Do you ever found yourself getting distracted from important goals? David Allen is the best selling author and inventor of the Getting Things Done system. This is a time management method which helps you keep track of tasks and projects by recording them externally. These tasks can later be broken down into five steps: capture, clarify, organize, reflect and engage. As David Allen states during the interview: “The big key here is getting things done is not so much about getting things done. It’s really about being appropriately engaged with all the levels of commitment in your life.”
Many of us feel the pressure of trying to stay focused and productive in today’s digital world, so in this episode, Hala Taha and our guest David Allen discuss how we can utilize the GTD system to prioritize tasks while staying present and engaged in the moment.
For more on David Allen follow him on Instagram @gtdtimes and subscribe to the newsletter on his website, https://gettingthingsdone.com.
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You know, so how many things are on people’s mind? So there’s five steps to this. It’s capture, clarify, organize, reflected, engage.
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What we are yapping about in this episode:
- Writing down necessary tasks and information as a first step [07:14]
- Making commitments and addressing open loops [19:19]
- Understanding the importance of doing a weekly review [22:00]
- Using the two minute rule to be more efficient [28:27]
Hala Taha: 00:00 Your listening to YAP, Young and Profiting podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and grow. I'm Hala Taha and joining us today is a very special guest, David Allen, best selling author, an inventor of the famed GTD or getting things done system. His framework, helps you keep track of tasks, ideas, projects, and focuses on getting this type of information out of your head and into an external system so you can feel less bogged down by the never ending list of things you have and want to do and essentially allow yourself to be in a clear space where you can be present and engaged and super productive in the moment. Hi David. Thanks for joining us today.
David Allen: 00:41 Hello. Thanks for the invitation. Delighted to be here.
Hala Taha: 00:43 We really appreciate you taking the time to YAP with us. And before we get started, I just want to introduce you to our producer, Timothy Tan, who's on the line and a long time fan of your work.
David Allen: 00:52 Oh my gosh. Did it hurt him?
Timothy Tim: 00:53 No, not at all. It's really nice meeting you.
Hala Taha: 00:57 Like I mentioned, we're really excited to have you on the show and you are. Well, my generation would call the goat of productivity. Are you familiar with that saying?
David Allen: 01:07 No, I'm not, but I love it. I'm going to steal that.
Hala Taha: 01:11 Yeah, it means you're the greatest of all time. That's what goat stands for.
David Allen: 01:16 Well, I love goat milk. I grew up drinking goat milk because I was allergic to cow's milk was a kid, so I love goats. They're great.
Hala Taha: 01:22 Perfect. So it's a perfect match. So for our listeners who might be new to you and your system, how would you describe yourself and the expertise in the area of productivity and your contributions to time management and things like that?
David Allen: 01:34 I'm the laziest guy you've ever met and I love having absolutely a clear head with nothing distracting you. And uh, Mr. Freedom guy is like, hey, don't distract me. Let me just stay focused on whatever I'm going to focus on and not be bothered by anything else. So over these last 36 years being 72 right now, I spent a whole lot of the last half of my life trying to figure out how do I stay clear and still have a nice profitable, fun, highly engaged professional life and personal life as well and not have that distract me and still be able to make that a sustainable thing to do. So I just figured out the best practices about how to do that.
Hala Taha: 02:09 Do you think it's harder to be focused and productive in today's digital world as compared to like 20 or 30 years ago when things were more paper based?
David Allen: 02:18 Yes.
Hala Taha: 02:19 Can you talk about that a little bit?
David Allen: 02:23 Absolutely. Well, come on. It's just a matter of input. So it's the stress of opportunity. I mean, how many things can go awry right now we weren't talking be surfing the web, about punching in to see the latest instagram and to see who's following us. The distractability of today's world is huge and it all comes down to kind of the good news about that is it forces everybody to really decide, wait a minute, what really matters to you, so it's almost like the more distractions you have, the more important it becomes to figure out, okay, wait a minute, what matters to me right now and is this how I want to be spending my time? If you're in a crisis, you don't have that because the crisis defines your work for you, a defined your world for you. So as you move into a more unstructured world with lots of opportunities, the ability to be distracted and run down rabbit trails are rabbit holes that are not necessarily where you are. What are need to be is huge,
Hala Taha: 03:17 and I know the outcome of the GDT system is stress free productivity. Can you talk about what that means to you?
