David Allen: Getting Sh*t Done & Improving Your Productivity | E5
#5: Getting Sh*t Done & Improving Your Productivity with David Allen
Hear best practices from the GOAT of productivity, David Allen, best-selling author and inventor of the famed Getting Things Done system. David’s framework helps you keep track of tasks, ideas and projects, and focuses on getting this type of information out of your head and into an external system. In this episode, Hala uncovers how to feel less bogged down by the never-ending list of things you have to do—allowing yourself to be engaged and super productive in the moment. Now, go get sh*t done!
[00:00:00] Hala Taha: You're 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, bestselling author and inventor of the famed G T D 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, engaged, and super productive in the moment. Hi David, thanks for joining us today.
[00:00:41] David Allen: Hello. Thanks for the invitation. Delighted to be here.
[00:00:43] Hala Taha: We really appreciate you taking the time to YAP with us. And before we get started, I just wanna introduce you to our producer, Timothy Tan, who's on the line and a long time fan
[00:00:51] of your work.
[00:00:52] David Allen: Oh my gosh. Did it hurt Tim ?
[00:00:53] Timothy Tan: No, not at all. I did. It's really nice meeting you.
[00:00:57] David Allen: Thanks.
[00:00:57] Hala Taha: Like I mentioned, we're really excited to have you [00:01:00] on the show and you are what my generation would call the goat of productivity. Are you familiar with that saying?
[00:01:07] David Allen: No, I'm not. But I love it. I'm gonna steal that.
[00:01:10] Hala Taha: Yeah. It means you're the greatest of all time. That's what GOAT stands for. . .
[00:01:14] David Allen: I love goat milk. I grew up drinking goat milk cuz I was allergic to cow's milk when I was a kid, so I love goats. They're great.
[00:01:20] Hala Taha: Perfect. So it's a perfect match. So for our listeners who might be new to you in 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?
[00:01:32] David Allen: I'm the laziest guy you ever met, and I love having absolutely a clear head with nothing distracting you. I'm a Mr. Freedom guy. It's Hey, don't distract me. Let me just stay focused on whatever I wanna 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 professionallife and personal life as well, [00:02:00] 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.
[00:02:07] Hala Taha: And do you think it's harder to be focused and productive in today's digital world as compared 20 or 30 years ago when things were more paper based?
[00:02:15] David Allen: Yes.
[00:02:16] Hala Taha: Can you talk about that a little bit, ?
[00:02:20] David Allen: Absolutely. Come on. It's just, it's a matter of input. So it's the stress of opportunity. How many things could you or I right now if we weren't talking, be surfing the web about, be punching in to see the latest Instagram and to see who's following us?
[00:02:31] The distractability of today's world is huge, and it all comes down to the good news about that is it forces everybody to really decide, wait. 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?
[00:02:49] And is this how I wanna be spending my time? If you're in a crisis, you don't have that because the crisis defines your work for you. It defines your world for you. . So as you [00:03:00] move into a more unstructured world with lots of opportunities, the ability to be distracted and to run down rabbit trails or rabbit holes that are not necessarily where you ought or want or need to be, is huge.
[00:03:13] Hala Taha: And I know the outcome of the GDT system is stress-free productivity. Can you talk about what that means to you?
[00:03:20] David Allen: Actually, stress is good. You need to stress your puppies when you're grazing 'em. You need to stress kids so that they feel comfortable going up escalators. If you didn't have any stress, you'd never expand or express or really grow in terms of what you're doing.
[00:03:32] What you don't want is negative stress. See, if I wanna be out of the room and I'm not out of the room, I've created in a sense, a kind of stress or what they call cognitive dissonance. So now I wanna be outta 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 outta my chair, and get out of the room so that's actually a good thing. That's actually how you produce things. Any, anytime you have a vision or a goal that is not true yet you've created essentially a kind of a stress in your life that you start to [00:04:00] move toward it in order to relieve that stress. So that's actually a good thing.
