Simple, Relevant, Effective.

Getting sh*t done is necessary to win in business and maintain your sanity while doing so.

I’m a long-time fan of David Allen and his Getting Things Done book, but I’ve found some holes in his approach when working with clients over the past several years.  

First and foremost, it’s not SIMPLE enough.  

In a time where the average American has the attention span of a goldfish, we have to do our part to make workflows and processes as easy to incorporate as possible.

Another way to phrase it is we have to make them relevant. 

In most of our professional environments, there is no such thing as work-life balance, and we’re rarely “off the clock.”

Inputs flow at us non-stop from many sources: Tasks, projects, meetings, emails, phone calls, Slack/Teams messaging, and more.

Step 1 to GSD is to RECORD these inputs into a system that works for you.  

This system can be analog (paper) or digital, but it needs to serve you quickly and be present where you are.  

Our brains are amazing but not perfect. If you don’t believe me, how many times have you had the same thought twice with no update to it?

The things we have to DO capture our attention (often at inopportune times, like when we are trying to sleep or at our kid’s soccer game.)

Step 2 is to take the time to REORDER the things you’ve captured.

As you start to REORDER, I want you to think of the word WITNESS. I use the acronym WTNS for What’s The Next Step?

If the next step is something QUICK – Be like Nike and “just do it” at the next suitable time. A quick rule of thumb to decide if something is QUICK is to determine if it will take you less than 3 minutes (total).  

This will get it out of your mind and out of your inbox. Most emails fall within this category, and if you put them all off until the end of the day, you are worse for it.

When you look through your list for something not urgent or due in the short term, mark it as LATER and defer until you need to relook at it/do it.

If you see something you can ASSIGN, delegate it to the person responsible, and follow up with them as needed.

If the items you are SINGLE ACTIONS – put them into an appropriate list to get done as you can.

If the items are multi-step, make them into a PROJECT and name it appropriately.

If something is crucial at this time, then I remind you to think of your PRIORITIES OF EFFORT while going through the REORDER process.  

I always look at priorities through the following lens: 

KNOWN WORK: items you both know and expect and are yours to do.

UNKNOWN WORK: items that unexpectedly appear as your new responsibility (primarily due to someone else’s “good idea”).

LIMFAC: Limiting factors (constraints) that will prohibit your success. LIMFACs can be time, money, people, or other resources within your organization.

The third step in the GSD process is to REVISIT all the items you’ve recorded that need finishing.  

This is the step most professionals miss. 

You will set yourself up for failure (missed deadlines, unfulfilled opportunities, project delays, cost overruns, and more) if you don’t deliberately take the time to revisit the things that captured your attention.  

I have time on my calendar each Friday to revisit the past week. I jokingly refer to it as my “mind-sweep” time, and it is vital for me to do so. If I don’t, I have nagging work thoughts deep into my weekend and the time I should enjoy with family.  

During my mind-sweep, I look back through emails (both in my inbox and that I’ve sent), I reopen notebooks I’ve used on my iPad to look for items I may have missed, I look over my whiteboards, and I scroll through my productivity apps and text messages.

It’s incredible the things I find when I do so.  

This deliberate time on my calendar each Friday has saved relationships, money, time, and more.  

To wrap up: 

Work comes to us from many sources. As it does, RECORD the items that grab your attention or require your input.

REORDER what you’ve captured with the deliberate focus on WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP.

If the next step to getting progress on that item is:

QUICK: Do it.

LATER: Defer it to a relevant time

ASSIGNABLE: Delegate it to someone

Understand that PRIORITIES OF EFFORT are real and that if you are doing SOMETHING, you can’t be doing SOMETHING ELSE. It’s up to you to know what you should be working on, what you shouldn’t be working on, and the LIMFACs in your way.

Lastly, routinely REVISIT your lists and projects and ensure they are both still relevant and necessary (in line with your PRIORITIES).

Incorporating this workflow into your life isn’t hard, so don’t fear it.  

Be deliberate and GSD.