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Last year I wrote about GTD Verbs–highlighting one of Getting Things Done author David Allen’s nuance lessons to carefully choose a single-step verb for tasks and multi-step ones for projects.

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Dear David Allen, The number of ways I treasure your body of work seem countless. Getting Things Done. Your presentation style. The weekly review. Psychic RAM. Deep water of doing. Mind like water. How you dissed me in 2010. The list continues from there. Yours truly, Chicago Productivity Coach

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Many of our executive productivity coaching clients come to us because they’ve postponed organizing their to do list for one day (& night!) too many. They decide getting by for one more quarter is not how they want to live. They empower themselves to work with us to make different choices. To live better. To operate from a place of greater daily control.

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One of the more powerful, yet easily-missed lesson from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done (GTD) is his call to verberize tasks and projects–all the while recognizing the subtle differences between the verbs for each.

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How often do you look at a task on your to do list, know it will be quick to finish, yet not complete the work in the moment? Add to that the re-writing & re-reading this behavior begets. Do you suspect these momentary actions of putting off tasks add up to longer than it would take to just get them done right away?

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Following is David Allen’s food for thought from his recently released Productive Living newsletter. This five-paragraph soliloquy highlighting counterproductive thinking is a great example of why he makes the big bucks. That I connect with his message so deeply and share the essence with my productivity coaching clients with the same heart is why I help them to experience real results (all while gratefully earning the medium bucks).

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The following information is delivered in the less than 5-minute video above.

One of the keys to my personal time management success and that of my clients is conducting a weekly review to map out navigating the week ahead. Built on the foundation shared in David Allen’s Getting Things Done, following are the components of my Friday afternoon one-hour ritual:

  • First I clear my paper inbox
  • Then I review my calendar

    • Using the appointments for the week I just experienced as well as the upcoming week as memory joggers, I add follow up/preparation/travel logistics not yet captured
    • Looking at office time available for completing work, I size up each day of the week for potential assignments
  • Next I move to reviewing my next action lists

    • I delete things I already completed or no longer think are useful

    • I move items to someday if they’re no longer urgent or definite 

    • I look for things to delegate to others 

    • I assign dates to the things I need to complete this week 

    • I add things not already in the system 

    • I move qualified items from my waiting for list to an active list

  • Then I review a comprehensive project list

    • Using the list as a reminder, I schedule activities for active projects not yet on one of my next actions lists

  • Next I begin to judge my assignments

    • Looking at the office time available, I evaluate if I’ve added too many or not enough tasks to each day

    • I ask myself if I have delegating as much as I can, if I have scheduled realistically, and if I have allowed enough time for unplanned work

Finally, on a daily basis, I put my tasks in priority order first thing and then work from that list. What is your routine? How do you stay on top of tasks?

Following Through

Someone I know well and completely trust, Linette George, is hosting a workshop September 28 8:30 to noon in Oak Brook to teach methods to stop “shoulding” all over the place…and to get from to-do to done instead. Following is her message…

“When I first heard about the book Following Through, I was intrigued. Having a background in psychology, I’m fascinated by things involving human behavior and brain function. So I read it. I felt like I had truly found the missing link – the answer to the question ‘why don’t I follow through and get things done like I know I should?’

The answer both surprised and delighted me.  I immediately began implementing strategies from the book, and before long I became a follow-through goddess. It’s amazing how accountable I became to my to-do list once I discovered the missing link!”

Register or find out more at The Missing Link.


Time Management System transition


As a productivity trainer part of my job is to demo different time management systems to gain intimate familiarity so I can lead clients to choose the one that’s best for them.

I’ve gone from paper to electronic to Franklin Planner to a tickler to Outlook to index cards to a combination of those. And now, I’m trying on GTD (that’s Getting Things Done for those of you not a part of the cult) for size.

Although each system has its merits and downfalls, the universal truth I’ve come to embrace: transitioning from one time management system to another is tough work.

Following are a few tips to make it easier: 

Tell people you’re under construction. Especially the people you connect to most frequently.They may be a bit more understanding if you seem uncharactertically discombobulated.

Dedicate several self appointments to make the change. Changing time management systems is time-consuming work. The rewards keep coming after the switch is made and the new habits are formed, but the upfront time commitment is critical.

Go easy on yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. The folks involved may or may not understand your situation and be tolerant. But you have the power to forgive yourself…use your power for good.

 Do you have a transition story to tell?

Shield To-Do List Overwhelm

When I recently attended the American Society for Training and Development 2010 International Conference and Exposition (ASTD ICE), I was privileged to attend a session and then to meet David Allen, productivity training thought leader and Getting Things Done (GTD) author.

I was eager to speak to David after the event. First to thank him for his contributions to my practice; second to inquire about becoming one of his Chicago productivity trainers.

He welcomed my accolades and warmly signed my book. How exciting! His reaction to my inquiry, however, stung a little. Without being rude, he dismissed my question practically before I finished asking it. I was a touch hurt at first.

As I reflect on the experience, I find a powerful, yet subtle message. David was not rejecting me, the individual. He was deleting a commitment he didn’t really want to make before it was even added to his to-do list. As if he were wearing a protective shield.

From his book:

“…once you really understand what it means, you’ll probably make fewer agreements. I know I did. I used to make a lot of them, just to win people’s approval. When I realized the price I was paying on the back end for not keeping those agreements, I became a lot more conscious about the ones I made.”

So thanks, David, for not agreeing to win my approval when we were face to face…only to disappoint me and you when we were not.

What defenses do or can you use to prevent to-do list overwhelm and regret?

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