YAPClassic: David Allen on Getting More Sh*t Done
YAPClassic: David Allen on Getting More Sh*t Done
Do you feel like you just can’t seem to get things done? Like your productivity is at a standstill, constantly distracted, and you can’t possibly accomplish all you set out to? A world-renowned expert in creativity, David Allen, holds the key to boosting your productivity. David’s “Getting Things Done,” or GDT, the methodology helps you capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage your way to productivity. In this episode, Hala and David go deep into the five stages of GDT, talk about David’s background and expertise in productivity, and give advice on how you can start being more productive today.
– David’s background and early jobs
– Why productivity
– Defining GDT
– Five Stages of GDT
– Importance of “clear space”
– Best advice for a clear head
– Defining “mind like water”
– David’s “no problems, only projects” philosophy
– Bottom’s up philosophy to productivity
– Best practices for “outcome thinking”
– The Law of Attraction
– What David means by “put things in front of the door”
– Tips and tricks for getting creative
– Productivity blockers and how to manage interruptions
– And other topics…
David Allen is recognized as the world’s leading expert on personal and organizational productivity. He is the engineer of GTD®, the popular Getting Things Done® methodology that has shown millions how to transform a fast-paced, overwhelming, overcommitted life into one that is balanced, integrated, relaxed, and has more successful outcomes.
David’s thirty-year pioneering research and coaching to corporate managers and CEOs of some of America’s most prestigious corporations and institutions has earned him Forbes’ recognition as one of the top five executive coaches in the U.S. and Business 2.0 magazine’s inclusion in their 2006 list of the “50 Who Matter Now.”
David is the international best-selling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life, and Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life.
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YAP Episode #21: Getting More Sh*t Done with David Allen: https://www.youngandprofiting.com/21-getting-more-sht-done-with-david-allen/
YAP Episode #5: Getting Sh*t Done & Improving Your Productivity with David Allen: https://www.youngandprofiting.com/5-getting-sht-done-improving-your-productivity-with-david-allen/
David’s Books: https://www.amazon.com/David-Allen/e/B001ILIG4C/
GDT’s Website: https://gettingthingsdone.com/
GDT’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/2328651/
GDT’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/GTDtimes
GDT’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gtdtimes/
GDT’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gettingthingsdone
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[00:00:00] So you've had a very fascinating life. It's a known fact that you've had 35 professions before the age of 35. You are a magician, a karate teacher cook a travel agent, so many different types. All seemingly unrelated, you're into new age thinking and Zen Buddhism, and nobody would have guessed that you would become the business, grew that you are today.
Hala: So tell us what was life like as a young adult for you?
David Allen: By the way, I would not have guessed. I would would be doing this either. Trust me, believe me. If I was an American intellectual history major in graduate school in Berkeley in 1968. And if you'd told me then I was going to wind up. You know, thousands of hours with executives and corporate training and some of the biggest companies in the world, I would have said, what are you smoking?
David Allen: You know, come on. That's not me. So yeah, it's been a very interesting path. In retrospect, I look back and I can see and say that there were some common themes that actually ran through all of that. But yeah, it's a long story. Again, that [00:01:00] 73. I've been graced with having just a ton of different experiences, which have been quite valuable in my life.
Hala: Did you end up taking on so many different career paths? Was it hard for you to determine what your true calling was? How did you land on
David Allen: productivity? Oh yeah. I didn't know what I wanted to do when I grew up for a while in college, I thought I was going to have an academic career, so I was a history major.
David Allen: And what else? Can you do a major in history other than being academia, maybe, right. Or. But then I started studying people who seem to be enlightened. And then I got kind of hungry to find my own. And I didn't experience graduate school as a place that I could get that this is the 1960s in California. So I decided to hop off and jump into personal growth, personal exploration, spiritual work, meditation, martial arts, all kinds of things.
