Episode #24 – Making It All Work

Feeling overwhelmed?  This talk from David Allen is a wonderful overview of the keys to control & perspective. Includes participant Q&A at the end.


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ANDREW MASON: You’re listening to Getting Things Done, the official podcast of the David Allen Company, with our featured presentation from David Allen on Making it all Work.

Welcome everyone to Getting Things Done, GTD for shorthand. My name is Andrew James Mason, and this podcast is all about helping you on your journey, practicing the art of stress-free productivity.

Today we have an awesome presentation of the perspective and control model in David’s third book, Making It All Work.

I’ve got a question for you: What’s the best state of mind to be in when that surprise hits you that you weren’t expecting? I just read a great Tweet from David’s Twitter account a few minutes ago that sets the whole conversation up really well. He’s at GTDguy by the way if you’re interested. He says, “Great cooks and gardeners invest heavily in prepping clean-up for sustainable creativity. Masters of the art of work do the same.”

From the archives, here’s David Allen, sharing about Making it All Work:

DAVID ALLEN: Here’s the issue that people ask me all the time: What’s new these days, David – what’s different, what’s up, the technology and all these things and all the stress?

My simple answer is: There’s nothing new except how frequently everything is. Folks, in the last 72 hours, I’ll bet everybody in this room has gotten more change producing, project creating and priority shifting information than your parents got in a month; some of them in a year. That’s what’s new.

Now that change of new meaningful things coming into somebody’s life where they have to reassess, recalibrate, blow it all up and resettle happens so seldom relatively speaking for your parents they just tolerated it.

Folks do you understand we are living in a – as a matter of fact, it is piling up while I’m speaking. Just thought I’d remind you. Now you can relate to that in a couple of ways. Same events, but how do we then deal with change and surprise? And to me that’s a lot of what our competitive edge is, how well you can deal with that. Now the basic logic of GTD and I’m preaching to the choir here – that’s wonderful to have a choir of this many people, so – this is preaching to the choir.

Basically, the optimal state to deal with anything is, and whether that’s just quality time with your kids, writing a new rock song, going to the North Pole, cooking dinner for friends, is a relaxed, focused and in control kind of state to be in and there is actually a systematic way to get there in case you’re not there. It’s not something you just believe and hope it happens, that is something that you can’t actually – through a workable process that actually gets you there.

Of course the idea is, and I grab this from the martial arts, this concept of mind like water, you know Grasshopper. What does that mean? Well you toss stuff into water, what happens? It responds totally appropriate to the input. It doesn’t overreact, it doesn’t under-react, it’s a total response to the input; back to calm and balance, getting ready for the next thing. The water’s also not tensing up before the rock hits it. It’s not going, “Oh God, here comes a rock!” It just “pluck – rock – you’re right”.

What does that have to do with anything? I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but the power in a karate punch comes from speed not muscle. That’s a lot more powerful than that is, measurable so. That’s why petite people can break boards and bricks. It’s not about calluses. It’s about the pop at the end of that whip. But a tense muscle is a slow one, so a lot of the high level in the training in the martial arts is more about balance and relaxation than anything else. Because that’s where power comes from.

The power in a martial arts punch comes from speed, but speed appropriately concentrated. See this is just pure physics folks. Concentration – you want more power and you can translate that to results, effectiveness or whatever. It actually comes from your ability to be able to concentrate; just physics, concentrate energy – you build power.

Any of you ever done speeches or seminars ever done this kind of work, the shorter I try to make something, the longer it gets, because the shorter I make it the more I have to focus on what’s the essence, the more I focus on the essence, the more this thing explodes in creative ways. Fascinating how that works.

But what gets in the way of concentration? What’s the opposite of concentration? What’s the opposite of concentration? How many of you, by the way, while you’ve been sitting in any of our sessions have had something else occur to you on your mind that had nothing to do with what was going on in the session? Any of you?

Now if where your mind goes when it goes is doing creative, developmental thinking down tracks your brain has never been before and you’ve been adding additional value to life and work, I’d say, “Hey Dude, stay there! Don’t pay any attention to what’s going on up here.” This whole purpose is to get you free to do that, ‘cause that’s where your value comes from, the uniquely human thing that you will bring to the world that into its place. But that’s not where most people go when they go. Where do you go?

