A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

16 June 2010

Making It All Work

I have borrowed the title of this blog post from the title of the book I just finished reading. In it, David Allen (you all know what a huge fan I am of David) explores how the principles he put forth in Getting Things Done are implemented in real life. He digs deeply into what he calls the "stages of control" and the "horizons of focus," and provides stories, tips and examples to help the reader implement GTD more effectively.

I had two wonderful "aha" moments in reading this book. The first was when he shed some light on the multiple meanings of the title. We have a tendency to think and talk in terms of "work" being stuff you get paid to do, and stuff you don't like doing (mowing the lawn is "work," lounging in the pool is not). David suggests that a purer definition of "work" is really any action you take toward some desired outcome, and when you think of everything you do in the course of a day as "work," two good things happen. One, you let go of the idea of work as punishment and embrace the idea of work as productivity; and two, you become more mindful of the need to choose your actions in every moment based on your priorities, your commitments, and your energy level. If you are fortunate enough to set your own hours, this may translate into golfing on Tuesday morning with an important client (or a favorite nephew), and working on a proposal on a Saturday afternoon because that is when you are in the best state of mind to do it. So "Making It All Work" suggests assigning the label of "work" to everything you do, regardless of the project or context it serves, and perhaps by extension, learning to take your job less seriously and your health and family more seriously.

My second "aha" was a new level of understanding of an idea I had read many times before in David's work, but had not quite fully absorbed. This is the idea that planning has to happen on the level where you are focused now before it can happen on a higher level. David calls this "paying attention to what has your attention," and it basically means that if your desk is so covered with stuff that you can't think straight (physical clutter), or you are consumed with dread over the decision to terminate a problem employee (mental clutter), you will not be able to devote useful attention to "30,000 foot view" thinking no matter how important it is. The reason this "aha" is important for me is that I have long touted the importance of strategic planning as a critical first step toward success in business, leadership, and even energy management (what some folks call "time management"). I still stand by the assertion that it is a critical step, but I've now realized it's not always the first step. This new appreciation for what it really means to meet the client where they are will make me more effective in diagnosing your organization's needs and responding appropriately to them.

If you're ready to clear the clutter and get things done, give me a call.