David Allen: Mostly. Sort of explore God truth in the universe, you know, what was it that we couldn't see that seemed to be affecting? So that was basically a [00:02:00] common theme. As I look back, I couldn't have told you back then, but as I look back to my first job and they weren't really professions those 35, they were just different jobs that I added up.
David Allen: And my first job was actually being a magician at age five in Palestinian, Texas. I charged a nickel for my magic show. Well, that's kind of interesting. Cause I looked back and to go old magic was sort of the G if you could kind of make things move without having to physically do it. Wouldn't that be cool?
David Allen: You know, I'm Mr. Lazy. So I was always interested in trying to find out what were the key drivers of our experience and how to get ahold of those, because if we could get ahold of those and if they seem to be really affecting everything tremendous. I said, well, that'd be a neat thing to do to be able to find out what that truth was.
David Allen: So it was really more on the inner exploration, but they're not paying people, you know, rice bowl and cave was not my style. I like good wine and good looking women and, you know, things like that. And I didn't want to kind of give up this world, but again, not knowing what to do as a [00:03:00] profession or a career at that point, I just had to pay.
David Allen: So it turned out. I had a number of people that I knew and friends and so forth that seemed to know what they wanted to do. So they were starting their own businesses or running small businesses themselves. And so I just helped them out. I became a really good number, two guy. I helped a couple of friends start a new Orleans style restaurant in west LA.
David Allen: I ran a vitamin distribute. Network for some friends. I've had a good friend who ran a landscape company and San Fernando valley. And I wound up sort of managing a lot of his crews. So I was just basically helping them, but I would just show up and look around and say, well, how much easier could we do this?
David Allen: Cause I'm Mr. Lazy. I was always looking for, how could we get stuff done with as little effort as possible. Now they call that process improvement, but I was just, Hey, you know, come on. Can we make this. And then I would make it easier in terms of their, their systems and whatever they were doing. And then I'd get bored, then I'd leave and go find something else.
David Allen: That was more interesting. And then I discovered they actually paid people to do that. They call them [00:04:00] something consultant. So 1981, I hung up my shingle Allen associates and I started my own little consulting practice. I said, okay, well, let me see if I could just kind of sell myself on a project by project.
David Allen: So that's what I started to do. Also. I got very hungry to say, well, okay, if I'm going to be a consultant, it'd be nice to know what consultants do now. Again, I'll be self-disclosing here. I've never had a traditional business psychology or time management course in my life. You know, all of my stuff was from experience and just seeing what worked, what didn't work, you know, how can we work with.
David Allen: And so I started looking for what are some models? Is there a procedure that in case it's not clear what I could do with a client or a customer to improve their situation? What if I had something in my back pocket, I could pull out as a. That would improve their situation. So that was one vector that caused me to start looking for those kinds of things that were universal.
David Allen: No matter what the business was, no matter who it was, if they applied these principles or these [00:05:00] techniques, they would improve their condition at the same time, because of my inner work, I was very attracted to clear. And the martial arts, particularly a very practical reason, lots of really good techniques.
David Allen: Now they call it mindfulness, you know, focus on your breathing. But I did that 40 years ago in the martial arts, because that's how you get present and clear your head for people jumping on a dark alley. You don't want 2000 unprocessed emails banging around it. You need to be totally clear. So how do you get clear?
David Allen: So I love the idea of clear. So a lot of those kind of things came together and I wound up one of my first mentors. And as I started, my consulting practice was a guy who'd been in the consulting business for quite a number of years. And he kind of took to me and he wound up sharing a whole lot of his techniques with me.
David Allen: And we did several clients and work together, but he had come up with some stuff that. Executives that he worked with clear their head so they could focus on the organizational change. They were interested in. Whereas if they were [00:06:00] distracted and had a lot of old business hanging around, it was kind of hard for them to make those kinds of changes.
David Allen: So Dean had come up with the technique of getting stuff out of your head and then deciding next actions on all those things that have your attention. And he did that process with me and I wasn't in pain. I was pretty organized guy. I kind of had my act together, but I said, well, okay, let me see what that process is.