[00:04:03] The negative stress says, I wanna be outta the room. Yeah, but no, I wanna sit here, but no, I wanna be out of the room, but I wanna sit here. Oh my gosh, now I'm in conflict. And that's ulcer. So now I'm in conflict about my stuff, and that's the kinda 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 that when you're keeping track of stuff, you need one might would, could, should ought to be doing or handling or dealing with or whatever.
[00:04:29] You're 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. And you can't do that. That's what's creating a lot of the stress is the fact that people are using the wrong place, the wrong tool to manage the wrong kind of stuff.
[00:04:44] 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 outta your head so you can take a look at it and go, No, I'm gonna go party, or I want to go do Facebook right now, or I just wanna take a nap or havea beer. And [00:05:00] making that decision, that's either an avoidance decision cuz you're not sure all the other stuff to do and you're in stress or it's, that's the decision you make because that's the thing to do.
[00:05:10] So it doesn't necessarily mean you're gonna change your behaviors. It means you're gonna feel a lot more comfortable about what you decide to do.
[00:05:16] Hala Taha: This is a good intro too. You're getting things done system. Do you wanna just talk about what exactly that is?
[00:05:21] David Allen: Sure. I'll give you the two minute version of it anyway. Basically you need to take anything that's got your a. Wow, my mom's birthday's coming. Wow. I've got this party I need to handle or deal with. Oh, I've got this test I'm gonna take on and this certification that I need to get. Oh, I think I'm willing to buy a house. Or should we have a kid? Do I need to get divorced or do I need to get married yet?
[00:05:41] How many things are on people's minds? All of those things actually need to be captured. That's step one.
[00:05:46] So there's five steps to this. It's capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. So the capture step is to just identify and grab some sort of a placeholder for that outside your head. Write it down in other words, or record it or something.
[00:05:59] But [00:06:00] write it down is usually 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. Little big, personal, professional, or whatever. That could take you, good hour just for most people, if not more, to just get all that stuff outta their head to begin with.
[00:06:15] 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 to then move to the clarify step, which is, okay, what are these things that have my attention? Are they actionable? Yes or no? If not, then they're either reference or, incubate, Remind me later.
[00:06:37] 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, research, buying a house what would I do next? What's the first thing I would do? And then will that one action, finish this? No, of course not. My, I've got a project at least research whether or not a house is what we wanna buy, right now?
[00:06:56] So that now I've got a, an action and a project outcome and action. And so the [00:07:00] 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 discreet about what exactly does that mean to you? Is it actionable? Yes or no?
[00:07:12] And if it is, what's the next action? And if one action won't finish it, what's your project . And once you've then 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 are the errands I need to run. Here are the things I need to talk to my life partner about right now.
[00:07:28] Here's the stuff I need to buy at the hardware store. 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 and my actions out there in life, and hopefully a trusted system.
[00:07:48] 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 [00:08:00] and say, Okay, apply that to your whole life so that you don't have to be bothered about any of this.
[00:08:04] It's just you don't only need to think about your errands when you're going out 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 'em back to you as you might want 'em.
[00:08:20] Step four would then be to reflect on the content . If you're going out for errands, look at your list, go to the store, look at your list. If you're gonna 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.
[00:08:37] And I would suggest most millennials probably have somewhere between 30 and 50 projects. Taken a broad definition. Get tires of my car, handle the next holiday. Man, it's this big party I want to give whatever they are. If you actually add all that up, that's a great list to have, but you need to reflect on that on some regular basis.
[00:08:54] So building in some sort of a review, more an executive time with yourself, reflection and [00:09:00] review of all your. And catch up. 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 gotta do something about it, but they know they do.
[00:09:12] And stopping and reflecting on your life and what are all the things that have shown 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, my stuff to talk to people about. What do I want to do right now?
[00:09:28] And then that essentially you're making 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 hope 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 is.
[00:09:48] Hala Taha: Yeah, that was fantastic. It seems so intuitive to, 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.
