Everyone needs an organizational system to track goals, priorities, and tasks. The majority of successful people, use the system outlined in the book Getting Things Done: The art of stress-free productivity, by David Allen. While the book is dense, it is definitely worth reading in its entirety. The essence of Allen’s system is:
Each day, process every single item in your Inbox (defined broadly as all Inboxes [email, Slack, text] and all to-do’s). If the action takes <2 minutes to complete, do it immediately. If not, then write down what the required action is, and place it one of the following lists:
1. Next Actions:
These are the next tasks on your priority list separated into areas of context.
● Computer (actions where you need access to your computer)
● Calls (phone calls that can be completed when you don’t have access to a computer, eg- riding in a car)
● Outside (actions that can only be completed outside, such as errands)
● Home (actions that can only be completed at home).
Tasks should be written as single actions (as opposed to broad goals). The key is to not have to think about what needs to be done again once the Next Action has been written down. The Next Action should be written so clearly that all you need to do is follow its direction when you read it next.
- Write the first draft of 5-year Company Vision and 3-month Roadmap
- Write the first draft of Sales Playbook
- John +91-9505553452 schedule product demo call
- Joe +91-9155551234 review financing docs, paragraph by paragraph
- Store – pick up a prescription
- Get Laundry done for tomorrow’s event
2. Waiting For:
This is the list of things that you have asked others to do, and are waiting for them to complete. List the person to whom you have delegated, the requested action, and the date on which you made the request. You can then easily scan your Waiting For list and see which aging requests are still outstanding. Move these aging requests to your Next Action list and ask the person again for the item.
- Sarah – Feedback on a Sales call, 3-18
- Jim – Write-up on the Product Features
This is the list of things that you want to do sometime soon, but not on priority as of now.
- Schedule a guitar lesson
- Order the book Getting Things Done by David Allen
Inefficient leaders waste a lot of time reaching out about, or responding to, one-off issues in real-time. A much more efficient method is to batch your issues and discuss them all at once. This does not apply for urgent issues. Those need to be addressed immediately. But by addressing many issues on a regular basis, soon urgent issues will disappear.
To do this, create and use an Agenda list. This is your list of regular meetings. When you think of something that you want to discuss with someone with whom you meet regularly, write it down on your Agenda list. Then, when you meet with that person, check your Agenda list and review everything accumulated there.
- What should we do for our winter holiday?
- Connect – listen to each other’s day for 5 minutes each
- Are we having enough fun?
- 5-year Company Vision
- 3-month Company Roadmap
This list is for projects that have more than one Next Action that can only be done one after the other (serially). Write out all of the Next Actions required to get to completion. Then simply add them chronologically to your Next Actions list as the previous action is completed.
This is your pace for reviewing the lists above.
- Daily: Next Action and Waiting For
- Bi-Weekly: Someday/Maybe, Agenda and Projects
And finally, use your calendar to schedule Next Actions that need to happen on a certain day or at a certain time. I recommend that you actually put your reviews (#6 above) in your calendar.