How many of said you, actually since we even started in here, have had your mind go somewhere didn’t have anything to do with what was going on in here? Yeah! And again, if it went to the nice place – fabulous! That’s not where most people go. Where do most people go? What is it that’s creating the distractions out there folks?

There’s a lot of important things in your life that did not pop into your mind. Why? Because they are being managed appropriately. A lot of things. Very few people, by the way, are disturbed by, “Gee, where do I need to be two weeks from Tuesday at 3:15 in the afternoon?” Why? It’s the one system people trust, their calendar. You trust the right data is on there and you trust you have the behavior to look at it at the right time. So even if you don’t like where you’re gonna have to be two weeks from Tuesday at 3:15, it is not on your mind.

Folks you don’t have to like your life to have a clear head. It’s sorry. You’re not gonna hear positive thinking pap from me. What you’re gonna hear is the value of having a clear head. I mean you can decide what you wanna do with that, but that was my job, at least for myself was to figure out how do you get that? How do we now deal with that? Well if you can figure out why the calendar’s not on your mind, you got the key to life. Just make sure nothing else out there you’re committed to is parked someplace that is not appropriately managed.

How many of you since you woke up this morning until now, thought of something you needed to do, you still haven’t done? Raise your hand. How many have had that thought more than once? You intersect with this information, you have no excuse, neither do I, to have a thought twice, unless you like the thought. This is subtle stuff.

Now I’m making it sound easy – actually the principle is very simple, it’s very easy to understand the principle; the application of it, execution of this – ooh – that’s why we’re all here. If this were easy folks – I wrote the book. Hey, it’s in there.

So the logic here is that basically you don’t get stuff off your mind by thinking about the beach. You can shift what your conscious mind is on, but that doesn’t get it off the subliminal place that is still pulling on your energy. So the idea is that if I can capture the stuff, clarify exactly what it means to me, organize it into some trusted placed that I can trust I’ll reflect on at the right time and in the right way, see my calendar when I need to see my calendar and that all the data is on there and it’s all made clear that that’s what I need to do – then you’re on.

You’re ability to refocus rapidly on the right thing at the right horizon with the right conversation with the right people is the master skill to knowledge work; you need control and you need perspective.

And that’s a lot of what I discovered, the sort of simplicity on the other side of complexity, Oliver Wendell Holmes-esk there, was that self-management comes down to those two things. If you have sufficient control and I don’t mean control – control is really a master addiction psychologically; trying to control the world and it’s not happening. I’m not talking about that. My definition of control which I expand on in the new book is basically cooperation with reality with intention. You don’t really go control a car, you cooperate with what it is with an intentional focus. You can’t control the market, but you’re out of control if you’re not cooperating with what’s going on in reality and have an appropriate intention relative to that. So that’s what I mean by control. So just – if I said, “Well the two things you need to manage yourself are perspective and by the way you need to then cooperate with the reality of the world with an intentional focus.” Most people go – what!? This is my old consulting stuff that came out here. Any of your consultants, you have your two by two. If you ever hire a consultant, beware, you will get a two by two matrix. Here’s mine: No control on the left, high control on the right. No perspective on the bottom, high perspective at the top. Let’s map those together.

Let’s suppose you’re in the bottom left hand quadrant – no control and no vision or perspective, then you are a victim, basically driven by latest and loudest.

Any of you ever find yourself there? Folks if you’re not there half a dozen times a day, your life is stale.

Oh, come on – any of you ever come in early? I’m here and I’m early – and you came in early and you were on your game. Then the phone rings. Damn – somebody else is up early. “Blah blah blah ….” And you’re taking pages of notes and isn’t this a fascinating thing?

Somebody walks in, corporate drive-by. They came in early too. “Blah blah blah …” Wha – wha wha??

And you came in, you were on your game and in 2.6 minutes you were out of control and you lost your total focus. It’s not a negative place. It’s not about being negative. It’s just called a descriptor of where you are. To a large degree you could just say the positive spin on this is I’m just responding to things I put into motion. If we put the summit in motion, it’s like we’re just scurrying around to make sure it happens. In a way, we are the victims to our previous creativity, so I don’t look at that as a negative thing, that’s just called fulfillment. Actually most of your day you are fulfilling things you put into motion and you’re just cleaning up and getting it current.