[00:09:58] David Allen: It's interesting. It's how you get [00:10:00] control of anything. If you walk into your kitchen, if you ever had your cooking area out of control and you walk in and, but you've got guests coming in an hour. 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 or kitchen area right now?
[00:10:15] And then step two is, What is that? Oh, that's a dirty dish. Oh, that's a clean dish. That's a spice. Oh, that's good food. Oh, 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.
[00:10:29] You put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher, you put the good food back in the fridge. You organize 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, step five and engage.
[00:10:45] You pull out butter and melt it. So I didn't make this up. I just identified those stages that we do, but most people haven't really either understood what those discrete activities were or applied that to the more complex, [00:11:00] sophisticated aspects of our lives that we're all living.
[00:11:02] Hala Taha: Speaking of that, I know that many people organize their professional tasks.
[00:11:07] 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?
[00:11:15] David Allen: Because your head doesn't make a distinction, you can be as bothered by stuff at home while you're at work, as you can be bothered by stuff at work and while you're at home.
[00:11:25] But there's no fence inside your head. , 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. wake up at three o'clock in the morning, go, Oh God, I forgot to, or I need to, or whatever.
[00:11:37] You're still thinking about stuff in that game. So the whole idea here is look, just be present 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, it's really about being appropriately engaged with all the levels of commitment in your life.
[00:11:56] So you're fully present with whatever you're doing, whether that's writing a [00:12:00] business plan or cooking spaghetti, or watching your kid play soccer or whatever the heck you're doing. You just wanna 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.
[00:12:12] And so you can't really distinguish between personal and professional. I haven't for 40. . It's all just what's next. See, even in my personal life, while I'm playing with my dog, I don't wanna be thinking about my stove that needs fixed. I need to have already handled that. So if I can play with my dog and be there, as opposed to having my brain go somewhere else, even if it's personal about something else, personal, I just wanna be present with whatever I'm doing.
[00:12:35] So I need to be accountable to myself to have captured, clarified and organized anything no matter where it shows up about anything I have any commitment to do or handle, or deal with, or decide about.
[00:12:47] Hala Taha: And then I think my next question is on step three, which is to organize. So as we're captured all of this information, how do we categorize these tasks so that we can clearly evaluate them and see them clearly?
[00:12:59] David Allen: You [00:13:00] 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 at the hardware store. Here's what I need to draft on my computer. You could keep all that on one list. It's just most people probably have more than a hundred of. And so that'd be a little daunting and overwhelming.
[00:13:17] If you saw all a hundred on one list, you go out, you 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 gonna be very functional. So we found it. Once you actually identify all the actions you need to take about all of your commitments, that keeping reminders of them based upon a context for that.
[00:13:38] Like when I'm not at home, I don't need to see my stuff. I told myself I have to be at home to. . So I have an at home list , so I don't, I, there's no need to even see that unless I'm at home, cuz I can't do 'em until I'm 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.
[00:13:55] I 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 [00:14:00] 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.
[00:14:11] 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 errands. Here's the stuff I need to do when I, at my computer. And then it's a very good idea if you're engaged, with other people, which most people are certainly professionally. My assistant, my boss, my partner at work, my life partner.
[00:14:31] 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 you, I need to talk to one of those people about. So you just keep a list of agendas. Here's all the stuff that I'm keeping track of. I need to talk to my partner about next time I see him or her.
[00:14:45] And so organizing these by the context that you need to be in order to do that action makes us a lot simpler and a lot more functional.
[00:14:54] Hala Taha: And as we have a list or however we choose to organize our tasks based on what they are, [00:15:00] how do we decide what action we should take next?
[00:15:03] David Allen: 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 wanna. What are 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 the 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?
[00:15:23] 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 loops that might be moving in that? So those are the six horizons. You've got commitments. So if you ask me, What's your priority?
