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Playing Through The Tape: Linking Actions To Life Goals

Playing Through The Tape: Linking Actions To Life Goals

    Staring at my lists of tasks during my weekly review (about 285 the last time I checked the count in OmniFocus) my eyes start to glaze over with the thought of just how much monotonous crap there is buried in them. What’s even more daunting is as I look over my system during my weekly review I add around 30 – 50 tasks while only destroying about 25 that have gone dormant or have been completed during the week.

    If you have been a GTD or any other type of productivity practitioner over the years, you have at least been in this situation once or twice. What tends to happen when you provide yourself with ubiquitous capture is that after awhile a lot of unimportant tasks may infiltrate their way into your system; unimportant tasks that may have sounded like a good idea at the time, but no longer hold any value, or worse, tasks that you know you should complete because of some agreement with yourself or others. What happens is that your system starts to rot from the inside out, and after seeing an easy task like “call mom” sit on your list for 7 weeks you tell yourself that your system doesn’t work. You aren’t getting anything done.

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    It isn’t your system and it isn’t GTD

    The fact you have tasks in your system that are “uninspiring” and stagnant has nothing to do with how your system is failing you or how GTD just doesn’t work. This is more of a prioritization problem. GTD doesn’t talk about an old school A-B-C, 1-2-3 type of prioritization of tasks and projects but it does speak of how to make sure that important stuff gets paid attention to and the less important stuff moves to the back burner or gets trashed.

    So, please, before you change your tool or give up on GTD completely understand that this idea of “action bloat” has nothing to do with either.

      The link between actions and higher levels

      What I have come to find from reading Mr. Allen’s books as well as learning from my own experiences is that if something in my action list doesn’t sync with what I want to accomplish in my life, the chances of me doing it are pretty slim. What’s even worse is the chances of me not doing it and feeling bad about myself and the state of my system are excellent.

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      So here is where some real “soul searching”, goals, and dreams come into play. if your action lists don’t resemble what you want for your life, then two bad things can happen:

      1. Your action lists stay stagnant and build up with tasks that seem like they have no purpose (because they don’t).
      2. You don’t accomplish any long term goals because your actions lists do not resemble these goals.

      This all sounds good in theory but what about in practice? What about tasks like “take out the trash” or “clean the cat litter”? These don’t seem at all related to a higher purpose or life goal. You will run into a lot of tasks that are like this; daily/weekly/monthly tasks that seem like they are just a nuisance and don’t prove to be anything important.

      All you have to do to make sure that a task on your action list links up to life goals is “play through the tape”.

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      Play through the tape

      Hopefully everyone reading this still knows what a tape is. Anyways, the best way that I have found to make sure that your tasks on your action lists are important is by “playing through the tape” of what this action will accomplish.

      Here is an example:

      • Action: Call your mom
      • Why? Because you haven’t talked to her for awhile.
      • Why does that matter? You want to make sure that you stay close to your family.
      • Why? Because your family and family life is something that is important to you and you value it.

      Seems excessive I know, and maybe calling your mother isn’t the best example, but this little exercise can be applied to any task that is on your lists or even projects as well.

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      Here is the kicker. If you can’t “play through the tape” with a task and link it to some goal or important aspect of your life, put the task or project on your someday/maybe list or just get rid of it. If it isn’t that important there is no reason to do it, especially when you have 250 other actions that actually are important.

      As time moves on you will start to find tasks that don’t belong at all in your system and you will be able to inherently “play through the tape”. You will start to see what is important and what isn’t in your task lists and with that be able to prune and tweak your lists to match your life goals. Make sure that you try this out, especially if there is some tasks on your lists that make you think that your system is broken or GTD isn’t working for you.

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on May 28, 2020

      9 Things Successful People Do To Always Get What They Want

      9 Things Successful People Do To Always Get What They Want

      One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was to take on the job of hosting my own weekly radio show. My radio show is about finding some of the most successful people in the world and bringing them on my show to ask them about what they did to become so successful in life and business.

      In this article, I’m going to share with you some of the key takeaways I’ve picked up from talking to – and reading about – thought leaders from various fields about the things successful people do. Here, you can get some insights on how to get what you want.

      Ready to dive in? Let’s go.