David Allen: 03:24 Actually, stress is good. You need to stress your puppies when you're raising them. You need to suppress kids so that they feel comfortable going up escalator. If you didn't have any stress, you'd never expand or express or are really grow in terms of what you're doing, what you don't want as negative stress. See, if I want to be out of the room and I'm not out of the room, I've created in a sense of kind of stress or what they call cognitive dissonance, so now I want to be out of the room. I'm not there. Oh my gosh, how do I get there? And that creates the impetus for me to get up, get out of my chair and get out of the road. So that's actually a good thing. That's actually how you produce things. Anytime you have a vision or a goal that is not true yet, you've created essentially a kind of a stress on your life that you talked to move toward it in order to relieve that stress.
David Allen: 04:06 So that's actually a good thing. The negative stress is, I want to be out of the room. Yeah, but no, I want to sit here, but no, I want to be out of the room, but I want to sit here. Oh my gosh. Now I'm in conflict and that's also production, so now I'm in conflict about my stuff and that's the kind of stress you want to get rid of. The problem is most people are keeping their life in their head, which is an absolutely crappy office and the problem is and when you're keeping track of stuff you need what might would could, should ought to be doing or handling or dealing with or whatever. You keeping that in your head, that part of you has no sense of past or future so it thinks you should be doing all of that all the time and you can't do that.
David Allen: 04:42 That's what's creating a lot of the stress is that fact that are people are using the wrong place, the wrong tool to manage the wrong kind of stuff. So that's why a lot of my system has a lot to do with external brain. In other words, build the external system to get all that stuff out of your head so you can take a look at it and go, no, I'm going to go party or I'm going to go do facebook right now. Or I just wanted to take a nap or have a beer and making that decision. That's either an avoidance decision because you're not sure all the other stuff to do when you're in stress or it's that's the decision you make because that's the thing to do, so it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to change your behaviors of means. You're going to feel a lot more comfortable about what you decide to do.
Hala Taha: 05:21 This is a good intro to. You're getting things done system. Do you want to just talk about what exactly that is?
David Allen: 05:26 Sure. Well, I'll give you the two minute version limit anyway. Basically you need to take anything that's got your attention. Wow. My mom's birthday's coming up. I've got this party I need to handle or deal with. Oh, I've got this test I'm going to take on in this certification that I needed to get. I think willing to buy a house or should we have a kid? Do we need to get divorced? So do I need to get married, Yeti, Yada Yada. So how many things are on people's mind? All of those things actually need to be captured. That's step one, so there's five steps to this. It's capture, clarify, organize, reflect and engage, so the capture step is to just identify and grabbed some sort of a placeholder for that outside your head. Write it down in other words or record it or something, but write it down is using the best way to do that first step, and so let me make a list of all the things I've got my intention on.
David Allen: 06:12 Little big personal professional or whatever that could take you a good hour just for most people, if not more, to just get all that stuff out of their head to begin with. Step two is to then take those things. Okay, you just wrote down house, you know what? What is that? Is that something you intend to move on right now or not? So you need that. Then move to the clarify step, which is, okay, what are these things that have my intention? Are they actionable, yes or no? If not, then they are either reference or incubator. Remind me later or or just trash or if they are actionable, what's the very next action I need to take on this? If I had nothing else to do, but you know, research, buying a house, what would I do next? What's the first thing I would do and then we'll that one action, finish this.
David Allen: 07:00 No, of course not. You know, my. I've got a project at least research whether or not a house is what we want to buy right now so that now I've got an action and a project outcome and action and so the step two is a really a very important step and that just requires thinking. You have to take the stuff that has your attention and then get more discrete about what exactly does that mean to you? Is it actionable, yes or no? And if it is, what's the next action and one action will finish it. What's your project? And once you've clarified that, now you have the content to move to stage three, to organize. Let me, here's the phone calls I need to make here. The errands I need to run here, the things I need to talk to my life partner about right now.
David Allen: 07:39 Here's the stuff I need to buy the hardware store, you know, so essentially then your organization just becomes, how do I then keep track of these things? I can't finish the moment I think of them, but I still need to do them and so I need to keep an inventory of those possible things and options of ways to spend my attention in my actions out there in life and hopefully a trusted system. If you trust your calendar, for instance, you're not worried about where you need to be two weeks from Wednesday, you just need to trust that you have the right data on there and then you'll look at your calendar at the right time. This is just the expanded way to take that principle and say, okay, apply that to your whole life so that you don't have to be bothered about any of this.
