First and most importantly, I hope you and your loved ones and colleagues are safe. I hope you are reading this because you are indeed well and wanting to continue being productive in these strangest of times that we all find ourselves in.
We are entering what, for many people, will be a very different work environment and also most likely an unusual pace of work and changed level of oversight and immediate responsibility; more than usual, it will be up to you how much you are “Getting Things Done®”.
Like many of us, you probably have an increased desire to make a contribution, are aware of those you need to help, support and keep safe, have a new sense of what corporate and financial success/survival means and a desire to be the best version of yourself in these extreme times.
Your lists from just a few days ago might feel as though they are from a bygone age, from when you had different concerns and were directing yourself towards different outcomes and goals than you are focused on right now.
Here are 5 tips I hope will enable GTD® to keep helping you now:
1) Start with a review
You want to ensure your GTD system is set up to assist you in your current situation and where you’ll be working. This may mean adding a few new contexts lists and putting others on hold. Pruning out some of the items you now cannot move forward to allow space for other projects and actions which need your attention. I recommend my colleague Robert Peake’s powerful blog on the importance of sometimes scaling down with GTD in times of turmoil.
2) Keep your calendar ‘real’ even when social distancing:
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that, now so much has changed, and you don’t physically need to be in so many different locations, you don’t really need your diary up to date. There will be lots of things which need to be deleted from your calendar: meetings which can no longer happen face-to-face, lunches, after-work drinks and theatre trips which have been cancelled. Clear out what has been lost or cannot happen, pro-actively move some things to virtual meetings or telephone calls and keep a track of missed events in your GTD system to rebook when the time is right. Then you’ll have a calendar fit for use over the coming weeks and months; for planning new business activities as well as family group video calls.
3) Be aware of the structure of your days while remote working:
I get great benefit, when working on my own, by knowing clearly which stage of GTD I am actively involved in. So, if I am clearing out my inbox, I am ‘defining my work’ by Clarifying and Organising. If I am answering an unexpected telephone call, I am doing ‘work as it appears’ and if I am attending a pre-arranged video call or working off my Next Action lists then I am doing ‘defined work’ by Engaging. I can then give myself a mental ‘break’ by stopping Engaging and moving over to Clarifying, and even see unplanned work as a chance to refresh and recharge my cognitive batteries. I would encourage you to pay some attention to which stage you are in throughout the day and, by doing this, it should help you build trust that you are doing the right thing at the right time.
4) Productivity doesn’t just mean working flat out
We want to be meaningfully engaged with whatever we choose to do. That means that if you do decide to crank through a lot of professional work, you should be focused on that. This can be helped by having a dedicated workspace and the ability to limit distractions. If, however, you decide to use the time saved on commuting to go for a lunchtime family walk, you should also be fully focused on that and the people you’re with. Being ‘present’ is invaluable, especially in challenging times.
5) Consider your Higher Horizons of Focus for motivation
For me, if ever I’m feeling unmotivated, a quick travel up my Horizons to the top, where I see things like “Be a loved husband and father”, “Have those closest to me financially secure”, “Strive for wisdom”, “Nurture life-long friendships” and “Be supremely healthy and take active pleasure in that” soon gets me wanting to make progress towards some of that. This higher perspective can keep your day-to-day stuff mindful of the bigger picture.
Stay safe and look after you and yours.