Now if people are really in the negative side of this, they go, “Oh my God! I’ve lost control!” They’ll tend to, and usually very appropriately so, try to get control. “I got to get this thing under control!” So then they go get under control. Now what they’re doing, by the way, this is how you’re tell to respond in the victim mode or crazy busy. As soon as you find yourself in crazy busy you can pretty much bet that you have lost control and lost perspective and some part of you is just trying to run around like a wild little rat and try and get it back, but somewhat inefficiently, or you just got to numb out to the game.

Okay, so now we go, “Let’s get control of this thing.” Now if you get control, but you don’t have any perspective, now I’ve got – now you got too much structure. So this is where the structure is appropriate, it’s old, we haven’t redone our work chart, given the changes that went on. You know, I’ve already got too many structures, too many constrictions. A lot of the software out there is not working that well because they’re putting too many controls in it; not free enough.

So then they go, “Well wait a minute. We need more perspective.” So then what you go do is you hire somebody that’s got lots of perspective. You get one of those visionaries, but if they don’t happen to have a very good control factor, what have you got? You got a crazy-maker. “Hi, here’s an idea, let’s go do this. Here’s another thing to do. Wow!” absolutely no consciousness of resources or constraints. Some of you are married to one, some of you work for one and some of you are one and you know who you are. The problem is that the crazy-makers don’t want to get organized so they look at micro-managers and they go, “That anal retention doesn’t work.”

The micromanagers don’t want to take risks and set goals because they look at the craziness that the visionaries are creating, called, “No, no! I’m not gonna take that kind of risk. Blow it up.”

There is an upper right hand folks. Captain and commander, ha! You got your eye on the prize. Boy, you got your keen eye on the horizon and you have a light touch on the helm and boy you can take your focus and shift it down to the most micro place at the right time and then shift it up to here and then move it back to here to keep that shift exactly going the way it needs to go.

Any of you ever had one of those wonderful but insanely infuriating bosses. You hadn’t seen him for 2-1/2 weeks and they walk in and they walk right over to the one thing that’s screwed up, ‘cause they got it in their gut. How do you get it?

By the way, if any of you ever lost control or perspective, just let it get a negative thing, it’s called how long do you let yourself stay there? Because the whole point is, hey you’re getting some feedback dude, you need some control and you need some perspective. And I got it as simple as I could get it, and that was: Look, there’s five things you do to get control and there’s six conversations you need to have with yourself and other key people to make sure you’ve got the right perspective. I couldn’t get it any simpler than this. I am Mr. Lazy and I couldn’t get it any simpler. I tried. And each one of these five stages of getting control is a very different set of behaviors with different tools and different best practices, not one thing.

Oh come on, any of you ever been in a situation or a project or a team situation where you said, “Wait a minute, we need to get organized and get focused.” That’s right! There are two key admonitions. That’s what you’re really talking about. The problem is organization is only stage three of the five stages of control. A lot of people need to get more disorganized to get more in control, because they’re organized at a level that is inappropriate and it’s actually constraining them to deal effectively and flexibly with reality.

So these five stages and these are – actually these are all laid out, especially my first book is where I spend a lot of time on that. The new book I’ve changed the vocabulary a little bit because I wanted to express how universal this really is. My big a-ha over these years is why do these simple little things that people started to do with GTDs, create such profoundly transformational experiences internally when they started to do that? And that’s the reason for the new book. It didn’t change any of this information, it just deepened it and widened it in terms of both my understanding of it and how you can apply this to cooking dinner for friends; if you’re out of control – apply this. You got a conversation with a teenager that’s of control – apply this. Have a department that’s out of control – apply this. The model works and it works universally. Many say, yeah but David we need the right perspective. I understand. The other part of the matrix is, I need to now make sure that we’re making the right choices about all this stuff. And these are very closely tied together, of course. Because if you don’t have appropriate perspective, you will keep losing control and these six horizons: what are we about and what’s core to us in terms of our principles. What does wild success look like? And by the way, what do we need to accomplish to make that wild success happen and by the way, what are the things that need to be maintained so this engine actually works and can get us there, and by the way, what are things we need to finish to make all that work and then therefore what are the actions we need to take? I can’t get it any simpler than these six conversations.