David Allen: 08:14 It just. You don't only need to think about your errands when you're going up for them and then see the six things you've already come up with that you need to go pick up. So that's the organization step is having a trusted system that keeps track of these agreements and commitments and feeds and back to you as you might want to. Step four would then be to reflect on the content. You know, if you go to net for errands, look at your list, one of the store, and look at your list. If you're going to have a business of life conversation with your life partner, look at your list so you need to then engage with that and then at these higher horizons of things, all the projects you have, and I would suggest most millennials probably have somewhere between 30 and 50 projects. You know, taking a broad definition, get tires on my car, handled the next holiday, you know, manage this big party.
David Allen: 08:59 I want to give a, you know, whatever they are. If you actually add all that up, that's a great list to have the. But you need to reflect on that on some regular basis, so building in some sort of a review more in executive time with your self reflection and review of all your content and catch up. You know everybody listening to this right now at some point has had a bunch of stuff show up in the last few days that they haven't had time to identify that they've got to do something about it, but they know they do and so stopping and reflecting on your license, what are all the things that are showing up in my life that's stage four and then take a look at the inventory. Stage five is then engage. Okay? Given all of that, if I look at all my lists, my projects, my errands and stuff to talk to people about, what do I want to do right now, and then that essentially you're making it a trusted choice. Assuming you've done steps one through four, then you're making trusted choices about what to do. If you haven't done steps one through four, you're making a whole choice. I hope this is what I want to do, and you tend to be driven by latest and loudest, so there's a two minute or three minute version of what the getting things done methodology. Yes.
Hala Taha: 10:05 Yeah. That was fantastic. You know, it seems so intuitive to do this and it's just so nice to have it laid out. I'm actually really excited to get started with the GTD system.
David Allen: 10:15 Well, it's interesting. It's how you get control of anything. If you walk into your kitchen, have you ever been had your cooking area out of control and you walk in and. But you've got guests coming in and I were. The first thing you do is you notice what's off. That's the capture section. Okay, wait a minute. What's got my attention about my kitchen, our kitchen area right now? And then step two is what is that? Oh, that's a dirty dish. Oh, that's a clean dish. That's a spice. So that's good food or that's bad food. So you make a clarification step about what these things are that are not where they need to be the way they need to be. And then step three, what do you do? You put spices back where they go, you put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher or you, but the good food back in the fridge, you organized based upon that clarification process. Then what do you do? You step back, you look at the whole kitchen area, you think about what you're gonna Cook, you look at the time, and then you open the fridge instead five and engage you pull up butter and melt it so that I didn't make this up. I just identified those stages that we do, but most people haven't really either understood what those discreet activities were or applied that to the more complex, sophisticated aspects of our lives that we're all living in the.
Hala Taha: 11:19 Speaking of that, I know that many people organize their professional tasks. They're used to writing project plans and to do lists when it comes to work, but why is it important to both merge our personal and professional actions?
David Allen: 11:33 Well, because your head doesn't make a distinction, you can be as bothered by stuff at home while you were at work, as you can be bothered by stuff at work while you're at home, but there's no fence inside your head. You know, a lot of people try to silo themselves. When I leave work, I truly leave work and I don't think about it. Oh, come on, give me a break. Get Real, grow up there. You wake up at 3:00 in the morning, God, I forgot to whatever I need to or whatever. You still thinking about stuff in that, in that game. So the whole idea here is look, just be president about whatever you're doing. So what you don't want to do is be distracted by anything other than what you're doing. So the big key here is getting things done is not so much about getting things done.
David Allen: 12:12 It's really about being appropriately engaged with all the levels of commitment in your life. So you're fully present with whatever you're doing, whether that's writing a business plan or cooking spaghetti or watching your kid play soccer or whatever the heck you're doing. You just want to be there for them and not be distracted and have your psyche being pulled in 64 different directions. So that's what this is about. And so you can't really distinguish between personal and professional. I haven't for 40 years. It's all just what's next. So even in my personal life, while I'm playing with my dog, I don't want to be thinking about my stove that needs fixed. I need to. I'm already handled that so I can play with my dog and be there as opposed to having my brain goes somewhere else. Even if it's personal about something else personal. I just want to be present with whatever I'm doing, so I need to be accountable to myself to have captured, clarified and organize anything no matter where it shows up about anything I have any commitment to do or handle or deal with or decide about.
Hala Taha: 13:07 And then I think my next question is on step three, which is to organize. So as we've captured all of this information, how do we categorize these tasks so that we can clearly evaluate them and see them clearly?
