This week, Life Training Online will be reviewing Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, the third of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.
Allen saves the last three chapters of his book to recount some of the more subtle, but powerful effects that can occur in those who implement his principles. Here they are:
The Power of the Collection Habit
In this chapter, Allen begins to delve into the psychological aspects of his system. Basically what his methodology offers is not only an excellent way to efficiently and effectively get things done, but as a natural side-effect, it will increase the trust people have in you. Very similar to what Stephen Covey refers to as the “Emotional Bank Account“, when we keep our commitments with others (process and complete what’s in our “in-boxes”) we make deposits into their emotional bank accounts, thereby building our balance of trust with them.
This also applies to our own self trust. We feel bad about our own unprocessed “in” items, not because we think we’re lazy or “unproductive” but instead because these incomplete items represent broken commitments to ourselves — we lack trust in ourselves. And it is through the habit of regular collection and processing, that our “in” stays empty and our trust stays high.
The Power of the Next-Action Decision
If there is one question that we could ask ourselves on a regular basis that would improve our productivity, it would be “What’s the next action?” Allen had noticed that individuals and organizations that regularly installed “What’s the next action?” as a fundamental and frequently asked question in their meetings and throughout the day, would see a major shift in their productivity, clarity, focus and energy.
The reason this question is so important is that it moves us to action. A common mistake people make when putting a “to-do” item on a piece of paper or even in their high-priced planners is the lack of clarity that they specify for that to-do item.
For example, if you needed to get new tires for your car, your to-do might read, “Get new tires put on car”. This seems clear enough, doesn’t it? Well, actually it’s not. If I was to ask you some more questions like, “Who’s going to change the tires?” You might answer, “A friend recommended me a quality tire place nearby”. I might dig deeper, “So, what’s the number of the place?” For that you might respond, “Well, I have to get the number from my friend.”
So the next action that you need to take before you can make progress with getting new tires on your car is to call your friend and ask her what the name and number of that place is. This is what Allen means by the Next-Action Decision. You dig deep and keep digging until you find exactly what the next action is that you need to do in order to bring this project one step closer to completion. This is the power of the Next-Action Decision.
The Power of Outcome Focusing
The final key principle that makes up the last chapter of this book is called Outcome Focusing. This is where you use the power of your imagination to clearly see what you desire the intended outcome of your “project” to be. As you focus on the end result of the tasks you are engaged in — whether that is a bunch of emails, buying a new house, or speaking with your kids — you will begin to notice your productivity go through the roof. The reason “Outcome Focusing” is so effective is because it keeps your mind away from getting bogged down in the daily minutia of your tasks. By keeping it locked on the end prize, your mind is free to be creative and provide greater value to the overall project.
Getting Things Done is the third of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.