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

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

So I’ll challenge all of you: to pick the next 24 hours. Keep a pad and pen with you, if you don’t have it already. And don’t have a thought twice.

Little, big, personal, professional, just get it all out. You don’t have to do anything with it. Just capture anything that’s pulling on your psyche, that’s going on, that it is not on cruise control. And I guarantee you, if you do that process, that thousands of people that we’ve had do that process absolutely would guarantee that once they’ve done it, they have a whole lot better sense of control and perspective, and are more appropriately engaged with what they’re doing, not what they should be doing. That is just stage one.

Stage two, which is necessary, because once you do stage one, you’ll still see a bunch of stuff on that list that still needs more thinking. Most to-do lists are incomplete lists with still unclear things, by the way. What you see on to-do lists are things like budget, mom, dog, babysitter. Well, I understand that sort of probably indicates something, you’ve got to do something about, but what exactly is the work you need to do?

And that’s going to be the second thing you need to do, is to take those things that you’ve identified that are yanking your chain, and you need to make some really specific decisions about what does the work involve. And there are two key questions you need to ask about everything on your list: “What outcome am I committed to finish?” so that you can define that target out there. What’s the project about the budget? About the dog? About the babysitter? And identify those; and then, you need to ask yourself, “What’s the very next action step that I need to take to move forward on that, if I were to going to move on it?”

Outcome and action: zeros and ones of productive behavior.

What are we trying to accomplish? How do we allocate resources to make it happen? But you need to apply that very specifically, if you want to be appropriately engaged with anything yanking your chain out there.

The late great Peter Drucker, you folks should know about, would tell every one of his knowledge workers, the toughest admonition; your toughest work is defining what your work is. He’d put it in broad terms, this is very specifically what he’s talking about: what is the work embedded in that? And getting very clear about it.

I guarantee you that if you sat down and take at least a few of the things off your list and make these decisions: What’s the project? Write it down. What’s the action step? Write it down. You will feel exponentially more appropriately engaged with your world. Never seen an exception to that.

Then, of course, that’s going to feel great, but then you’re going to be up against another wall because you’re going to look at all that — By the way, most of you have between 30 and 100 projects right now. And most of you have between 150 and 220 next actions right now.

So, you’re going to very quickly leave “mind like water”, when you look at that immensity. Unless you start to put it all together. So, in all of that, what you’re going to need are maps. You need the appropriate maps of all the projects, you need the maps of all the actions you have, and there are other maps you’ll probably need to have. What’s my job? Key areas of focus and accountability. What are the things in my personal life I need to watch, and manage, and take care on a regular basis? That’s another great map.

So, you need to build maps of all of this, so that you can step back and see the whole “gestalt” of what your life is involved in, so that then, you can make good intuitive decisions about what to do.

By the way, once you experience that, I’ve never had anybody make that list and not come up with, “Oh! That reminds me!”, and at least add three, or four, or five significant projects to their list they needed to; they were already there but they were just more subtle, more strategic; they had not identified them yet.

So, I guarantee you those three things. Now I may have just jumped you back into reality, and maybe reminded you that you’re not a productivity ninja yet. That’s OK. It doesn’t take you long to get to where you want to get to about this.

Very simple folks! Just write stuff down. Decide actions and outcomes embedded in them, get yourself a map of all of that, so you can step back and take a look at it. And then, basically, you use the map to decide, “OK, here’s the course that we’re going to go on.”

You then launch the ship on a trusted course on to the short term, as well as on the long horizon that you’re moving on. And then, on some regular basis, you need to reassess, “OK, we need to take in new data, clean up, recalibrate, and refocus for the next leg of the journey.” It’s that simple.

By the way, my girlfriend in that adventure did not stay my girlfriend very long, she quickly became my wife, and for the last 22 years, we’ve experienced and enjoyed lots of planned and unplanned adventures.

So, my wish for all of you is, for all of those adventures coming towards you, and they’re coming towards you. In order to take maximum advantage of them, find your own ways to be appropriately engaged.

Thanks for listening.


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