In Getting Things Done, David Allen teaches a five-stage method for managing workflow. No matter what the setting, there are five discrete stages that we go through as we deal with our work.
So the management of of the ‘horizontal’ aspect of our lives constitutes the following process:
1. We collect things that command our attention.
It’s important to know what needs to be collected and how to collect it most effectively so you can process it appropriately. In order for your mind to let go of the lower-level task of trying to hang on to everything, you have to know that you have truly captured everything that might represent something you have to do, and that at some point in the near future you will process and review all of it.
The Collection tools:
- Physical in-basket
- Paper-based note-taking devices
- Electronic note-taking devices
- Voice-recording devices
2. We process what they mean and what to do about them
What do you need to ask yourself (and answer) about each e-mail, voice-mail, memo or self-generated idea that comes your way?
This is the component of action management that forms the basis for your personal organization. You can’t organize what’s incoming–you can only collect it and process it. Instead, you organize the actions you’ll need to take based on the decisions you’ve made about what needs to be done.
The whole deal–both the processing and organization phases–is captured in the center ‘trunk’ of the decision-tree model.
Once you’ve decided on the next action, you have three options:
1. Do it.
2. Delegate it
3. Defer it.
3. We organize the results
For nonactionable items, the possible categories are trash, incubation tools, and reference storage.
To manage actionable things, you will need a list of projects, storage or files for project plans and materials, a calendar, a list of reminders of next actions, and a list of reminders of things you’re waiting for.
4. We review the results as options
You need to be able to review the whole picture of your life and work at appropriate intervals and appropriate levels. For most people the magic of workflow management is realized in the consistent use of the review phase.
Everything that might potentially require action must be reviewed on a frequent enough basis to keep your mind from taking back the job of remembering and reminding. In order to trust the rapid and intuitive judgment calls that you make about actions from moment to moment, you must consistently retrench at some more elevated level. In my experience that translates into a behavior critical for success: the Weekly Review.
5. We choose to do
The basic purpose of this workflow-management process is to facilitate good choices about what you’re doing at any point in time.
He has developed three models that will be helpful for you to incorporate in your decision-making about what to do:
1. The four-criteria model for choosing actions in the moment: Context, Time available, Energy available, Priority.
2.The threefold model for evaluating daily work: Doing predefined work, Doing work as it shows up, Defining your work.
3. The six-level model for reviewing your own work: Life, Three-to-five-year vision, One-to-two-year goals, Areas of responsability, Current projects, Current actions.
Having success with ‘Getting Things Done‘ has a lot to do with doing a phase at a time
I have discovered that one of the major reasons many people haven’t had a lot of success with ‘getting organized’ is simply that they have tried to do all five phases at one time. Most, when they sit down to ‘make a list’ are trying to collect the ‘most important things’ in some order that reflects priorities and sequences, without setting out many (or any) real actions to take.