David Allen: 13:20 Well, you could keep one list of all the things you need to do. Here's what I need to talk to my partner about. Here's what I need to buy hardware store, here's what I need to draft on my computer. You could keep all that on one list and just most people probably have more than a hundred of those and so that'd be a little daunting and overwhelming if you saw all 100 old one list, you go out, you've got your smartphone, hey, I could make calls, but I've got three phone calls, but they're in this list of 120 things. That's not going to be very functional. So we found that once you actually identify all the actions you need to take about bolder, bigger commitments, that keeping reminders of them based upon the context for that. Like when I'm not at home, I don't need to see my stuff.
David Allen: 14:01 I told myself I have to be at home to do so. I have an at home list. There's no need to even see that less. I'm at home because I can't do a little tool in there. I have a list of things to do for errands. I don't need to see that unless I feel like I have time and want to go out for errands and then it's nice to pull that list up so I don't need to see that when I review all the other stuff. So organizing your action reminders by the context and oftentimes that's what's the tool or the location required so people often organize then their actions by here's the stuff I need to do when I'm at the office, here's the stuff I need to do when I'm at home, here's the stuff I need to do when I'm out and about for Aaron's, here's the stuff I need to do when I'm at my computer, and then there's a very good idea if you're engaged, you know, with other people, which most people are certainly professionally my assistant, my boss, my partner at work, my life partner. It's good to keep track of stuff when you come up with what's the next step. Many times the next step is something that I did talk to one of those people about. So you just keep a list of agendas, here's all this stuff that I'm keeping track of, I need to talk to my partner about next time I see him or her, and so organizing these by the context that you need to be in, in order to do that action makes us a lot simpler and a lot more functional.
Hala Taha: 15:16 And as we have a list or you know, however we choose to organize our tasks based on what they are. How do we decide what action we should take next?
David Allen: 15:25 Well, why are you on the planet? What's your life purpose? What are you trying to accomplish? What's your vision of wild success five years from now, where do you want to be? One of the things you need to accomplish over the next year or two in order to be able to make your vision, show up. What are all those other things you need to maintain so that you can get there like your finances and your health and your relationships and your spiritual life. What are all the projects you have about any of that in order to move those things forward. And by the way, what are all the action steps that you need to take about all those open loop that might be moving in that? So those are the six horizon. You've got commitments. So if you asked me what's your priority, I say, well, which one of those horizons do you think you need to review?
David Allen: 16:05 Which thing to do? After you get off the phone with me right now, it's going to be the most important thing to do. That'll relieve the most pressure, that will move you forward toward the things that are meaningful to you. So you can't get away from the complexities of who we are, why we're here, what we need to do. I couldn't get into any simpler than that. You could say, what are your priorities in life? Well, when I get sleepy and I need to take a nap, that's my priority. I don't want to make that some ABC or whatever. That's just the thing to do right now, given all the other stuff I need to do. So there's a whole lot of sophistication that actually goes into how comfortable do you feel about the choices you make, but it all has to do with which thing that are options you could do right now are going to give you the highest payoff when you're the one who's going to have to interpret that.
Hala Taha: 16:49 Yeah. So you just mentioned open loops and I think this is a really interesting concept. It would be great if you could explain that concept to our listeners and why it's important to get these things out of our mind and into an external system.
David Allen: 17:02 Well, as soon as you make a commitment, you can't finish in the moment. You've opened a loop, you've created a spin internally inside of you, and that can be as simple as I need cat food too. I need a life and anything in between. So as soon as you make some sort of commitment that something needs to happen or change or be different than it is, you've now opened something that starting to spin and recognizing what are those spinning things I've got is just recognizing what the open loops are. The problem is that most people don't realize how much of your energy and that's taking up without making any progress on progressing about any of these things, so if you keep this stuff in your head, your head has no sense of past or future and thinks she should be doing all those all the time psychologically, which you can't do.
David Allen: 17:47 So again, that's a lot of the sources of stress. You'll wake up 3:00 in the morning, oh my God, I need cat food, but there's no store open. You could go buy cat food, so totally unworthy thought to have I was going to do is stretch you out being a drain your energy, so you want to be able to identify what are these loops that I've opened and keep some reminder of those things and an inventory of, yeah, those external so that then it clears up your head to do what it does best, which is making choices out of the options, not trying to remember the options.
Hala Taha: 18:17 That's a great explanation. So Tim, I knew that you have a deeper dive question on step number four to reflect or review. Do you want to talk to that a little?
Timothy Tim: 18:28 Yeah, sure. So when I'm doing the weekly reviews, sometimes it can take a little bit over three hours to complete and that might be not so practical for most people. Do you have any advice for people to get the most bang for their buck in the weekly review?
