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Getting Things Done (GTD) with Purpose

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I'll admit that I'm a fan of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD), however, I'm not a cheerleader.

GTD addressed two bottlenecks in my own philosophy at the time of reading his first book several years ago. Since correcting these two flaws  in 2003, I have seen incredible improvements in productivity. His system gives you ability to respond, not react, to everything.

GTD Secret #1 - Next Actions

The first key advantage of GTD is the filtering system. Understanding concept of Next Actions was a watershed moment for me. By insisting that "stuff" be broken down into the very next physical action, you add clarity to your objectives and have a plan for achieving them. It offers a clear path "eating an elephant" whatever that goal, project, or objective the elephant represents for you.


GTD Secret #2 - Group Next Actions by Context

In conjunction with breaking projects down into the Next Actions, GTD also recommends grouping actions into categories, or in the proper terminology, contexts. For example, all of your phone calls would be one category, while actions that need to be done on the internet would be another. These different categories, or contexts, enable you to focus on things that can be done when you have time to do them. It also reduces the time spent managing your "To Do" list. Before GTD, my "Master Task List" managed me, not the other way around. As I'm a lefty, one of the first products that we developed was the Left Handed Personal Planner to implement some of the GTD components, specifically, contexts and next actions.

The combination of breaking projects down into Next Actions and grouping them by context is a powerful combination to help you clarify what you need to do. Before GTD, my tasks had been ambiguous, which often caused procrastination. For example, my task "Weekly Spreadsheet" was really several tasks. My very next action should have been "Collect Source Data from Managers". With David's system, you do your thinking up front so you are free to implement whenever you want. Learning the GTD process is a little like learning to drive a car. It's an incredibly complex process with many variables; however, once you start doing it, your subconscious mind does most of the work.

Don't get me wrong, even before GTD, I was well-versed in time management techniques from Day-Timer to 7 Habits, I had read everything I could get my hands on. However, this was the first real solution to procrastination that worked for me. I was an adrenaline seeking, deadline junkie.


GTD Secret #3 - Create a Leak-Free System

Another critical bottleneck that GTD enabled me to correct was having a complete personal planner system. Having a complete system that prevents leaks is the only way for your mind to have confidence enough to let go of control. The Weekly Review gives you a chance to correct any flaws in your system every week and ensure there are no "open loops". The Left Handed Personal Day Planner uses a process called a weekly "Bubble Bath" that accomplishes this purpose. Essentially, everything that needs to be done is evaluated and addressed on a weekly basis. This ensures that you are not missing anything important. There are some things that come off of your "Bubble Maps" and some things that are added. In any case, you are making a conscious decision every week about what's important to you.


GTD - The Missing Ingredient - Connecting PURPOSE


While hard-core GTD cheerleaders will disagree on this point, it is my belief that the GTD system is ineffective in connecting dreams and visions to next actions. While it clearly talks about levels, i.e. 50,000 feet, there's not a defined path for taking something from a higher level and breaking it down to the runway. One thing that Stephen Covey covered effectively in his classic, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, was living with purpose. No one before or since was as effective as Covey in moving people toward self-actualization. Unfortunately, no system that I've found has effectively combined the Strategic (or effectiveness) aspects with the Tactical (or efficiency).

Unlike other personal planners, Bubble Planners combine Creativity, Purpose, and GTD into a practical daily time management tool. Try one today risk-free for 90 days.
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