People say, let’s get focused and set priorities. I go, which one? Try to drop any of those out and they won’t work.

So basically the idea of capture, you guys know this – you just get the stuff out of your head, get it out and get it into some place where I’ve corralled these things that have the attention. I need to find out what’s on my kid’s mind right now. I need to find out what’s on my department’s mind right now. No kidding. It doesn’t mean you give everybody permission to have a bitch session. It does mean that you find out what’s pulling on people’s attention. You’re not gonna get control until you at least identify what those things are – very simply though, come on – right it down. These are the simple things. They are based on profound principles that seem to work universally that once you get it out, of course, then you’re gonna have to say, “Okay, well now I got it all out”, and a lot of people do – stage one is a big a-ha for a lot of people. “I’m now writing things down.”

Chairman of a company that I work with, he got that. I walked in, he was having a board meeting and he was so proud, ‘cause he’s now writing post-it notes and post-its all over. He loves 3 x 3 stickies, man. He’s got them all over the desk. He’s got an idea – he’s writing it down. The problem is, he didn’t get to stage two, so you open the drawer and post-its!

So a lot of people, you know, the first thing is, “Wow, I just unloaded my head. I feel so much better.”

Right but now you’re going to need to unload what you just unloaded that into – the in-basket. Now you got to get in to zero.

And for that folks, you’re gonna have to make decisions. You wanna get that pile into the outbox, you’re gonna have to decide. I’m sorry. You’re gonna have to decide what that piece of paper and why it’s there and what you need to do about it. You’re gonna have to decide what to do about mom.

How many of you have ever had something that was just like a big to-do list? 99% of every to-do list we’ve ever seen as coaches is nothing but an incomplete list of still unclear stuff. We see things like: “Mom. What about that?”

“Birthdays coming up.”

“Great. So what are you committed to about that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well you want to look into?”

“I don’t know.”

I’m sorry folks but it comes down to this nitty-gritty. You think I’m kidding? I’m talking about some of the smartest, brightest, most sophisticated people on the planet, when we sit down and ask them questions like that: “Oh God – I don’t know.”

What happens? Stuff.

That’s not actually a picture of an office. That’s the x-ray of somebody’s head who has a clean desk. Neither one of which is a best practice, so I don’t care which smug you were, it’s just that at least people have crude place-holders for stuff we can start to work with. The really scary ones, we walk in – there’s nothing on their desk. Why? They’ve got it all constipated up in their head and it takes longer to try to unravel all their psychic spaghetti. At least these people got crude place-holders right in front of them.

In other words, you’ve got to decide what to do about your stuff. First of all, you have to identify it, you have to capture it, then you’d better decide what to do about it – what it means, because until you decide what it means you don’t know how to organize it. People just go, “Let’s go get organized.” They’re rearranging incomplete piles of unclear things. That’s why the organizers have not worked, because they didn’t get the content of it in there so that it served what the real purpose of it really is.

So basically folks, I’m sorry, here’s the sophistication: Put it where it goes. Come on – the definition of organization is where something is matches what it means to you. I think I’m the only person on the planet who’s actually come up with the definition of organization and that’s the big duh. A magazine to read goes in a different place than a magazine that is out of date that you are no longer gonna read. Do you folks understand that? And then of course, once you get all this organized, you put it all of these appropriate buckets, then you better step back and look at that bucket appropriately. Let me look at all the stuff that I told myself I wanna read and decide, “No – a beer’s better.” But you better have a radar that’s scanning so that you’re managing your – managing that forest on some consistent basis, instead of just hugging those trees folks. That’s why the weekly review is so critical. That’s what pulls all of this together.

As many of you know, the first hurdle to GTD is just to do it to begin with, just to unload the stuff out of your head, make some decisions about it and start to create some structure. The second thing is keep it going. And it’s not about keeping it going, it’s about if you lose the perspective that that is gonna give you with all that stuff out, this stuff will, you will start to take your life back into your psyche to manage instead of your system and your system won’t be worth it. That’s why it’s very easy to fall off the GTD wagon – very easy. As soon as your lists start to be incomplete and as soon as you’re not looking at it to really give you the appropriate perspective, it will not be worth your time to keep inputting and this thing will die exponentially fast. I’m sorry, I’m just reporting. Don’t shoot the messenger here. I know, I have to work it – I have to work this too like all of you. You need to look through the hole, so whatever it takes for you to say, “Wait a minute. Let me step back and see what I need to see as often as I need to do that.” And that’s not every hour, every day – heck no. You wouldn’t want to have to do that.