David Allen: 18:44 Tim, do you like the like sports at all? They liked to follow sports teams at all. Yeah, like soccer, baseball, football,
Timothy Tim: 18:50 but basketball.
David Allen: 18:52 Yeah. How much time during the week do you think those guys spin getting ready for the game? A lot of time. Three hours and I don't think so. Eighty percent of their work. Life is getting ready for their work. Right. And you're complaining about spending three hours a week to get ready for your work. Give me a break. If you just spent seven hours of your eight hour day getting ready for the last hour, that last I was going to be hot. Really cool.
Timothy Tim: 19:22 Yeah. I totally understand the concept of working smarter as opposed to working harder.
David Allen: 19:26 Yeah, but how to work smarter. That's why the weekly review is so powerful is because it actually gives you a very functional way to do that. As you're sitting down and reviewing all of your stuff, thinking about backwards and forwards in terms of your timeframe and your chronologies and your due date's coming toward you and all the commitments you've got at multiple levels in your life. There's no way on God's green earth you can do that in your head and however long that takes you once it's out of your head, to review it again, to feel comfortable about how you're going to spend the rest of the next week is however long it takes. You know, I can do mind sometimes in 15 minutes, a short version of it and sometimes I'm like, you again, it's going to take three hours and four hours, but that's a very rich for hours that I'm taking to make myself feel comfortable.
David Allen: 20:08 A lot of it depends on how crazy the week was that I just finished and how much time do I need to regroup, recalibrate, and refocus. You just need to do as much as you need to do.
Timothy Tim: 20:20 Yeah, that makes sense and it really depends on the case.
David Allen: 20:23 Sure, and most people feel best about their work a week before they go on a big holiday. It's actually not about the holiday they think it is what it really is, what you're doing a week before you go into holiday is your clerical and cleaning up, renegotiating, organizing, getting everything set up so that you can just be on the beach or on the golf course or skiing down the slope or whatever the heck you're doing without anything on your mind, but you had to do what you need to do to. Sure you were free to do that. I just suggest people do a weekly, not yearly.
Hala Taha: 20:52 Yeah, that makes sense. It makes sense because you're able to be more productive even though you're taking the time on the onset to kind of plan your week. At least you know what you're doing and then you can be more productive and be focused all week.
David Allen: 21:04 Yeah. There's not so much plan your week. I'm a not a big fan of planning anything. You don't have to. I play with as little as I can get by with, but I need to look at the week. I need to see what the commitments are that I've got and I need to look at all the other options and then I let myself just make good intuitive choices about what I do, but I can only do that if I'm doing some version of a weekly review weekly that I can sort of trust my intuitive judgment. See guys, you don't have time to think. You need to have already thought. Your life is going to be too busy to crazy. You're going to be in the fire hose of life is going to be in your face as soon as you get off the line with me, right, and you don't have time to think.
David Allen: 21:39 You need to make sure you've already thought so that you can then trust your intuitive quick in the moment decisions about what you're doing, but most people are doing that just based upon latest and loudest as opposed to, wait a minute. You know, I just took a look on what's really coming up and what's really critical and important, so I think I'm going to park that over here and still work on this other thing right now and that's the kind of smarts that you know that smart people do, but that doesn't happen by itself. It really needs to happen, especially with the complexity of people's lives these days with a, you know, a good review externally of all your commitments.
Hala Taha: 22:13 So changing the way we fundamentally think about how we go about our day to day actions. For some millennials it might seem like a daunting or intimidating task. So do you have any advice on how to take baby steps or Wean yourself into this system?
David Allen: 22:29 Well, anything helps. This is running with scissors guys. Come on. If you just write a few more things down than you have before, you'll feel better. If you just make a next action decision about something you wrote down ahead of time instead of when the thing is in your face, you'll feel better. So anything you do cleanup, just clean the area of your desk that's been piling up over there. Just go through that. We'll clean it up, you'll feel better, you're more in control, the more focused. It's like, you know, hey, go get your car cleaned and cleaned up the trunk of your car and it'll drive better. So if nothing else cleaned a drawer when in doubt, cleaner drawer, come on. So none of this hurts, you know, any of this stuff is going to help in that way. If you're talking about getting to a place where you truly have nothing on your mind except whatever you want on your mind, that requires the rigor of actually going through this process in some detail. Yeah, write more things down, decide next actions and outcomes about this stuff and have a better trusted organization system. Any of that stuff's going to work. Any of that stuff will help. But come on, we're teaching this to seven, eight, and nine year olds now. So, so don't tell me a millennial can't do this.