[00:15:37] I say which one of those horizons do you think you need to review? Which thing to do after you get off the phone with me? right now, it's gonna be the most important thing to do. That'll relieve the most pressure. That'll move you more forward toward the things that are meaningful to you.
[00:15:51] 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 it any simpler than that. You could say, What are your priorities [00:16:00] in life? When I get sleepy and I need to take a nap, that's my priority. I don't wanna make that some ABC or whatever. That's just a thing to do right now given all the other stuff I need to do.
[00:16:09] 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 gonna give you the highest payoff and you're the one who's gonna have to interpret that.
[00:16:24] Hala Taha: Yeah, so you just mentioned open loops, and I think this is a really interesting concept.
[00:16:30] 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
[00:16:37] system. 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 could be as simple as, I need cat food to, I need a life and anything in between, know? 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's starting to spin and recognizing what are [00:17:00] those spinning things I've got. It is just recognizing what the open loops are. The problem is most people don't realize how much of your energy that's taking up without making any progress on progressing about any of these things.
[00:17:12] So if you keep this stuff in your head has no sense of past future, it thinks you should be doing all those all the time. Psychologically, which you can't do. So again, that's a lot of the source of the stress. You'll wake up at three o'clock in the morning call, Oh my God, I need cat food. But there's no store open.
[00:17:26] You could go buy cat food. So totally unworthy thought to have. All it's gonna do is stretch you out, drain your energy. So you wanna be able to identify what are these loops that I've opened, and keep some reminder of those things and an inventory of 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.
[00:17:50] David Allen: That was a great explanation. So Tim, I know that you have a deeper dive question on step number four to reflect or review. Do [00:18:00] you wanna talk to that a little?
[00:18:01] Timothy Tan: 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?
[00:18:16] David Allen: Tim, do you like sports at all? Do you like to follow sports teams at all?
[00:18:19] Timothy Tan: Yeah
[00:18:20] David Allen: Like soccer, baseball, football, but
[00:18:22] Timothy Tan: Yeah, basketball.
[00:18:23] David Allen: Yeah. How much time during the week do you think those guys spend getting ready for the game.
[00:18:29] Timothy Tan: a lot of time.
[00:18:30] David Allen: Three hours, and I don't think so. Try 80% of their work life is getting ready for their work. And you're complaining about spending three hours a week to get ready for your work. Gimme a break. If you just spent seven hours of your eight hour day getting ready for the last hour, that last hour was gonna be hot. Really cool.
[00:18:50] Timothy Tan: Yeah. I totally understand that. It's a concept of working smarter as opposed to working harder.
[00:18:55] David Allen: Yeah. But how to work smarter. That's why the weekly review is so powerful, is because it actually gives you a very [00:19:00] 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 time frame and your chronologies and your due dates coming toward you, and all the commitments you've got at multiple levels in your life.
[00:19:13] 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 gonna spend the rest of the next week is however long it takes. I can do mine sometimes in 15 minutes, a short version of it. And sometimes I'm like you, it's gonna take three hours or four hours.
[00:19:33] But that's a very rich four hours that I'm taking to make myself feel comfortable. 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.
[00:19:47] Timothy Tan: Yeah, that makes sense. And it really depends on the case.
[00:19:50] David Allen: 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 on a [00:20:00] holiday is you're clarifying, 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 needed to do to make sure you were free to do that.
[00:20:16] I just suggest people do it weekly, not yearly.
[00:20:19] Hala Taha: Yeah, that makes sense. And it makes sense because you're able to be more productive even though you're taking the time on the onset to plan your week. At least you know what you're doing and then you can be more productive And be focused all week.
[00:20:31] David Allen: Yeah, and it's not so much plan your week. I'm not a big fan of planning anything. You don't have to. I plan 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.
[00:20:48] But I could only do that if I'm doing some version of a weekly review weekly that I can trust my intuitive judgment. See guys, you don't have time to think. You need to have already thought , Your life is gonna be too busy, too crazy. [00:21:00] You're gonna be in the fire hose of life is gonna be in your face as soon as you get off the line with me.
