5:30 AM: As I sip a piping hot cup of coffee, I sift through the items to get done for the day, in the ‘tickler file’, those which can be done by ‘next action’ in ‘ 2 minutes’ get done immediately; those which cannot, go into the ‘delegate’, and ‘defer’ files for considering later. I sift through the ‘collection basket’, reflect on what it means, and use the ‘next action’ technique on each of the items – ‘do'(in 2 minutes), ‘delegate’, or ‘defer’. The items never return to the collection basket.
Next, the ‘projects’ (require not more than 2 steps for completion) which require attention, go into the ‘projects’ file, those that I am unsure of the action to be taken, go into the ‘maybe/someday’ file, waiting to be ‘activated’ later.
All the files undergo a ‘weekly review’ (maximum 6-8 files)- which happens to be now – so that nothing is missed, or for further activation/reflection.
This process encompasses every aspect of my life-professional, personal, hobbies and interests, tasks to do, errands, and relationships.
I sit back satisfied, at 8:30 am, having completed my tasks in 3 hours. I feel satisfied that each of my activities took less than 60 seconds for monitoring, since the files are so close by, and just have to be picked up, like one plucks low-hanging fruit from a tree. I have so much time and energy left during the day, to focus on the things that really matter.
I have just touched upon the practical applications of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system, which has stood the test of time. He states that open loops create tremendous amount of stress, and the human brain is not a wastebasket to store irrelevant information. His system aims at ‘getting things out of the brain’ onto physical storage devices, so that one can use the brain for more creative, useful tasks. It is akin to clearing the RAM of your computer of unnecessary files, with the additional benefit of freeing up a huge amount of stress, caused by mental junk.
In this system, you would need a minimum of 8-10 files stacked vertically in a file rack (you get cheap ones on Amazon these days), or if you are the computer savvy type, they could go into the folders set up for this purpose. In the 2015 edition of the book, David Allen explains in detail how to set up all these, and the tools required which are basically not expensive. (Can you imagine just some stationary could reboot your life!)
This is not a book you should read at one go, you would find yourself returning to different chapters repeatedly, to clarify/setup/and improvise upon the techniques you are already using. David Allen states that the things that can be done within 2 minutes, should be done then and there, because the time and effort to put them away would be more than to accomplish these tasks.
The 2 minute next action technique is one of the most effective techniques-so simple and effective, that you would have to pinch yourself that you did not think about it. Perhaps it is because the reticular activating system of the human brain does not feel threatened,rather feels it to be fun to do things which appear minuscule. You can do multiple 2 minute actions on critical tasks which appear too large or threatening;the sense of accomplishment would be immense.
David Allen says that your files should be accessible within 60 seconds, at your workspace-only then it becomes fun to use and your mind does not resist you-in other words, if you have your personal desk, just like I do, it would be useful to stack the files in a plastic vertical file rack, with the files labelled and easily accessible,so you could see them at a glance.
Some individuals prefer to use a cardboard carton resting on the desk,to place their files vertically, as a low-cost alternative – it still works.
As for reference materials, they do not need any action, hence they place no stress on the mind.
As I write this article, I realise, my wife’s birthday is approaching soon. My wife’s birthday reminder would go into the ‘tickler file’ in the corresponding ‘date slot’, with the reminder of the present to be bought 2 days prior to the event. I would like to learn French or German at a later date,however, I am not presently very keen on those projects, so they go into the ‘maybe/ someday’ file,for later review and activation.
I recall, I had read an article some years ago, by the famous copywriter who wrote under the pseudonym Micheal Masterson; how he had incorporated into his daily practice, maintaining an accordion folder- he had learnt about it from a famous and efficient publisher.Was he using a modification of the concept originated/popularized by Mr David Allen?
This system has made huge improvements in my life. I wonder why I did not stumble on it earlier.
Maybe I wasn’t ready then.
As the saying goes, “When the disciple is ready, the teacher appears,” and “when you streamline your life, life streamlines for you the most beautiful experiences.”