Hala Taha: 23:36 No, I think millennial definitely can do this and I'm so excited to get started. I feel like naturally I do this type of stuff anyway, but just getting something with more rigor. It's exciting to me.
David Allen: 23:47 Well, the funny, the paradox is the people who need this, the least are the people most interested in it. It's the most productive people who are most interested in what I do and what this methodology is because they actually the ones that have thrown themselves out of their own comfort zone because of their own creativity and aspirations and success, they have matured their systems to actually keep up with all that and to support it. So that's the good news about my life and the last 35 years of my life, I've spent hanging out with some of the best brightest of business people on the planet because they're the ones that have come to us that are attracted to this work. So the fact that you are already productive, I'm sure. How are you already know there is a value to a system that's already valued to having a list. There's already valued to doing the right thinking about stuff. So if you're already in that space, you're ready for taking this to a whole new chapter or alleviating.
Hala Taha: 24:36 I totally agree. There's so much value to the system. You mentioned something that I thought was really interesting in your book. It's the two minute roll. So when processing information you recommend you any action that takes two minutes or less on the spot. And like I mentioned, everything that you say in your book is pretty much intuitive. Like I think a lot of us do two minute tasks on the spot, but often we do five minute or 10 minute tasks on the spot too, which I think you could run into some trouble doing that. So can you explain that two minute rule?
David Allen: 25:07 Well, most people actually avoid doing two minute things. That would only take two minutes because they think it's going to take a lot longer than that. Of the two minute rule. I believe me, I've had hundreds of executives that I've coached one on one. Just tell me just the two minute rule was worth its weight in gold. Just that if they hadn't had that habit already, simply because oftentimes in the more senior you get and the more sophisticated your life gets, oftentimes the you'll avoid making the next action decision, well, what's the next step on this and you can't do the two minute rule unless you actually make a next action decision. So the next action decision is the most important thing to begin with, but once you've decided that, hey, the next step I need to do is to email my assistant about X, Y, Z, or the next step on this thing is I need to email or text my partner and get their input on that.
David Allen: 25:51 So the next step I need to do is just check the website to see if they've got a phone number I could use or whatever. That's the kind of thing that you want to be able to do right then because it would take me longer to stack a track and remind yourself of it later on that it would be actually finished right then. And that's usually surprising to a lot of people. How many two minute things there are actually, wherever you live will improve. If you apply the two minute rule, just walked through your apartment or house or wherever you live right now, and just notice things that are off that light bulb out. How long would that take you to go get a light bulb and stick it in there? Oh my God. Come on. That screw was loose on how long would it take you go get a screwdriver and fix that and you'd be amazed how many things are right around you.
David Allen: 26:31 It will improve if you apply that, that principle, and it's simply the efficiency principle. The first of all, don't don't keep track of it in your head because you'll keep being reminded. I should change that light bulb 65 times today, but once you decide that's all I need to do and it would take less than two minutes. You don't want to have to write it down because it will take you more time to write it down and look at it again. Then to finish it right then. So it's just a purely practical, intuitive thing to do.
Timothy Tim: 26:53 I was wondering, as someone who receives a lot of sporadic work that takes under two minutes, I find that the two minute rule can sometimes result in more work instead of less work over time in the sense that important work can sometimes get interrupted. Do you have any suggestions for people with the majority of their tasks taking under two minutes to complete?
David Allen: 27:13 Well, the two minute rule really only applies when you're processing new inputs, but first of all, you should not have any backlog of two minute stuff. They should all be done and if things are coming at you and if you need to handle them and it takes less than two minutes to do. If that's part of your job, on your commitments, on your responsibilities, yes. Do it. Absolutely. What are you gonna do? Write it down. Look at it later when it. When are you going to do it? If somebody comes in that something would take less than two minutes to do. First of all, I mean not even let him into my office or I'll say, hey, could you send me an email about that? Thank you, and I go back to whatever I'm doing and then let them give me some input, but I can deal with later on.
David Allen: 27:49 The problem is a lot of people get inputs, ad hoc inputs as you're talking about, and because you don't trust your system to keep track of it, they let themselves run down that rabbit hole and then bitch about it because something interrupted their work as opposed to writing a note, throwing their own inbasket. I'll get to that later. What I've got better time to do it because I'm right now I'm engaged in something so there are no interruptions. There's only ms dot manage inputs, so if they ad hoc stuff, is that your job? Yes or no? If yes, that's what you deal with. There's an organization out there that never has fires and crises or interruptions. It's called the Fire Department because they just organized for that. If they're not dealing with a fire, they're getting ready for the next one. They don't complain about those. Even though 95 percent are false alarms talking about a reason to complain. No, come on. That's just the nature of their game, so if you haven't acknowledged the nature of your work that requires you to then engage with the ad hoc stuff and if those things can be dealt with, first of all, if you are even getting the ad hoc stuff, they're walking into your office. Why?