[00:21:04] And you don't have time to think. 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, I just took a look on what's really coming up and what's really critical and important.
[00:21:19] So I think I'm gonna 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. really needs to happen, especially with the complexity of people's lives these days with a good review externally of all your commitments.
[00:21:36] Hala Taha: 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 tasks. So do you have any advice on how to take baby steps or wean yourself into this system?
[00:21:50] David Allen: Anything helps. This is not running with scissors.
[00:21:53] 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 [00:22:00] 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 clean up, just clean the area of your desk that's been piling up over there.
[00:22:11] Just go through that and clean it up. You'll feel better. You're more in control and more. It's Hey, go get your car cleaned, clean up the trunk of your car and it'll drive better . So if nothing else, clean a drawer. When in doubt, clean a drawer. Come on. So none of this hurts. Any of this stuff is gonna help in that way.
[00:22:28] 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.
[00:22:45] Any of that stuff is gonna work. Any of that stuff will help. But come on, we're teaching this to seven, eight, and nine year olds now. So don't tell me a millennial can't do this.
[00:22:53] Hala Taha: No, I think millennials definitely can do this and I'm so excited to get started. I feel like naturally I do this type of stuff [00:23:00] anyway, but just getting something with more rigor is exciting to me.
[00:23:04] David Allen: 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. because they're actually the ones that have thrown themselves out of their own comfort zone because of their own creativity and aspirations and success.
[00:23:20] They haven't matured their systems to actually keep up with all that and to support it. So that's the good news about my life. At the last 35 years of my life, I've spent hanging out with some of the best, brightest and busy people on the planet. because they're the ones that have come to us and are attracted to this work.
[00:23:36] So the fact that you are already productive, I'm sure how you already know there is a value to a system. There's already value to having a list. There's already value 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 a new game.
[00:23:52] Hala Taha: Yeah, I totally agree. There's so much value to this system. You mentioned something that I thought was really interesting in your [00:24:00] book. It's the two minute role. So when processing information you recommend to do 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.
[00:24:12] Like I think a lot of. 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?
[00:24:23] David Allen: Most people actually avoid doing two minute things. That would only take two minutes cuz they think it's gonna take a lot longer than that.
[00:24:29] So the two minute rule, I, believe me, I've had hundreds of executives that I've coached 1 0 1. 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 the more senior you get and the more sophisticated your life gets, oftentimes you know you can avoid making the next action decision.
[00:24:47] 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 decide that, hey, the next step I need to do is to email my [00:25:00] 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 this.
[00:25:06] 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 wanna be able to do right then, cuz it would take me longer to stack it, track it, remind yourself of it later on than it would be actually finish it.
[00:25:19] 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 walk through your apartment or house or wherever you live right now and just notice things that are off. Is that light bulb out? How long would that take you to go get a light bulb and stick it in there?
[00:25:37] Oh my God, come on. That screw is loose on how long would it take you to go get a screwdriver and fix that? And so you'd be amazed how many things just right around you, it will improve if you apply that principle. And it's simply the efficiency principle. First of all don't keep track of it in your head because you'll keep being reminded I should change that light bulb 65 times today.
[00:25:56] But once you decide that's all I need to do, and it would take less than two. [00:26:00] You don't wanna have to write it down cuz it would take you more time to write it down and look at it again than to finish it right then. So it's just a purely practical, intuitive thing to do.
[00:26:07] Timothy Tan: I was wondering as someone who receives a lot of sporadic work, that takes under two minutes, I find that a two minute rule can sometimes result in more work instead of less work over time.
[00:26:17] 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?
[00:26:26] David Allen: The two minute rule really only applies when you're processing new inputs. First of all, you should not have any backlog of two minute stuff.
[00:26:32] 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 and your commitments and your responsibilities. Yes, do it. , Absolutely. What are you gonna do? Write it down. Look at it later. When it, When are you gonna do it?
