Productivity with Alice in Wonderland - Next Action Associates

We’re offering a new intermediate-level GTD seminar these days, Projects and Priorities, and I’ve run several of them over the last couple of months. It’s a day for expansive thinking; about building on the basics of GTD that enable us to stay in control of our day-to-day challenges (keeping on top of email, for example) and raising our sights to consider the bigger picture.

As I was setting up the room for the latest one a couple of weeks ago in London, some dialogue from Alice in Wonderland came into my head:

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Alice seems to appreciate that progress is important, that being in motion is a good thing. And she has a sense that she should have a destination, a goal of some kind. But she’s unsure about how to direct her feet.

So the Cheshire Cat helpfully makes the connection for her. If you want to know which way to walk, you first need to decide where you want to be. (By the way, we’re in discussions with the Cheshire Cat about the possibility of having him join us as a GTD coach.)

Like Alice, we’re all presented every day with opportunities to decide which way we go. After you finish reading this blog post, you may be at just such a crossroads. How will you decide what is the best next focus for your time and attention? Reply to that email you got yesterday? Make that phone call? Walk down the hall and talk to your colleague?

On the face of it, you might say that any of those choices is OK. After all, any one would move your world forward. Any one would keep you “busy”. But busy isn’t good enough. We want to have the confidence as we make our way through the day that we’re making optimal priority calls. And as long as we look at the actions themselves, the implicit priority might not be so apparent, making it harder to trust the choices we make.

It’s when we consider what those actions are leading to that priority becomes clearer. Replying to that email is the next step on signing the deal with the client. Making that phone call will lead to an agreement with your boss about when you can take your holiday. And the chat with the colleague is about finalizing the team offsite.

These higher outcomes are, in GTD terms, “projects”, and it’s when we get really definite about those that we can start to make better choices about the actions we take.

OK, you’re done reading the blog. Which next step should you take? Well, where do you want to get to?

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