Timothy Tim: 28:52 Yeah. I don't mean to say that I'm complaining about the. The main thing is that I get a lot of emails throughout the day, a couple hundred and I'm managing a lot of relationships with clients and things of that nature so it can be very ad hoc at times and that is the nature of the position and that's something I've come to terms with them.
David Allen: 29:10 Yeah, but if there's stuff that requires an hour or two of your discretionary time that's uninterrupted, you don't have to get involved in that. Assuming you're zeroing out all that stuff by the end of the day, why should you see? Most people live in sort of the ad hoc, latest and loudest environment out there, and that's why everybody's always checking their smartphones. They're always checking their email. Sometimes I do just because nothing else going on, let me look and see what's going on, but if I want to write an article that's going to take me four hours, that's what I do because the rest of the stuff will wait. If it's an emergency in, some will flash or somebody will reach me in some way, but I don't need to let myself be distracted by that. So what you're talking about is not an issue unless it is.
Hala Taha: 29:52 Yeah. It's almost like the two minute rule should apply when you allow it to apply. For example, I work a full time job and I'm incorporate, you know, moving up the corporate ladder and when I'm in a meeting with executives, they give me a task. I can't do it right then and there, but you know, you've got to organize and when you have time to do it you do it. But if I'm sitting on my computer and not needing to do something for an hour straight, then if a two minute test comes my way, then I'll just knock it out.
David Allen: 30:18 If you're ever going to do it at all, right? If you're not deleted, if you are, do it then.
Hala Taha: 30:23 So like you said, the two minute rule is worth its weight in gold. Do you have any other simple tips or tricks that you can share?
David Allen: 30:30 Just get more stuff out of your head. Write stuff down, folks. You know, keep a pad and pen with you wherever you go. Because the older you get, the more mature and sophisticated you get it. It is sophistication that the more material you get, the more good ideas will not happen. Where you're going to implement that idea. You'll be buying bread at the store thinking of something to bring up at the marketing meeting and you'll be in the marketing meeting remembering you need bread, right? So if you don't have some sort of a tool to capture that thought as it occurs to you while you're buying bread or while you were in the meeting, you're going to have that thought more than once. Huge waste of time and a suck on your energy stop. So if you get nothing else, just keep stuff out of your head and make next action decisions on the things that are actionable, but that's sort of the core behaviors here.
Hala Taha: 31:17 And what do you think are some common pitfalls that people face when they first start implementing this methodology?
David Allen: 31:25 Well, of the first four steps of the five steps, any one of them you could fall off. First of all, people don't write everything down so they don't trust any system because they know they're still banging around in their head. They don't trust their head, nor do they trust the list. So there's problem one, problem two, even if they'd write it down there, sitting there staring at mom or bank on a list and having decided what the next action is. So their list of creating as much stress as they relieve problem too. They don't clarify the stuff that they may have. Their attention already been captured. Step three, they decided that's a phone call to make and they think their head can remind them to do that. And then two minutes later they forgot and they don't have a trusted system to park that in. So problem three, they don't organize the appropriate contents and stuff in a trusted place. Step four, they may have captured, clarified and organized, but they don't look at their list. So they're still making sort of ad hoc, latest and loudest decision making about their attention to their activities. So any one of those four can be where you fall off the wagon.
Hala Taha: 32:24 And I knew that you just launched a new book called getting things done for teens. Can you speak to what that's about?
David Allen: 32:31 Yeah. I mean, for 35 years I've had people come up to me and said, oh my God, I wish I had learned this when I was 12. Or Oh my God, I've got a 12 year old. I wish he or she could learn this right now because they're getting overwhelmed and swamped so I don't have kids. And I also don't know how to really address that market. So I have avoided this for years. I knew there was a huge demand for it, especially as getting things done in the book, sort of took off out there in the world, but then I ran across two guys. One was my ceo for several years at a public school teacher in Minneapolis. They both had kids and we're working a lot with kids and they were doing this work and so we coauthored the book and so they did the heavy lifting really of writing this and we've already had early returns from parents or teachers that have read this, oh my God, I need to learn this myself because they didn't step down the methodology at all.