[00:26:46] If somebody comes in that something would take less than two minutes to do, First of all, I may not even let into my office or I 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 [00:27:00] input that I can deal with later on. 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.
[00:27:09] 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 in baskets. I'll get to that later when I've got better time to do it, cuz right now I'm engaged in something. So there are no interruptions.
[00:27:24] There's only mismanaged 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 in crises and interruptions. It's called a fire department. Because they just organize for that. If they're not dealing with a fire, they're getting ready for the next one.
[00:27:42] They don't complain about those, even though 95% are false alarms. Talk about a reason to complain , come on. That's just the nature of their game. So if you haven't acknowledge 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 [00:28:00] stuff, they're walking into your office. Why?
[00:28:02] Timothy Tan: Yeah. I don't mean to say that I'm complaining about that. 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 ho at times, and that is the nature of the position. And that's something I've come to terms with.
[00:28:20] David Allen: Yeah. But if there's stuff that requires an hour or two, 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 the ad hoc, latest and loudest environment out there?
[00:28:36] That's why everybody's always checking their smartphones. They're always checking their email. Sometimes I do just cuz nothing else going on. Let me look and see what's going on. But if I wanna write an article that's gonna take me four hours, that's what I do. because the rest of the stuff will wait. If it's an emergency, if some lights will flash or if somebody will reach me in some way.
[00:28:53] But I don't need to let myself be distracted by that. So what you're talking about is not an issue [00:29:00] unless it is.
[00:29:01] Hala Taha: 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 in corporate, moving up the corporate ladder, and when I'm in a meeting with executives, they give me a task.
[00:29:14] I can't do it right then and there, you've gotta 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
[00:29:26] David Allen: if you're ever gonna do it at all. If you're not, delete it. If you are, do it then.
[00:29:31] Hala Taha: So like you said, the two minute rule is worth its weight and goal. Do you have any other simple tips or tricks that you can share?
[00:29:37] David Allen: Just get more stuff outta your head. Write stuff down, folks. Keep a pad and pin with you wherever you go, because the older you get, the more mature and sophisticated you get.
[00:29:47] It's not senility , it is sophistication that the more material you get, the more good ideas will not happen where you're gonna implement that. , you'll be buying bread at the store thinking of something to bring up at the marketing meeting, [00:30:00] and you'll be in the marketing meeting remembering you need bread, right?
[00:30:03] 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're in the meeting, you're gonna have that thought more than once. Huge waste of time and a suck in your energy. Stop. So if you get nothing else, just keep stuff outta your head and make next action decisions on the things that are actionable.
[00:30:23] But that's the core behaviors here.
[00:30:25] Hala Taha: And what do you think are some common pitfalls that people face when they first start implementing this methodology? ?
[00:30:31] David Allen: 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 cuz they know they're still banging around their head.
[00:30:40] They don't trust their head, nor do they trust their list. So there's problem one, problem two, even if they'd write it down, they're sitting there staring at mom or bank on a list and haven't decided what the next action is. So their lists are creating as much stress as they relieve problem two, they don't clarify the stuff that they may have.
[00:30:58] Their attention owner, they've been. [00:31:00] Step three, they decide that's a phone call to make. 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 of stuff in a trusted place.
[00:31:15] Step four, they may have captured, clarified, and organized, but they don't look at their list. So they're still making ad hoc, latest and loudest decision making about their attention and their. So any one of those four could be where you fall off this wagon.
[00:31:29] Hala Taha: And I know you just launched a new book called Getting Things Done for Teens. Can you speak to what that's about?
[00:31:36] David Allen: Yeah, for 35 years I've had people come up to me and say, Oh my God, I wish I'd 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. So I don't have kids, and I also don't know how to really address that market, so I've avoided this for years.
