"We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw."
The principle is that we can become so busy doing the work, we forget to tend, repair, and maintain the doer. In theory, it's an easy concept to understand and agree with. In reality, the urgency of emails, meetings, deadlines, projects, and the responsibilities of home life can overwhelm the importance of seeking improvement and renewal.
This week, the Social and Digital Innovation team "sharpened their saws" during a two-day retreat Getting Things Done. Really. We took the time to take the Getting Things Done course that helps individuals create a behavior and process to enhance productivity.
A key philosophy of the program is that your mind is for having ideas, not holding them. Humans weren't created to "remember" the hundreds of inputs (tasks, projects, requests, events, etc.) that claim our mental space. By creating and maintaining an organized and productive list process, we can redirect our mental energy from storage to creativity.
The five steps of the process:
Capture: Collect what has your attention. Write down everything that is taking up mental space or energy—personal and professional.
Clarify: Take all of the items you listed in the "Capture" step and determine if they are actionable. If so, what is the immediate next step to move the project forward? This clarity can help you combat procrastination because the next step is understandable and actionable. For example, instead of writing "Board Meeting" create two tasks "Book Conference Room G" and "Create an agenda for Board Meeting and email to Lisa."
Organize: Sort all tasks based on context. The context for a task includes the tools, space, and resources you'll need to accomplish it. Picking the next task can be intuitive—ask: what action makes sense with the context (tools and resources), focus, energy, and priority you have available right now. For example, during a cross-country flight you might not be able to make all those calls on the list, but it might be the perfect context to tackle that long writing project. So group actions based on categories like work computer, calls, errands, home, etc.
Reflect: Review your lists frequently to determine what to do next. Plan a 90-minute weekly review session (Tip: Friday mornings can be a great time to plan this so you can leave for the weekend knowing you accomplished what you needed and are prepared for the week ahead.) Update your list: capture, clarify, and organize again. Clear your mind.
Engage: Get things done! Now that you've aligned your behavior and process to help you effectively manage your actions, focus on getting the work done.
One month from now, I'll share lessons about what I learned Getting Things Done for a month so stay tuned!
Has anyone else tried this or another productivity system? What did you learn?
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