And then of course, that’s when you engage. Once I can do all that, I got it all out of my head and decided what it all means, I got some structure, I stepped back, reflected on it in the appropriate horizon at appropriate intervals, now let me go do that, or this, or that, and you do it with clarity, with nothing pulling on the psyche because it’s not been managed appropriately. In other words, you go do. By the way, you’re always doing. If you say, “I’m gonna go do nothing”, that is what you’re doing.

You say, “David, don’t you just ever do nothing?”

I say, “Yeah, as often as I can.” But that is a doing and that is a conscious choice, but you better know what you’re not doing before you can feel comfortable about not doing it. That’s how you get control. And you just apply that however you want to apply it. You’ll see my new book just expands on all those ways that we’ve seen this work in all those ways.

Then, of course, you got choices. Okay, well now I got it out there, but what do I do out of the – most of you have over 150 next actions right now that you could do if you had discretionary time today, without you making choices. Well that’s where you come to perspective.

And here’s all the good questions folks. Come on – conceptually you start at the time. Why? Why are we in this room? Why are we having a summit? Why are we in this meeting? Why do I exist? Those are good questions to answer, but that’s the big questions and those are the big questions that of course that’s openly gonna give you your perspective.

At the same level, at 50,000 feet are your core values. What’s really, really important? Now that’s the big how – that’s not the tactical how are we gonna do this? That’s how do we want to operate as a company? How do I want to operate as a human being? Here’s my purpose, but I want to make sure that I consistently being positively as best I can, focusing myself towards positive things, supportive the world around me – I don’t know. You can answer all that stuff. That’s basically one of my guiding principles – first things first. I mean Steven Covington, fabulous work at this level, inspire us to keep remembering some of those core things at those levels.

But how much is knowing your life purpose and your core values gonna help you decide which e-mail to write first tonight? A little bit – a little bit. You’re probably gonna need to get a little more operational in your conversation with yourself. Well what, with my purpose fulfilled, what would that look, sound or feel like, in reality? Just for wildly successful – what’s the what in terms of that’s your career, my lifestyle. Five years from now we’re gonna be doing this – this is what’s gonna be up. So that’s kind of the big vision in reality out there. What does that look, sound or feel like? And then of course, you’re going to need to back that a little further then. Knowing what your big vision is, that’ll help you a little bit more decide which e-mail to respond to first, but you’re probably gonna need to back it down and say, yeah but what do I actually need to accomplish to get the vision going and move us toward whatever that big picture is? And this is where anywhere from three months to two year goals, you know, your plans and your company’s, those kinds of things will be what we call 30,000 – at the 30,000 level. What do we need to accomplish towards that vision?

Now once you have that clear, it’s gonna be a little bit easier to decide which e-mail to write first. But then, once you have that target there, you say, “Yeah, but I gotta make sure I’m healthy and that we have our finances in order and that staff are happy and that the computer’s been backed up and what do we need to maintain? One of things a lot of the other programs miss is that a whole lot of your day is maintenance. I gotta eat, I gotta sleep, I have to take care of family, I have to feed the dog. I have to take care of myself and believe it or not, you don’t – that’s not unimportant stuff. That’s 20,000 feet.

What are the things I need to maintain in terms of my job? I need to keep clients happy. I need to grow staff. I need to back up computers – you know, your job description. What are the things that have to happen so this engine just works moving this thing there; 20,000. Most of you have 10 to 15 of those areas.

And then out of all that, I say well if you’ve finished all those conversations with yourself and other key people, you’ve got about 30 to 100 things you actually need to finish. Right? Oh, I got to get tires on the car. I got to hire an assistant. We need to reassess whether we’re gonna hire this consultant or not. We need to look at and we need to install and we need to implement and we need to buy and we need to produce and you know, that’s the – all those things you need to finish.

