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GTD? Try WNTGD Instead

GTD? Try WNTGD Instead

I’m amazed at the number of postings and advice articles, let alone pieces of software, that are spawned by the GTD phenomenon. To me, it’s yet another symptom of today’s short-term mentality and our obsession with activity. Getting Things Done is useful, of course. I’m not without sympathy for people with bulging schedules and huge to-do lists, who seek a better way to organize themselves. But I think they would be better advised to turn their attention first to WNTGD: What Needs To Get Done.

It’s so easy to be overwhelmed with long, detailed lists of actions to be dealt with and so have your attention fixed remorselessly on the short-term. Business leaders succumb to this all the time. They obsess about next quarter’s results and targets. It seems that a majority of managers are willing to give up on important, value-creating projects to “make the numbers” for the quarter instead. Some even compromise the long-term health of the business in favor of short-term achievements, as I noted this week in Short-termism, over at Slow Leadership.

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By and large, shareholders get the managers they deserve, and vice versa. Of course, leaders also get the subordinates they deserve. As JKB said in a comment on that same posting:

If the organization promotes and advances those employees who cut corners and don’t spend the time needed to develop long term skills and relationships, then employees, managers and shareholders will feed on the carcass of the company and suck it dry.

But back to Getting Things Done. I’d be prepared to take a sizable bet that most people spend their time doing a whole lot of activities that mean virtually nothing in the longer-term and wider scheme of things. They do them because they’ve always done them—or someone has, and now it’s their turn—or because its assumed those things are needed. And they are so busy doing them that they never manage to take the time to question whether such actions are truly necessary—or even useful.

Most procrastination and anxiety about your task list has the same, simple cause: you don’t want to do whatever it is that you keep putting off. It’s boring, difficult, unpleasant, or just doesn’t seem to have much point. If it were something you were eager to do—something interesting and plainly useful to you—people would have to drag you back from getting started right now. To-do lists and all the rest are mostly a way to help people force themselves to do what they don’t want to do, especially things that don’t seem as if they need to be done anyway.

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Why not slow down and take a little time to see what can be dropped off the list altogether? After all, if you keep putting off those important, long-term projects to spend your time on short-term activities of dubious value to anyone, when will you ever get around to the things that really matter?

There’s the danger. When people feel rushed off their feet, it seems obvious to put off anything that doesn’t have to be done right away. There will always be time to get to those other things later, won’t there? Maybe. But important, long-term matters usually cannot be done in the blink of an eye. They take time to complete: maybe years of it. Suppose that you know you need to improve your qualifications. You’re probably looking at 3 or more years of effort. If you put off starting for a year while you concentrate on less important, short-term activities, it will now be 4 years at least before you can start to get the benefit of a better job or a new career. And so it goes. People put off their dreams and aspirations in favor of . . . what? Minor bits and pieces of administration; organizational tidying and throat clearing; attending pointless meetings; impressing the latest boss; meeting some crazy budget figure dreamed up by someone who simply took last quarter’s results and added 5%; filling in forms that are then filed and forgotten.

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If you truly want to spend your time getting the important things done in your life, remember WNTGD, and ask yourself What Needs To Get Done? Take a long-term view and concentrate first (and exclusively, if you can) on what will bring you, your customers, or your organization real and lasting value. Then focus on that and drop as much as you can of all the short-term, itsy-bitsy, meaningless stuff. You won’t miss it . . . and nor will anyone else, once they’ve got over their horror that form FR678/3/45 hasn’t been completed (if they can remember why it’s there anyway). A good 50% or more meetings have no good reason for taking place, and probably 90% of PowerPoint presentations would be best filed in the wastebasket instead of being shown. Statistical returns have a habit of multiplying faster than rabbits . . . and they are much less cute.

Turn your eyes firmly away from what is short-term and supposedly urgent, though not important, and fix them instead of whatever is really important, even if it doesn’t seem urgent. Only then will whatever you get done actually be worth doing.

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Related posts:

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his posts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership.

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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

1. Create a Daily Plan

Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

3. Use a Calendar

Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

4. Use an Organizer

An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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5. Know Your Deadlines

When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

6. Learn to Say “No”

Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

7. Target to Be Early

When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

8. Time Box Your Activities

This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

11. Focus

Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

12. Block out Distractions

What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

13. Track Your Time Spent

When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

15. Prioritize

Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

16. Delegate

If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

For related work, batch them together.

For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

  1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
  2. coaching
  3. workshop development
  4. business development
  5. administrative

I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

19. Cut off When You Need To

The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

More Time Management Techniques

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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