David Allen: 33:19 It's just how do you apply it? For instance, the capture function, a CEO needs to make sure when they come back from the board meeting, they entered their briefcase of all the notes they took in the business cards they collected and whatever and then deal with them and process them. You know, a 12 year old needs to empty his or her pack the end of the day or the end of the week. What are all the notes that your teacher needs, your parents to sign that you've stuck in some little pocket over there along with the gum. So same principle, just different situation to apply it, but it's the same thing going on. So the book was kind of a reframe of the getting things done methodology for kids. Part of the context is, are you ready? Are you ready for graduation? Are you ready for the prom? Are you ready for the test?
David Allen: 34:01 Are you ready for college? Are you ready? As opposed to last minute, oh my God, scrambled, Yada, Yada, Yada. And so as kids grow up, but at a certain point you couldn't feed yourself. You had to be said you couldn't clean yourself. You had to be cleaned a certain point that's yours. You now deal with that. All right. At a certain point, you had to have help with homework at a certain point into yours, so over time you graduated as opposed to having the external world structure me, I now have to have my own structure for that, but kids have not been trained how to do that and so man, especially when they graduate from high school and step into the fire hose of reality, mom is no longer a trusted system. Oh my God, how are you going to manage laundry? How are you going to manage buying your food? How are you going to manage your finances? How are you going to manage that stuff? And there's not been much education about that, so that's what we wanted to get into this book. It's pretty deep actually. It's quite sophisticated in terms of what's in that book. It's not an elementary version of it. It's a sophisticated version of getting things done for a younger set.
Hala Taha: 35:06 Yeah. I wish I had that book. I imagine the habits that you would develop as a young person and bringing that into college and your professional career, that that would be amazing.
David Allen: 35:15 Oh, it's incredible. You know, now that I've been doing this work for decades, I've actually had parents who got onto the GTD process and then hadn't kids, good friend of mine who is my CTO, my chief tech guy for many years race his five daughters that he homeschooled them and they, they all grew up with this and they just wrote their own ticket. They one robotics competitions at age 12. They went to college and then turns out they wound up being hired to manage their college website. They just say, oh, why would you ever keep anything in your head and what are we trying to accomplish and what's the next action that they just built this in to their thought process. So that was always our hope. Look, if we really wanted to change the planet, so there are no problems. There are only projects. Let's get the kids first because they can easily be trained. This is the way to think.
Hala Taha: 36:04 Yeah, that's amazing. So all you listeners out there with younger brothers and sisters, make sure you tell them about getting things done for teens.
Speaker 2: 36:11 Just read it for yourselves. Believe me, if you haven't read getting things done, at least the new edition of it and taken to it yourself, you're going to find even the getting things done for teens will work for you at age 30.
Hala Taha: 36:23 Yeah, I think either one is good. Either one is a good start, right?
David Allen: 36:27 Oh, wherever. Yeah.
Hala Taha: 36:28 And for those listeners are interested in taking the next step with the GTD system, where would you recommend that they learn more?
David Allen: 36:35 Well, it Kinda depends on what you want to do. Obviously the getting things done book, which is really. It could be quite daunting because I just wrote the whole manual about all of this that I've learned in 30 years though it's an easy read. Essentially you can just pick it up and just scan through and see what sort of rings your bell about it, but that's available and that's certainly a way to at least see what this whole blueprint of this methodology really is and how to implement it if you're interested in it. My website, gettingthingsdone.com has lots of resources. Free newsletter you can get into. We do a lot of podcasts, there's a gtd connect, which is our subscription membership site that has a lot of deep dive into this with lots of folks around the world who are sharing best practices in this kind of in our club, we've got partners around the world delivering public seminars around this, so if you're in the US or Canada, vital smarts, great company has are exclusive rights to deliver our trainings are doing a lot of public trainings around getting things done, so if you go to our site and look at our global partners, wherever you are in the world, you'll see we're in 60 countries now, at least officially where we've got licensees and franchisees that we've certified them to do the trainings around this. So go to the site, you know, surf around, see what might ring a bell.
Hala Taha: 37:48 Yeah, and you're also on twitter at GTD Guy, right? One point 1.3 million followers, so make sure you go follow him on twitter as well. David, it was so nice to have you on the show. We really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.
David Allen: 38:02 My pleasure. Thanks for the invitation.
Hala Taha: 38:05 Thanks for listening to young and profiting podcast. Follow YAP on instagram at young and profiting and twitter at YAP_podcast and check us out at young and property [inaudible] dot com. Kudos to our amazing team, Timothy, Daniel McPhatter, Bobby Hughes, John Sparks and AK. Subscribe to Yap on your favorite platform to always keep up with us. Until next time, this is Hala.