One of my pet peeves is how many meetings, especially business meetings, are run. The participants spend their time, energy, and creativity discussing items such as proposals or problems. Many opinions and suggestions are given. However, the summation does not include specific sets of actions to be carried out. As a result, things are left “up in the air”, and no progress is made.
In an earlier post, I wrote about procrastination. One of the suggestions in that post was writing an action plan. In his book, “Getting Things Done” (GTD), author David Allen develops this idea in detail. Allen begins by explaining that the parts of our brains connected with “planning” are smarter than those connected with “doing”. In other words, “doing mode” wants straightforward, no-frills tasks. Allen suggests that we can use this brain characteristic to our advantage in order to accomplish our goals. He proposes a methodology composed of “next actions”.
Basically, “next actions” are a series of steps, each beginning with a verb. Allen teaches that the best “next actions” are like components, or building blocks. Each is small, simple, and important. Putting these components together create an item. In our case, achievement of a goal.
Let’s look at an example. A while ago, I enrolled in a course to help build my business. I knew that there would be homework, and I organized time for it. However, I kept procrastinating because I knew that each homework assignment had several steps. I just couldn’t find the energy to handle all those parts. I recalled the GTD strategy and applied it.
The first thing I did was to write down the name of my task – “Do Homework”. Then, I began to list the sequence of “next actions” needed in order to get that homework done. My first “next action” was “Download the homework onto the desktop”. Yet, when I thought about it, that “next action” was not specific enough. I crossed it out and wrote, “Log in to course. Find homework assignment for this week. Download it onto the desktop.”
When using this strategy, it may be helpful to think about ourselves as a type of mechanical being, a robot. Obviously, we are not. However, our “doing brains” (which we spoke about earlier) are most comfortable with actions that are rote, requiring little or no thought. When the “doing brain” has to start thinking, analyzing, considering, it often begins complaining. We want to lull it into specific actions, letting our “planning brains” mastermind the overall process.
Chances are you’ve got a task which is hanging around undone. So, you have the perfect opportunity to give GTD a try. I know that when I apply this methodology, I get things done. I am sure you will, too.