Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to Get Things Done

I read a book recently about how to get things done. It was great. It's all about lists and having 43 folders. The advantage of getting yourself all organised is that you won't be stressed out because of having all those things on your mind and also you'll be more focussed and make the right decisions. The guy who wrote it, David Allen, suggests that there are five stages to managing your workflow:  

  1. collect inputs
  2. process inputs
  3. organize results
  4. review options for next actions
  5. do a next action
Now that's all well and good, and I could go on about the whole book, but think of it like this, let's say you were to read a book that would teach you how to swim, or how to ride a bike in ten easy chapters, would you really be able to do same once you finished the book?  Well I wouldn't, but I do know that there are different types of learners and that some people would be able to do things on foot of reading a book. 
I'm a visual person, I like mind maps, ones like this:




But even then, mostly they just look great but don't inspire me all that much. This week I made a breakthrough though, as to what does work and what doesn't. I had booked a week off work to go away on holidays, but the holiday fell through and I decided to still take the week off. It was a whole week. It meant I could get everything done, yay! Well needless to say I only managed to get a lot of sleeping done, watch a good few movies, catch up with about a dozen people for coffee and/or lunch, go out late and party a bit more than I should have and have a few nice walks. Well that all sounds great, but let's face it, a time management guru would remind me that such activities are only a mere part of what needed to be done, maybe 20% of my activities, what might be labelled as 'leisure time'. I didn't get the backlog of laundry done, didn't drop stuff off to places like the dry cleaners or the bottle bank. Didn't ring the insurance people about that policy I cancelled, didn't do all that admin work like sending the doctors receipts back to the health insurance in order to get a refund. I didn't get the car serviced, nor did I plant the rest of those bulbs in the garden. 
But then something happened yesterday that made me realise how easy it is to get things done. I got a call at midday announcing an imminent family visit at 3pm. In the three hours I had to prepare, I managed to clean the whole house, make a vegetarian feast, pick up the rubbish in the back garden, and the chair that had been blown down to the end of the garden in that storm a few weeks back and made the whole garden look unkempt. I also washed out the bins and changed the bed linen for the visitors bed. 
So yes, I'm one of those people who works under pressure. The day job suits me as it means I get everything done on account of not having much time. So, here I am, way past my bedtime as usual, but I'm not here regretting my activities of the past week, in fact, I've decided that they were more important than the imminent things I'm supposed to be doing, and for that reason I actually did get things done. Besides, next week I'll be so busy at work that I'll end up getting the housework and the other stuff done in the evenings, purely because I feel I have no other time to do it. 
So that's why they say if you want to get something done, always ask a busy person...

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