Handling "emergencies" with GTD

Dear David Allen: When you have a system and you have

focus appropriately. Probably 95% of my usage of my own system is to allow me to feel comfortable with a change of plans.

You want to keep your backlog of unprocessed stuff at a minimum, and an inventory of all possible actions close at hand, so you can optimally deal with surprise.

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  1. Often I find myself in days-long “emergency” mode, where just about everything coming at me is unexpected and needs to be dealt with “right now.” That’s a signal to me that I need to revisit and rebalance my project lists. If I’m taken by surprise too often, then I’m not keeping my plan in alignment with my life’s current reality.

  2. It seems that this question has been popping up for my clients too. It’s about being able to trust that you have a list of items that need to get done, being able to be adaptable to the situation. If you have to handle an emergency, and you do have other agenda items on your list that are to get done that day – you may be able to renegotiate their deadline or delegate it to someone else to take care of.

    The problem that I often see is that people are always in crisis mode. Even in a hospital emergency room, there’s a process to handle life critical situations and assess the not-so-critical ones and defer them until the life critical situation has been handled.

  3. The way I think about it is that using a trusted GTD system lets me actually deal with things that are really emergencies. There will always be unexpected things that you cannot account for in your system – that’s OK! But the task of GTD is to get all of the things we do know about in control so that there are fewer emergencies; if you don’t have a complete inventory of your commitments, than everything always feels like an emergency (or things that weren’t emergencies become emergencies).

  4. SO many of the “right now” “urgent deadline” emergencies are not really that at all. Many times its passed along by others who have created an emergency for YOU by not planning their own stuff.

  5. I think that planning for emergencies is very important. I have noticed that in business there are times where things won’t work out and having a system that enables you to plan for this is super important.

    Thanks for the post.

    Happy Thanksgiving


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