      1. They Know What They Want

      The first and most important thing that successful people do to always get what they want is so simple that most people forget about it: they figure out what they actually want.

      When you know what you want, you will also know how to get what you want. If you’re unsure about what you want in life and business, I’d suggest picking up some career and self-improvement books to help you gain some clarity and focus.

      2. They Are Assertive

      Successful people know that they need to be both bold and sincere. Balancing these two characteristics is the essence of assertiveness.

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      Oh, and by the way – being assertive is not a natural talent someone is born with. Assertiveness is a learned skill and anyone can do it, including you!

      3. They Learn

      You may have heard of the old saying, “great leaders are readers”. For the most part, I’d say this is true.

      Let me give you an example. On my radio show, I regularly ask successful people about their habits that lead to success. Do you want to know something really neat? Every single one of them reads books.

      Successful people read and learn as much as they can about what they want so that they can get what they want. If you’re curious about how to get what you want, then start reading a book. If you’re low on time, subscribe to a book summary site to get the core concepts of the books in your industry quickly.

      4. They Make Things Meaningful

      One of the most powerful things successful people do to always get what they want is that they make things meaningful. That is, they ensure that whatever endeavor they decide to embark upon is meaningful to them (and not necessarily to anyone else). They know and understand that it’s only worth it if it matters.

      5. They Ask

      One big thing that successful people always do to get what they want is this: they ask.

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      Most people are too shy to ask for what they really want. If you are too shy to ask, you may never know how to get what you want. So, don’t be like most people.

      Here’s an exercise you can do to get over it: next time you’re buying something, regardless of what it is, ask for a discount. Just do it. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll get a chuckle from the Barrista at Starbucks. The best-case scenario is that you’ll get comfortable with negotiating when it’s time to buy your next car.

      6. They Take Action

      Insight without action is useless. Successful people know that to always get what they want, they’ve got to take massive action.

      One of the most powerful exercises I’ve ever discovered is this: never leave the sight of a goal without taking some kind of action towards its achievement. In other words, as soon as you decide you want something or as soon as you set a goal of some kind, do something – anything – that shifts you closer towards getting it.

      7. They Use Their Time Wisely

      Have you ever heard of NET time? It stands for “No Extra Time”.

      For example: when you’re driving and sitting in traffic, are you listening to Mylie Cyrus? Or are you listening to an audiobook?

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      Successful people take NET time seriously. Get yourself some audiobook so you can start listening to the best business and self-improvement books available – all while you’re on your way to work in the morning.

      8. They Choose to Lead

      You don’t need to have formal authority to become a leader. You just need to choose yourself. All successful people know this, and so should you. Knowing how to get what you want requires knowing how to lead the way for others and yourself.

      Don’t wait for anyone else to do it, because the truth is that most people want to be led anyway. So, just step up and claim authority. Be the leader you wish you always had.

      9. They Contribute

      Successful people know that to get what they want, they have to be willing to help other people get what they want.

      What happens when you stop doing your job? What happens when you stop caring about your schoolwork? What happens when you become emotionally disconnected from a relationship?

      You suffer – that’s what happens. Successful people know and understand that in order to succeed, they need to contribute. They need to add value to the lives of others. They need to do their best so that they can become the best.

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      So, Now What?

      I hope this article has re-ignited the fire that you already had within you to be successful at any endeavor. The reason why I’m stressing the fact that you’ve already got everything you need to succeed and get what you want is that you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already motivated to be successful.

      At the end of the day, however, all the insights in the world are worth nothing unless you combine them with action. When it’s all said and done, it’s your decision what you do with this list and how you apply it to your life and career.

      But if I may, here’s what I would suggest you consider as you get started doing the things to help you succeed:

      Review this list of the 9 things successful people do to always get what they want and then compare it with where you currently are at each one of these 9 things. Rate yourself in each one of the 9 things. Next, pick just ONE of them to work on every week.

      For example, if you find that you’d like to learn more about the business side of the company you work for, then go read the best business books to help you do that.

      Never stop learning. Always feed your mind with the knowledge you need to become as successful as possible within your area or industry. It doesn’t matter how busy you are. We’re all busy. Make the time to expand your knowledge.

      And remember: every key learning should be immediately followed with action.

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      Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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