David Allen: And he took me through that process and I went, oh my God, this is so wicked. Cool. Cause it suddenly gave me a sense of clarity, a sense of stability, a sense of focus and control that I never experienced before. So I went well. That's really cool. So after then we were using that with clients and then I turned around and started to use some of those same techniques with my clients.
David Allen: And it produced exactly the same results, more clarity, more space in their head, more focus, more control, more stability. So I went, whoa, that's really cool. And then at one point head of human resources for a big corporation, like. Saw what I was doing. And he said, wow, David, those are the kinds of results we need in our whole culture.
David Allen: Can you design a training program [00:07:00] around this instead of just one-on-one sort of model that you're using in your consulting? So I said, okay. So I spent a couple of months and designed a two day personal productivity training program. We did a pilot program for a thousand executives and managers at Lockheed 1983 and 84.
David Allen: It hit a nerve. Wow. They thought this was the best thing since sliced bread. I didn't know what I come up with. It just suddenly get hit this nerve. And then I found myself thrust into the corporate training world. And that also forced me to hone what I had come up with an uncovered as a set of best practices into a more rigorous well-defined sort of model, just so that we could do that in training.
David Allen: So. So that's kinda how it all started, but then it took me another 20 years to figure out what I'd figured out. Nobody else had done it and that it was unique and that it was before. That's when I wrote the book, getting things done. So it was a long process, literally thousands of hours, my coaching and my consulting really turned into one-on-one work with a lot of executives, senior people in these [00:08:00] organizations that wanted to implement this methodology themselves personally.
David Allen: So that's where a lot of this experience came from a lot of what I wrote in getting things done. And the model itself really came from those many, many years and thousands of hours. I spent just doing this work.
Hala: Wow. That's very cool. Thanks for sharing that whole background,
David Allen: bore everybody to tears.
Hala: That was great.
Hala: You know what I've been doing research on you and everybody always focuses on GTD, but I think it's important to understand how this even came about because there's lessons with the. Itself. So you earned a black belt in karate around your college years. You briefly mentioned your interest in martial arts, and we spoke about how you're also interested in Zen Buddhism.
Hala: So can you talk about how those interests helped shape your perspective on productivity and maybe some of the core concepts involved with Sen Buddha?
David Allen: Well, you know, I didn't go out to implement Zen and I'm not a rigorous practitioner of it. If you know, people who are real practitioners of Zen that sit for hours and meditate and do all that good [00:09:00] stuff, lovely stuff.
David Allen: I had read a lot of the Zen writings, you know, Alan Watson and Suzuki and, and those folks back when I was even in high school. So I've always been attracted to the aesthetic, which is sort of minimal stuff that transmits something rather interesting. My wife and our big Japanophiles. I mean, we love that aesthetic of the simple and ordinary that's down to the simplest forms that have an elegance to them.
David Allen: And so I think I've always been attracted to that in a way. So maybe that's what helped a lot with me trying to just find what is the minimal amount of stuff you could do to be as organized as you need to be, to give you the freedom. Because I'm a real freedom guy to me, a lot of people think that I'm an organizing freak and I'm actually not asking my wife.
David Allen: I only get organized so that I don't have to rethink anything, you know, so, but I'm so lazy. I don't like to not have my mind bothered with trying to remember and remind. So I'm organized just so that I get clear space. So I kind of, it's kind of like Zen or a lot of [00:10:00] other people came up with the same conclusions.
David Allen: So it wasn't like trying to take that and put that into some form. I just did the form that was attractive to me. And then I looked around and go, wow. I guess there's a similarity there.
Hala: Yeah. Okay. So let's spend a little bit of time for GTD for all my listeners. In episode five, we went through this five step process in great detail.
Hala: But for those who haven't listened, could you give a high level explanation of what GTD is?
