you!

  2. leansim says:

    One of the pillars of Lean Manufacturing is to make things visible. Once things are known, problems reveal themselves. Just like in GTD, priorities are easier to establish when everything is visible. Great post!

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