Now we’re getting down, we’re operational. This is a clip off my list from a couple months ago. Now you’re gonna get a lot more operational. You get this list complete and clear, it’ll be a little bit easier to decide which e-mail you think you might want to write tonight. But out of all that you can say, “Yeah, but you still haven’t seen anything to do yet.” All those are just outcomes. The doing comes down to, “Okay what are the e-mails I need to send?” Now we’re on the runway folks. This is where the rubber hits the road and if you do not have next actions on all your glorious visions and dreams folks, you’re flying around in a plane with no landing gear. How does that feel? Not very secure. And now you’re talking stuff – there’s the level of commitment there down on the runway level and that is a typical list. Those are snapshots out of mine.

Now if all that’s clear, how much easier will it be to feel comfortable about looking at your e-mail and deciding which one to send or, “No I’m not gonna do any. I’m gonna hang and schmooze at the Summit.” A lot easier, still risk, still not gonna have total amount of data to know exactly what to do. But if you’re gonna do that, that systematic approach, it actually works in terms of the five stages of control and the sixth, but you’ve gotta be able to build a system to be able to hold that stuff appropriately. You’ve got to fill it with the right stuff and you’ve got to use it folks. This does not happen because you just want it to. This is the investment in process that has to happen. But once you’re there folks, the ability to get control when you don’t have it, to relaxed, stay focused, be inspired and get going and have a systematic way to achieve it, that’s what GTD is about.

Does that make sense folks? This is advanced common sense and there’s a whole lot of people in this room that have said, “Wait a minute, there is something here the world needs to know.” I think about all this and it could have fooled me in a way. And I am a fellow student along with everybody else. I have to eat my own dog food for sure.

Questions: Let me open up to you guys. I’ve kind of railed at you here for a while. If you have a question, raise your hand and we’ll send you a mike so everybody can hear it. I don’t have to repeat it. So whoever’s next raise your … Is there a second mike somewhere.

Down here.

MALE VOICE: Hi David. Um, I think about goals and responsibilities kind of in the opposite way, so leader, coach, husband, health first and then that would drive my goals in each of those areas and I’m curious to get your thoughts on that.

DAVID ALLEN: Sure, absolutely works fine. You can take this … It’s a very holistic model. As a matter of fact, 20,000 and 50,000 are very close together. 20,000 family, 50,000 family core value, support, love, you know, family. 20,000 family would be – yeah, family relationships and having family activities and what are all those kinds of things, so you could have a very big goal driven off 50,000 feet and my goal is to insure my kids get a fabulous education for …

At 20,000 feet it’s like, we need to structure the summer appropriately for kids. I call that a project. How many of you already have summer on your radar? Is it on your project list? Well get summer onto cruise control. So that’s a – there’s all goals. Making a phone call is actually a goal, so don’t get tied in the vocabulary there. Just go – okay have I identified all the outcomes, some part of me is committed to, from whatever horizon that comes from? So don’t get too tied up. The problem is I give you a model. David, is that 30,000 or is that 20,000? Who cares? The trick is is what’s the next action? That’s the grounding question on all of this. So you can say, what’s the next action on I’m gonna build my kids a fabulous life of growth and learning until I finish that project when they’re 45.

Great! What’s your next action?

Uh, kids and summer.

Great! What’s your next action?

It all comes down to, okay, dude how are you gonna reallocate the resources in your life to fulfill whatever your commitments are. All these things are just tools to help you surface what those things might be from whatever level. It is sometimes helpful we’ve seen to understand the different altitudes, because those are actually different levels of conversation. If I get you to focus at 20,000 feet, you will not think of stuff at 40,000 feet because the brain doesn’t work that way. You have to put a 40,000 foot filter on – oh yes, thanks David.

So these are all just focusing tools that help people identify what are the commitments going on at these levels or this is a tool to get myself to focus on those levels and put my creative energy there in ways to fulfill even a bigger picture. Does that help?

Yes ma’am.

FEMALE VOICE: The author of a popular blog, Zen Habits says that there is a link between early rising and productivity, whereas, Dean Kamen, the inventor of the segway and other medical devices says that he likes to stay up late, as late as possible, invent his stuff and get up whenever he wants. What’s your take on that? Do you think it’s – those of us who have trouble getting up in the morning should make a special effort to try to get up …


FEMALE VOICE: … as early as possible or – are you attached to certain schedules? Or how do you feel about early rising?