David Allen: Sure. Well, it's about how do you keep yourself from being distracted and your. Because your mind did not evolve to remember remind or prioritize or manage relationships between more than four things. We know now, given Harvey to science research, that as soon as you're trying to keep track of 5, 6, 7, 8 things in your head, not to mention the dozens, if not hundreds of things, most people are trying to keep in their head.
David Allen: You're going to be driven by latest and loudest. I'm not by strategy or intuitive until. So the whole idea is being able to empty your head and then get all that into an external brain. So they're really five stages. We all go through you. First of all, you capture stuff that has your attention. What's on [00:11:00] your mind, write it down and then you need to clarify, what does that mean?
David Allen: You wrote down mom, what does that mean? Well, her birthday's coming well. What's the next step about that? And what's the outcome. So outcome and action are the two key things that most people still need to think about and decide about the things that have their attention. What's the action I need to take.
David Allen: If that won't finish whatever this commitment is, what's the commitment. What's the project. So clarify as the step two. So I've captured stuff that has my attention. And then I start to clarify those things. What I'm going to do about that? What am I committed to finish it? And then step three would be to organize that if you can't do those activities right, then, then you need to organize some reminder about them.
David Allen: What are all the errands you need to run? What are all the things you need to talk to your life partner about? What are all the things you need to do at your computer? What are all the websites you need to serve? And so just then creating appropriate for the most part lists, reminders of work that you've already defined, that you need to do putting those in some appropriate trusted system, which is the [00:12:00] organized step.
David Allen: So you capture clarify, then you organize your thinking inappropriate places, and then step four is to then make sure you're looking at your errands list. When you go out for errands, make sure you're looking at all the 35 or 82 projects you have on some, maybe weekly basis so that you make sure you're not letting Sam something fall through the cracks.
David Allen: And that step four is a reflect or review stage step five, and then to engage once I've captured, clarified, organized, and reviewed all of these different commitments of these multiple levels. Then if I decided to take a nap, if I decided to write a business plan, if I decide to cook spaghetti or, you know, whatever the heck I decide to do, it's because I've looked at the whole game and said, this is the best thing to do right now for whatever reason.
David Allen: And so moving yourself into a trusted choice. That you trusting what you're doing is really the end game of GTD.
Hala: And just for everybody listening GTD is the most popular productivity methodology out there. David has like a cult following. So he released this book. GTD [00:13:00] back in 2001, he's at a, another iteration of that.
Hala: But if you're interested in that, go check out his book, go check out episode five.
Hala: So a little birdie told me that you're having a GTD summit in Amsterdam, June 20th and 21st.
Hala: I read that there's going to be two main themes at the event. And I thought that both of them would be great discussion points. So the first is the strategic value of clear space. And the second is there are no problems, only projects. So let's break these down, starting with the strategic value of clear space.
Hala: Now this is fundamental to GTD. It's something you always talk about. I've heard you say in one of your books, that productivity is directly proportional to one's ability to relax. You preach that your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them and you advocate for a mind like water. So tell us more about the importance of clear space.
Hala: What do you mean when you say mind like water and what's your best advice for achieving a clear head and a relaxed mind?
David Allen: Well, all of that could be wrapped together. A lot of the mindfulness stuff these days is just about how do you get [00:14:00] present? How do you keep yourself from running into the future or regretting the past?
David Allen: How do you get present? That's why focusing on your breathing is a key element for that kind of practice. It wasn't for me, the martial arts as well, because your breathing is present. If you could just focus on your breath, you're not in the past or not on the future. You're right here. Right? And that happens to be the most productive state to be in it's the best state to hit a golf ball from best state to cook spaghetti from the state to have a difficult conversation from if you need to do that is to not have your brain distracted or pulled away that you have essentially all of your cognitive resources available to you in the moment for where you want.
