Home » David Allen on The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Full Transcript)

David Allen on The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Full Transcript)

Wouldn’t it be nice, by the way, if you could experience that kind of peace that kind of productive engagement, without having the danger or stress of a crisis force you to? It actually is possible.

Let me give you a little secret. “Getting things done” is not about getting things done. It’s really about being appropriately engaged with what’s going on. “Appropriate engagement” is the real key here.

Many times, not getting something done is how to appropriately engage with it. Every one of you, hopefully, is appropriately not engaged with every single thing else aside from listening to me right now.

So there’s some key, there’s something unique about being appropriately engaged. Why does a crisis get us there? Because it forces us to do those behaviors that get us there.

Now, there’s a lot to unpack about this idea of appropriate engagement. I’ll hit the highlights of it, but a few indicators of this would be — think about: are you appropriately engaged right now with the project you are on? With the paper you need to write? With your cat? With the holiday coming towards you?

Are you appropriately engaged with your health? Are you appropriately engaged, by the way, with all the stuff you’ve heard so far today that might be I might/would/could/should/want to do that? Do you have appropriate engagement with that?

An indicator, by the way, that you don’t have to go very far to find opportunities to be more appropriately engaged is to just notice what’s on your mind. Any of you have anything on your mind aside from listening to me? Any of you have any strategic and important stuff on your mind?

Well, interestingly, the more it’s on your mind, the more it’s not happening, the more you are inappropriately engaged with it. Why it’s not on cruise control? It’s only on your mind because you know there’s still some thinking or some decisions about that you haven’t made or you haven’t parked the results of that into some trusted systemic process that you trust will be triggered at the right time, in the right way.

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You actually don’t have to finish those things, folks, to be appropriately engaged and to get them off your mind, but there are very specific things that you do need to do about that.

So there’s a number of paradoxes, by the way, that happen about all this material; there some counter-intuitive things about what I’m going to be sharing with you in the next few minutes. You are going to need to get comfortable with that if you want to get to this place of productive engagement without a crisis forcing you to do that.

The big paradox is that all the complexities of all the stuff of your life in order to manage that you just need three core principles that you understand and apply. It’s not about a new smartphone. It’s not about a new elegant planner. It’s not about a new piece of software. Those are cool tools, but only insofar as you use them to apply those key principles. Once you get those principles, you make your own system.

A second paradox here is that the initial moves, and behaviors, and best practice of this may very likely, for many of you, initially, feel very awkward, very unnatural, and even unnecessary. It’s exactly like learning moves in a martial art, which I did years ago.

If you want to learn how to maximally produce power with the karate punch, you’re going to have to spend hundreds of hours doing something that feels very awkward and very unnatural as a movement. Hundreds of hours doing that! Once you do that, by the way, you’ll never go back to anything less, in terms of producing power.

Some of the things I’ll be recommending will be just like that. For instance, don’t keep anything in your head the rest of your life. That’s going to feel unnatural, awkward, and unnecessary.

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Every single thing you’re committed to finish that takes more than one step to finish it, you need to clarify exactly what that outcome and project is and put that on a project list that you look at, at least once a week. Every single next action you need to take about any of your commitments that you are involved in, you need to clarify those and park those in appropriate places that you’ll see those actions on a regular basis. That’s going to feel awkward, unnatural, and unnecessary.

But the final paradox about all this that wraps all that together is that some very specific but seemingly mundane behaviors when applied, produce the capacity for you to exist in a kind of sophisticated spontaneity which, in my experience, is a key element to a successful life.

Now, I’m going to reinforce why I think this is critical, what it would look like if you were wildly successful doing this? And I’m going to give some hows, how to do that.

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