Trusting your choices about how you spend your time and focus your limited resources is a key desired outcome of ‘Getting Things Done®’.
If you can spend most of your days, weeks, months and years trusting your judgment that what you are doing is what you should be doing, given all the options available to you, you will be meaningfully engaged in your world and living with a ‘”mind like water”.
The Five Steps of Mastering Workflow are vital for getting control and stability with all the new stuff coming your way on a minute-to-minute basis and provides the much-needed clarity of available Next Actions you can take and Projects you are playing a part in. Prioritisation at these lower levels, however, is tough to do meaningfully.
When people talk about prioritisation at these lower levels it is normally about finishing tasks by their deadlines; keeping their jobs; dealing with the “latest and loudest”, as David Allen would say.
Does it really matter if you call Susan first or email Bob? If your lists are well set up you can do both, and so it is possibly irrelevant which you do first; and any time spent falsely prioritising is simply wasted.
To enable us to make decisions about what is really more important to us, which is true prioritising, we need to consider ‘why’ we are thinking of doing them in the first place. Asking ‘why?’ you’re doing any action, repeatedly, will take you up through the various levels of the Horizons of Focus® model.
So, asking “why are you reading this?” might find that you have a Project (Level 1) along the lines of “fully install GTD® into my life”, although not every Next Action (Ground Level) is necessarily part of a Project. However, every action certainly relates to an Area of Focus (Level 2), so you must have GTD as an Area of Focus or, if not that precisely, perhaps you have ‘productivity’ or ‘career development’ and it is the this that is driving you to read this.
Let me highlight that point again: every action you have on any list is related to an Area of Focus you have. You may dispute this because you don’t have all your Areas of Focus listed anywhere. If you did have all the Levels fully fleshed out, you would find the links upwards and downwards through your horizons of commitment, all the way up to your Purpose and Principles (Level 5), which David refers to as ‘the ultimate job description’, and all the way down to the very next physical, visible action you need to do on anything.
Indeed, you have ideas, wishes, hopes, promises and priorities at each of the Horizons of Focus, and being clear at all the different horizons will help you feel more confident in the choices you make at the ground level.
“You don’t set priorities, you have them” – David Allen
Some people are more tuned in to their higher horizons and have spent more time contemplating and mapping them out than others. From a GTD point of view, we encourage people to get them clear enough that they aren’t feeling a pull or a push or a conflict with anything higher up.
For example, as part of a new (post coronavirus) job, you might need to fly around the world a lot and this may conflict with a higher principle you have about limiting your carbon footprint. If you were quickly aware of the conflict you would be able to more easily resolve it in some way.
Certainly, I find nearly everyone can get a clearer sense of what they should be focussing on at the lower levels by sometimes going up a level or two or all the way up to the top for a bird’s eye view of their lives.
I find a review of my Areas of Focus about once a month enables me to keep a good sense of balance and I simply add this into a longer Weekly Review® when I feel the need.
Most people don’t need to review their life’s purpose on a weekly or even monthly basis, but I recommend people consider their higher horizons more regularly than it seems non-GTDers do: at their significate decade-changing birthdays.
So, now you’ve read this, what are you going to do next – and why?!