David Allen: So you can't have nothing on your mind if you're conscious, but what you want is to have what you want on your mind, on your mind and not have it distracted by 60,000 other things that are likely to pull you away. And most people are not that aware of frankly, of how many things are potentially distracted.
David Allen: And you really won't find that out until you actually go through the GTD process and unload everything has got your attention, [00:15:00] little big personal professional and get it out of your head. It creates quite a different experience for most people once they actually do that and then building into practice.
David Allen: So that, that becomes your normal state. A lot of people get into their zone, but they don't know kind of how they got there. And then they fall out of it and don't know how to get back into it. But being in your zone, that is where you're totally present. There's no difference between work or play, which is what's next.
David Allen: Right? So there's no distinction about work-life balance or just balance period. Cause balance may be working 23 hours a day. Maybe that's what you need to do in order to get clear. Who knows? So GTD, doesn't tell you what your content should be. I think what's unique about GTD is that it focuses on where you are not with where you should.
David Allen: Because if you can't handle where you are and where you are is somewhat out of control or unstable, trying to focus on where you want to go, or what things you should be doing is just going to create more guilt and frustration. So getting control of where you are getting clear, where you are, [00:16:00] is going to open up a lot more space, to be able to focus on the more meaningful things that are more meaningful to you.
David Allen: And you could do this from an artistic or creative standpoint. You know, we have a lot of the people in the creative industries that would tell you that GDD was absolutely. I mean people who've made public there, championing of GTD or people like will Smith and Robert Downey Jr. And powered stern. These are all big champions about.
David Allen: And of course they're all running rather significant business enterprises in addition to their artistic and creative and diverse. So opening up space and just being clear, nice place to be, you know, and you know, once you taste it, if you're like me, you just do whatever you need to do to get back to there.
Hala: Yeah. So what do you mean exactly when you say mind like
David Allen: water? Well, that's a metaphor. That's from the martial arts, so that I think Bruce Lee's sensei was the one who gave that to him. And the idea is water looks like it's kind of weak, but it's very powerful once it's harnessed in the right way. And also water doesn't overreact or under-react, it's totally appropriately engaged with its environment.
David Allen: [00:17:00] It may be rushing. There may be a calm pond, whatever it is, it's not confused. So the analogy then is, is your mind clear enough that you're not over or under react? Are you taking one meeting into the next, in your mind or you taking home to work in your mind or work to home in your mind then you're not really a mind like water state.
David Allen: If you go into the soccer game to watch your girl play soccer, but you're on your smartphone because you're distracted by all that. Stuff's come on. How unpleasant are you? You know, and some of the most dramatic testimonials we have are from parents went, oh my God, I can actually watch my kids play soccer and not be on my phone.
David Allen: How. So all of those are just examples or just different lenses of looking at being clear and being present. let's talk about this second theme for your upcoming event in Amsterdam. You talk about, there are no problems, only projects.
David Allen: do you mean by that? Yeah, well, that's a toughie for a lot of people because a lot of things show up as problems, but you only consider something a problem. If you assume that it can be fixed or should be fixed or [00:18:00] improved. So you didn't wake up this morning probably and say, gee, gravity really sucks.
David Allen: It really terrible is killing people. It's causing body parts to sag. Because that's what gravity does, but nobody really complains about gravity. Cause you know, he can't do anything about it. So what do you do with gravity? You accepted, ignored or play with it, which is what we do with gravity. Right? So the things that people tend to complain about, things that are bothering them, there's something off there's something, whatever it just means.
David Allen: Okay. Well what would you like to have true about that? And, oh, well, I got a problem with my neighbor and they're complaining about, we planted a tree too close to them. Well, what would you like to have? True? Well, I'd like to get this resolved with my neighbor. Fabulous. Now you have a project, you know, optimize resolution with neighbor relative to tree.
David Allen: Right. Great. And then what's the next action. Oh God, what is the next day? And so most people do, they're using complaining as a way to avoid hopping the driver's seat and actually doing something about the things that have their attention that they think ought to [00:19:00] change. So this is really a tough admonition.