DAVID ALLEN: I’m attached to sleep. I love sleep. That’s why I’m good at GTD so I can sleep longer?

FEMALE VOICE: How much sleep do you get a night, just out of curiosity?

DAVID ALLEN: I don’t know. I think people have different rhythms and different styles and whatever, so I wouldn’t put any rules on that. I know – I was reading data that teenagers shouldn’t even start school before 10:00 o’clock in the morning because just there are physiological changes that are going on and they need the morning for that rest, for the body and mind. I don’t know. So I’m not an expert in any of those areas.

See my whole thing is get all of this off your mind, get clear and then just do what you feel like doing. If you want to sleep – sleep. Just do enough GTD so that some part of you is not going to go, “Oh damn, I forgot batteries.”

So the whole idea is pay attention to what has your attention. See you’ll hear that. I was gonna make that a whole chapter in the book. My editor said, “You know, that’s – let’s put it as a part of it”, so that book would have been much longer actually if I really spent the time. That’s – listen to that one, because that’s a lot of my new message. If you don’t give appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will start taking more of your attention than it deserves.

That’s why GTD is equally respectful and irreverent about everything. God – fabulous! What’s your next action? Cat food. Wonderful! What’s the next step? And I don’t mean to be facetious about it. Look, if your connection to your spiritual source is on your mind, that’s because some part of you thinks there’s something you’re not doing or managing about that, unless it’s on your mind just as an inspirational trigger. In which case, have it on your mind all the time. It’s not a bad idea. I like that.

Does that make sense? So find out what you’ve got attention on and say, “Would more sleep handle that or giving myself permission to sleep handle that?” I don’t know. Thanks.


CHRISTOFF: Every time I hear this clear your mind statement, I wonder should we have really empty heads. Now in my opinion, this is wrong interpretation. I think that we dump the unorganized stuff from our heads during the capture and then we upload the clarified and neatly organized stuff during the weekly reviews and we call these new contents the informant intuition.


CHRISTOFF: How do you agree with this interpretation?

DAVID ALLEN: Absolutely Christoff. You’re right on.


DAVID ALLEN: Most people are just so far away from ever experiencing anything like a clear head, I gave them sort of a false little goal out there. Just get everything off your mind, ‘cause once you do, you’ll find out what’s really on your mind, because it’s not your mind anyway. Your intelligence has the spiritual component to it. That’s a part of you that’s unique that has an intelligent thought. Your system doesn’t do that, but clearing your head … If you’re conscious you can’t get everything off your mind if you’re conscious. Something will be on your mind. What you want to do is directed appropriately so that you’re tapped into what you’re talking about and intuition, you know, if you’re spiritual – allergic to the word spiritual, kind of like intuition. You know, that’s how the corporate world is going to start to digest that. ‘Cause it really is. It’s like my intuitive hit.

Did you folks hear Paul yesterday? I’ve got to start to trust this thing. The problem is, most people their psyche is so clogged up with stuff, they couldn’t tell the difference between intuition and indigestion. Ya know? Is this feeling that I should or was this chili after lunch? I’d defy most people even know the difference, but I agree.

ANDREW J. MASON: Excellent presentation. That from the most practical level, when you’ve fallen off the wagon, having the self-awareness to know what quadrant you’re in and how to move right back toward caption and commander and then you’re off and running again.

Hey, if you enjoyed the talk, we just wanted to let you know that it’s one of hundreds from the community of GTD fans that we’d love to share with you as part of GTD Connect.

It’s easy to join. Just head on over to GettingThingsDone.com/podcast and click on GTD Connect and use the coupon code podcast to join at a significant discount.

That’s it for this episode and until next time, I’m Andrew J. Mason, asking you now that you’ve listened to this podcast, what’s your next action?

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  1. Guys,
    Where is the button to download please?
    The page says “Subscribe or Download”.
    Can you tell me where to find a link to download the file.

    Thank you.
    Love from Paris

    1. Hi Henri, just below where it says “Subscribe or Download” there are links to several podcast services. Those are iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn, Google Play Music, Spotify, and SoundCloud. You can use one of those to download.

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