[00:31:55] I knew there was a huge demand for it, especially as getting things done in the book. Took off out there [00:32:00] in the world. , but then I ran across two guys. One was my CEO for several years and a public school teacher in Minneapolis. They both had kids and were working a lot with kids, and they were doing this work, and so we co-authored the book, and so they did the heavy lifting really, of writing this.
[00:32:15] We've already had early returns from parents or teachers that have read this, right? Oh my God, I need to learn this myself, because they didn't step down the methodology at all. It's just how do you apply?
[00:32:25] For instance, the capture function. A CEO needs to make sure when they come back from the board meeting, they emptied their briefcase of all the notes they took and the business cards they collected and whatever. and then deal with them and process them. A 12 year old needs to empty his or her pack at 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 a gum. So same principle, just different situation to apply it, but it's the same thing going on.
[00:32:53] So the book was a reframe of the getting things done, methodology for kids. Part of the context is, are you. [00:33:00] Are you ready for graduation? Are you ready for the prom? Are you ready for the test? Are you ready for college? Are you ready? As opposed to last minute, oh my God, scrambled, yada yada.
[00:33:11] And see as kids grow up, but at a certain point you couldn't feed yourself. You had to be fed. You couldn't clean yourself. You had to be cleaned at a certain point. That's yours. You now deal with that, right? At a certain point, you had to have help on homework. At a certain point. It's yours. So over time you graduated as opposed to having the external world structure.
[00:33:33] Me, I now have to have my own structure for that. But kids have not been trained how to do that. And 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 you gonna manage laundry? How you gonna manage buying your food?
[00:33:50] How you gonna manage your finances? How you gonna manage that? 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 [00:34:00] 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.
[00:34:09] Hala Taha: Yeah, I wish I had that book. Imagine the habits that you would develop as a young person and bringing that into college and your professional career, that would be amazing.
[00:34:17] David Allen: Oh, it's incredible. Now, given that I've been doing this work for decades, I've actually had parents who got onto the GTD process and then had kids.
[00:34:28] Good friend of mine, who is my CTO, my chief tech guy for many years, raised his five daughters that he homeschooled them, and they all grew up with this methodology and they just wrote their own ticket. They won robotics competitions at age 12, and they went to college and then turns out, they wound up being hired to manage their college website.
[00:34:47] 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? And 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 [00:35:00] are only projects, let's get the kids first. Because they can easily be trained. This is the way to think.
[00:35:05] Hala Taha: 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.
[00:35:12] David Allen: Just read it for yourselves. Believe me, , if you haven't read Getting Things Done, at least the new edition of it. And take into it yourself. You're gonna find even the getting things done for teens will work for you at age 30.
[00:35:24] Hala Taha: Yeah. I think either one is good. Either one is a good start, right? .
[00:35:28] David Allen: Oh, wherever. Yeah.
[00:35:29] Hala Taha: And for those listeners interested in taking the next step with the G T D system, where would you recommend that they learn more?
[00:35:36] David Allen: depends on what you want to do. Obviously the Getting Things Done book, which is really, it could be quite daunting cuz 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 it and see what sort of rings your bell about it.
[00:35:50] 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 by our website, getting things [00:36:00] done.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.
[00:36:16] In this, in in our club, we've got partners around the world delivering public seminars around. So if you're in the US or Canada, Vital Smarts great company, has our exclusive rights to deliver our trainings. They're 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.
[00:36:44] So go to the site, surf around, see what might ring your.
[00:36:47] Hala Taha: And you're also on twitter at G T D guy, right? 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 [00:37:00] to speak with us.
[00:37:01] David Allen: My pleasure. Thanks for the invitation.
[00:37:03] Hala Taha: Thanks for listening to Young and Profiting podcast. Follow Y on Instagram at Young and Profiting and Twitter at yeps podcast. And check us [email protected]. Kudos to our amazing team, Timothy Tan, Daniel mc Fatter, Bobby Hughes, John Sparks, and AK. Subscribe to YAP on your favorite platform to always keep up with us.
[00:37:22] Until next time, this is Hala.
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