David Allen: Okay. Cause it gets pretty subtle, you know, should I get divorced or not? How do I handle my mom's elder care? That's showing up out there that we need to manage. How do we deal with this debt thing that we're trying to resolve? You know, And those things becomes pretty subtle, but you need to say, okay, what's my desired outcome.
David Allen: Let's say outcome and action are the zeros and ones are productivity. What are we trying to accomplish? And how do we allocate or reallocate our resources and our focus to move the needle toward getting resolution on that. So all it is is just making sure people hop in the driver's seat, you know, about all that.
David Allen: And it makes a huge difference. We do in our training programs that are second level of GTD trainings that we do, you know, worldwide has a lot to do with focused on getting people, to really identify the things that really ought to be identified as projects for their project list. It's quite powerful.
David Allen: Yeah.
Hala: Cool. That sounds very interesting. I think both topics that you're centered on are really important meaty topics, and it should be great event. [00:20:00] So let's get into some more general productivity themes. The first one is pretty much fundamental to everything you teach. It's your bottoms up philosophy to productivity, many productivity methodologies.
Hala: Down. So they start with really deep thinking. They focus on values, really big goals and stress the management of our priorities. But you say spending too much time at the top, won't get us anywhere and that we need to master the mundane. What's your argument for that?
David Allen: Well, as I said earlier, what this methodology does, it starts with where you are, not where you should be.
David Allen: If where you are, is at these high horizons. Absolutely. Oh, wow. I am trying to figure out what to do with my life and my career. Fabulous. You know, what would your desired outcome be? And what's your next action? So it's not that we only deal with the mundane is just that if you don't tie, whatever you're thinking is to the Monday and then it's just blue sky stuff and you know, it's not.
David Allen: And so we tend to start with where [00:21:00] people are. I guarantee you, by the way, we've trained thousands and thousands of people around the world. And one of the exercises is actually initially in the first seminars is to get people to actually empty their head and just write all this stuff that's got through.
David Allen: And it's funny. I oftentimes I asked, I said, how many of you in the first 10 things you wrote down wrote fulfilled destiny as human spirit on the planet. And everybody lasts. That's not what they wrote down. They wrote down and get a new babysitter. They wrote down tires on my car. They wrote down higher, the vice-president they wrote down, increase my credit line.
David Allen: They wrote down deal with mom's birthday. That's where they are. So that's where we. No matter how sophisticated or subtle or high up the horizon is that you're focused on you, your strategic plan, your life purpose, your core values, your short-term goals, your job description areas in your life that you want to maintain.
David Allen: All those are appropriate commitments to identify. We just tend to start with where you are, so you get control of that. And then you're able to then lift to any higher horizon, much more easily.
Hala: [00:22:00] Okay. So while GTD is a bottoms up approach, you just mentioned that, you know, you don't always start from there and you're actually a strong proponent of visioning.
Hala: So how does visioning work with a bottoms up approach? Can you share with us some best practices for visioning and outcome thinking that you've acquired over
David Allen: years? Well, how would you like this interview to wind up? How would you like lunch today? You know, how would you like to sleep tonight? How would you like your conversation to go?
David Allen: So we're outcome thinking all the time. That's how you get dressed, how you walk out. Right. You see yourself out of the room and then you match your picture. So we're doing this all the time. It's not something new, you're visioning, essentially all of your self-talk are kind of pictures. You're giving yourself and you're talking to yourself.
David Allen: I am to about 50,000 times a day. I have no idea how they counted that, but you know, that's a lot. So you can't stop essentially focusing on something. So whatever you're focused on has a lot of power. So when we're talking about visioning or affirmational thinking or ideal scenes and those kinds of things, it's just saying, okay, [00:23:00] let me structure the advertisements that I'm giving myself in my own head.
