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How to earn a black belt in getting more done:
The David Allen Method

Productive people most keenly feel the desire to be more productive. But how do you get it all done...especially if your desk and files are in disarray? How do you release the genie of a great idea from an organizational bottleneck?

Enter David Allen. More than an organizational expert, he is the guru of Getting Things Done (which is also the title of one of his books). Big companies and big thinkers tap into his expertise. At Levenger we've become converts, too, incorporating a number of his methods into managing our days. Here's the short course on some of that methodology:

David Allen

Mind Like Water

The allure of David Allen's techniques is that they speak to the mind and not just the stacks of paper moldering on your desk. Mind like water is his motto. “Your ability to generate power is based on your ability to relax,” says David. A black belt in karate, he knows that the power of a punch comes not from muscle but from being focused and relaxed. “If your system is not keeping track of something, your mind has to.”

How to get your system to work as hard as your brain: clear up, focus and streamline. Mind like water.

Clear up. It's all in your head—and it shouldn't be. Corral those ideas, tasks and reminders into a controllable place—like an in-box—that frees you from mental fog. Then you can start to sort.

Focus. Define your projects and how to move them forward, as they come up. Most of us focus well in a crisis. Focus appropriate attention beforehand and you may avert one.

Streamline. Have everything you need together where and when you need it, and you'll save yourself from having to rethink why you had it in the first place. It's as simple as clustering all actions that require a phone call.

MorganDeskTrayWhat just happened: you collected data via your in-box and mentally processed it (“Is it actionable? Should I trash it?”). Now you're ready to organize it: offload it from in-box to Do, Delegate or Defer.

And in the process, you've freed your mind to do what it does best: think.

Three productivity tips that may surprise you

  1. Most to-do lists add to stress rather than diminish it because, as David says, they're incomplete and unclear. Better to assign tasks to either Projects or Someday/Maybe. Then categorize them by where you'll accomplish them (calls, errands, in office, at home, etc.).
  2. Keep work and home items in one system, separated only between Projects and Someday/Maybe. After all, they're both important to your life.
  3. Use both paper and digital tools. David collects an idea on paper first, then organizes it in his PDA once he's determined whether it's a Project, a Someday/Maybe, a simple action step or reference material.

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