GTD Notes: Chapter 06 – Processing guidelines
Chapter 06 – Clarifying: Getting “In” to Empty
This is a series of posts with reading notes of the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.
The clarifying step (also known as “processing” in the old version of the book) is all about understanding what each captured item is and making a decision:
“Getting “in” to empty doesn't mean actually doing all the actions and projects that you've captured. It just means identifying each item and deciding what it is, what it means, and what you're going to do with it.” — David Allen
So David Allen actually recommends that we read Chapters 6 and 7 before clarifying things because we will need our “buckets” ready to go right after we decide to do with each item.
This chapter presents some useful processing guidelines :
- Process the top item first: don't start fumbling and picking and choosing which item you will process first, just go top to bottom.
- Process one item at a time: focus on one item and finish your thinking before moving on to the next.
- Never put anything back to “in”: handle things only once by deciding what to do with it and move on.
The important question: “Is it actionable?”
This chapter has a diagram showing the decision-making matrix.
We have 2 options for the question: “Is it actionable” => It's either Yes or No.
Sometimes there is NO next action for an item:
- If there is NO action required, the item will be either:
- Trash: no longer needed
- Just trash/recycle it
- Incubate: no action needed now, but might need to be done later
- Someday/Maybe list
- Reminder on a calendar or tickler file
- Reference: potential useful information for later
- Physical file storage
- Digital file storage
David mentions the dilemma of whether to keep something for future reference, and his recommendation is to trust our intuition:
When in doubt, throw it out.
When in doubt, keep it. — David Allen
And if it is actionable?
If there is something to be done with the item, then we decide what is the Next Action.
“The action step needs to be the absolute next physical thing to do.” — David Allen
Sometimes I don't complete my thinking on an item, and it ends up being not a true next physical action. David gives an example, if we need to set a meeting with someone, we should ask: How do we set a meeting? With an email or a phone call? So “set a meeting” might be too generic, a more clear next action would be: “Call Susan to check her availability and schedule the meeting”.
The idea is to have all the thinking completed so when we see our next action lists, we are ready to engage on those actions. There is no further decision to be made. Having clear next actions avoids procrastination.
Even when we have to decide on something, we should think of what is the next physical action to help with us get to a decision. It could be that, in order to decide, we need to more information on a subject, so the next action does not start with “decide if...” it could be “Search for available options online to help me decide which laptop to purchase” or “Call Susan to get her input on the best laptop to buy”.
If we don't pay attention, we don't stop to really think through what we need to do next. I notice that I usually rush through the clarifying step, and then I end up with a bunch of unclear next actions, which in turn repels me from doing anything. I've only recently started paying more attention to this, and I have to remember to slow down while processing.
After deciding what the next action is...
... we have 3 options:
- Do it: If it takes less than 2 minute, DO IT NOW!
- Delegate it: Am I the right person to do this? If not, delegate it.
- Options: Send the person an email, write a note to the person, send a text, leave a voice mail or talk to the person.
- Tip: always record the date on the items that we hand off to others.
- Defer it: If it will take more than 2 minutes, and you are the right person to do it, defer it to the “Next Actions' list.
But we might identify that only one next actions will not complete the item objective. In this case, it is a Project:
- Is it a Project (require multiple steps?) => add it to the Projects List
I didn't process my physical inboxes yet, because I will finish reading the next chapter before moving on. Chapter 07 deals with all the buckets we set up in order to organize everything after we decide what to do with them.
By Noisy Deadlines
Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.