David Allen: So it's kind of like writing your own billboard. You're looking at billboards when you drive down the street anyway. So I just discovered that back in 1981, I think was when I ran across those models, the affirmational model. And I've been using them ever since they, most of my life got created with drafting out and crafting some sort of a vision of how I'd like things to be.
David Allen: Even though I had no idea how to get. But describing that there was the first step. So
Hala: speaking of affirmations in your second book, you say a change in focus equals a change in results. An infinite number of things in a universe are held back from you only by your altitude and your attitude. So this led me to believe that you believe in the law of attraction.
Hala: So what are your thoughts on that concept?
David Allen: I couldn't agree with myself more. That actually does work. It's kind of like, you don't get what you need to get, what you put in. Which actually is what you need because you know, the university designed to give you feedback [00:24:00] based upon the choices you're making in the focus that you have.
David Allen: And you'll learn from that, but learning how to craft that. So you can kind of take control of it as opposed to just being driven by latest and loudest in your life at work. If the results you're getting is absolutely fine, then don't worry. You're fine. If you want something different or something new or something expanded, then good idea.
David Allen: To sit down and say, what would that look, sound or feel like if I had that and then see what happens?
Hala: Can you talk a little bit about how energy attracts like energy?
David Allen: Well, I think it does a good example. I mean, who do you take the most expensive presence to when you go to house warmings and parties, the people who need them the most?
David Allen: I don't think. You say, wow, they have a real nice house and lots of expensive things. We have to give them some more. Why? Well, they've sort of created their entry price. I mean, why don't you take all those cool gifts? You're going to give them and give the money to people who really need it. You don't do that.[00:25:00]
David Allen: People tend to attract whatever they're putting out tends to be what they will tend to attract. And that's what people around them will tend to break. So if you're an up lifted person, positively focused, you'll find the people doing that around you. It's kind of like you create your own barrier or you create your own entry price.
David Allen: That's why there are people in the corporate world and organizational world out there. There are people who, you know, you won't walk into their office without your act together because their act is well together. So, you know, but you walk into, somebody is out of control. Unfocused got clutter all over the place and you'll drop some of your.
David Allen: I mean, where do you drop a gum wrapper on the clean lawn or one where there are lots of gum wrappers already. Yeah. That's why Disney. I heard years ago, Disney would fire any of their employees that passed a gum wrapper on the ground without picking it up because they found it was so much cheaper and took so much less energy to keep it absolutely clean because then people don't throw stuff on.
David Allen: So [00:26:00] there's lots of examples. I think, of where like, attraction. Very cool.
Hala: Okay. So the next one is centered around focus. You give the analogy of putting things at the front door, so you don't forget. So for example, if you're about to go on an international trip, you'll probably put your passport and important things at the front doors.
Hala: There's no chance you'll miss it. So how does this analogy relate to our minds and the assurance that we get the most important things done.
David Allen: Okay. Well, put them in front of the door. It's just not the door of your house, but it's the door of your mind? What do you need to look out to orient yourself before the board meeting?
David Allen: What do you need to look at? What are the things you need to overview or think about or put in front of your face before you spend the weekend with your family? What are the things you need to look at? It basically they're just maps. So orienting maps that orient you in space and time, if you or anybody listening to this has looked at your calendar in the last two or three days.
David Allen: You already know. You looked at a calendar, which lifted you up to see things from a little higher perspective, locate yourself in space and time. So it's just those things. And so [00:27:00] as an infinite number of checklists that you could have travel checklists, any recipe that you'd cook with as a checklist, all of those things are just help you orient because your mind is really a bad office and is really terrible at remembering and reminding, you know, until it becomes just totally habitual that where you don't have to think about it.
David Allen: But until then, boy, I need checklists. I have done. And so any of those kinds of things that help your brain relax and know that when it's in a certain context, it will be reminded of the right things at the right time. It lets it relax.
Hala: So one of the things that you actually get some pushback on with GDD is that some people say it's not conducive to getting into a creative state, but then you hear other sides of the coin where people say it's great for getting into creative state.
Hala: So can you talk about some of your, you know, tips and tricks for getting creative and maybe some best practices when it comes to. Brainstorming. And when it comes to creating something specific.
we're all being creative all the time. You're producing what you're experiencing all the [00:28:00] time. We can't stop being creative. I use the example. I said, well, what do you think about the line down the middle of the road out there? Is that a constraint or does that allow you more.
David Allen: So I think you only need to get as organized as you need to be so that it optimizes your freedom. So maybe that's yen and yang. I don't know the best way to describe that model, but it's kind of like Einstein says you need to get things as simple as possible, but. Right. So you want to get your life as simple as possible, but you need to have it organized appropriately to match the complexity of what you're engaged in out there.
David Allen: So, you know, my system has changed over the years just because my life is a little less complex than it was 20 years ago, but I still have the same principles that I still apply, but I plan as little as I can get by with, and then putting yourself in a context where you start to trigger creative thinking also is a big.
David Allen: I started acrylic painting about a year ago. So I'm staring at a blank canvas in front of me right now, [00:29:00] as I look at it and this sort of challenges me. Okay, David what's next, but I have it there. So again, it's like putting it in front of the door. It's just a creative door. I think it was Picasso who said inspiration is for amateurs.
David Allen: If you really want to paint. Just sit down and frigging paint, you know, don't wait to be inspired, you know, in other words, right. But in chair, boot, computer hit key. So any good writer will tell you, ultimately that's where the creativity comes from is getting engaged. So oftentimes you just need to put yourself in a situation that makes it easy to engage before trying to just wait for your mother.
David Allen: Got it.
Hala: Cool. Okay. So the last question we're going to ask before you go is about productivity blockers. So interruptions are one of the worst productivity blockers. They slow us down by an average of 23 minutes. Each time they happen, according to science. It can take longer. If an interruption has made us upset or excited, and [00:30:00] one of your mottos is how ready for ready REO.
Hala: So can you talk about why it's important for us to be able to refocus quickly and maybe some of your tips and tricks to reduce the amount of time it takes to be ready to work on the next thing after an
David Allen: interruption, there are no interruptions. They're just mismanaged inputs either should not be getting the interruption because it's not something that's important.
David Allen: Or you shouldn't because it is something you're committed to do in terms of either your job or you're committed to, you know, respond and communicate, you know, with people who are communicating with you, if you're in customer service and you know, or an it consultant, you know, internally in a company, believe me, you're going to get interrupted all the time and that's your job.
David Allen: The problem is, and the people get interrupted. And if you can't finish whatever it is that you're being interrupted about right then, and you have got a system for place holding that. So that you could leave it and then come back to it later on. Then some part of you feels like I have to go do that, but now you get all pissed off because you feel like that's not what I should be [00:31:00] doing, but you're going and doing it because you don't trust your system to manage it.
David Allen: So if you came in and said, Hey, David, could you do X, Y, and Z. If I'm doing other things, I'll make a little note or ask you, Hey, send me a text or send me an email about that. I don't have the attention that it deserves right now. I'll get to it. But you have to trust that I trust. So once you're actually in that state, you can switch tasks much more easily because your brain is not wrapped around the thing.
David Allen: Once you leave it, you've got a placeholder for it. So that's what kind of being ready for ready is really all about. That's why, when I'm not doing anything else, of course, I'm cleaning up my in baskets in my backlog to zero, because there, there is a surprise coming toward me stuff. I don't. Good bad indifferent.
David Allen: I don't know what is coming. And so when that hits, I want as little backlog as possible in terms of uncaptured unclarified stuff so that I can evaluate the new situation from a much clearer space about whether to spend time on it, whether to put a place mark on it or whether to just [00:32:00] ignore it. It's a lot easier to navigate those kinds of things if you've got the sack together.
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