In today’s episode, Robert and Todd discuss new beginnings and how to effectively reflect back and look forward to create the experiences and life you want in 2024.

watch time: 23:10 mins

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0:00:05.2 Robert Peake: So, welcome everyone to another Change Your Game with GTD Podcast. My name’s Robert Peake. I’m here with Todd Brown.

0:00:11.7 Todd Brown: Hello everyone.

0:00:14.0 RP: Hey Todd. So in this podcast series, our goal is to help you understand how you can be more effective in your life and in your work. How you can support your own health and wellbeing, while also focusing on the things that matter most to you. And in all of that, the best sort of approach and methodology we’ve found for individual effectiveness is something called Getting Things Done, or GTD. So we’re both experts in that and share from that basis, a lot of the best practices that we’ve found, support ourselves and support our clients and support the people that we work with widely throughout a broad range of industries and walks of life in having more of that experience of being relaxed and focused and present and enjoying the things that matter most in life, frankly. So as we were talking just ahead of this, we were kind of musing on different things we could address, and we realized, hey, it’s the start of a new year, somewhat of an artificial distinction in some ways, but also because it’s a sort of ritualised thing in our culture, we do very much take this opportunity often to look at, “Okay, in the next cycle round the sun from this point forward, what might we want to be true? How might we wanna support ourselves?

0:01:33.0 RP: And there’s that old thing of kind of New Year’s resolutions, if you like, and the sort of short life that those tend to have. But there’s also some real power, I think, in setting up intentions in debriefing the past year in taking the opportunity to pause from the tremendous busyness and flow of information we deal with, and to just really start to reflect and think about, what does it mean in a sense to feel this fresh start and what do we want to do with that? So, Todd, I’m curious what some of the things are that you do or that you’ve seen or that those you work with do that is supportive or that is useful at this juncture called the start of a new year?

0:02:22.7 TB: Yeah. I think, for a lot of people, and this is in particular to GTD, it comes back to what you were sort of mentioning there around this whole idea of “Hey, it’s a new year,” and quite naturally at the beginning of these annual cycles, people feel drawn to making changes in their lives. So taking the form of New Year’s resolutions or whatever. I think when it comes to that, and it’s interesting because just in the last few weeks I’ve been doing quite a lot of coaching with some clients who are in transitions, and the transitions that they’re in are from… They’re taking on new responsibilities. One person in particular I’ve just been working with over the last couple of weeks is… Well, had a huge job and now has an even huger job because success in his old role means that people are giving him more responsibility. So he is taking on more teams, he’s got more direct reports now. And a natural impact of that is that of course he’s sort of feeling like, “Hey, my old ways of working, aren’t quite up to the job.” And what I think was interesting about that was, what got him to that realisation was that he found himself so deep in the weeds. So deep in the day-to-day firefighting, that he was motivated to set his perspective a bit higher and say, “Hold on. It’s not gonna be enough simply to try to slog faster as it were. Just do all of this trumping through the weeds faster. I need to have a look at my larger ways of working.

0:04:07.9 RP: So it’s coincidental that this was happening toward the end of the year, but I think a lot of people are just sort of drawn… Again, even if that’s not their situation, at work or or at home, they’re somehow drawn into that idea that, hey, this is a time to consider change. So what kinds of things do I do and what kinds of things have I seen other people do that have helped? One thing that probably, in some ways it’s like the 101 consideration for GTD come the new year is to zoom way out, zoom way out on your system and your practices and ask the questions, is this serving me? Is this serving me? The ways that I’m working and the system that I have, is this serving me? And it might be that you come to the conclusion, yeah, by and large, it’s actually in pretty good shape. May I tweak here, tweak there, delete this context for next actions, create a new one. It could be, that that’s kind of your conclusion.

0:05:11.2 TB: Or it could be, I’m just gonna start over. You know what? When I look at my system, it is so out of date, it so does not reflect my reality that it almost feels like it has become a source of stress in my life. To have an out of date system has become a source of stress in my life. And so I’m quite happy… Some would say I’m quite happy to just sort of kiss that goodbye and start over. You might want to, if you find yourself with that, with that sort of intention, you might want to take your old system and archive it or print it out if you wanna go real old school so that you’ve got the information in case you’re ever need it in the future, but that’s sort of at the other end of the spectrum, just sort of start over. And it’s interesting as I’ve done that, and I’ve done that in the course of the last 18 or 19 years I’ve been doing GTD, I’ve done that, I don’t know, maybe half a dozen times. Just said, start over, new system, new structure, in many cases, new software involved.

0:06:17.6 TB: And that has been… In most cases, that’s brought with it a real kind of increase in energy and an increase in enthusiasm. And I think that’s because not only was I sort of starting over, and there’s an adrenaline rush that comes with new beginnings, I suppose. But also I’d learned… Because of my previous experience of all of those systems, I’d learned what had worked and what hadn’t. So I knew what the sources of friction were in my ways of working, and therefore I was able to ask the question, okay, in this new system or these new ways of working that I’m generating or creating or refining, am I addressing those sources of friction? So those are some things that just that come to mind from my exposure to this material in the world and the work that I’ve done with myself and my clients. How about you?

0:07:11.3 RP: Well, that’s great. And I think you’re really right. There is an opportunity. I reminded of the phrase, a friend of mine once said, put your shoulder to the wheel and your nose to the grindstone and then try to get some work done in that position. [chuckle] And I think when you’re talking about slogging harder versus backing up, and really looking at the systems, it’s like the wheel could be broken and the grindstone could be worn completely smooth, and it’s like it’s time to look and to retool. I think there’s also an interesting element for me of the importance of acknowledging as well, acknowledging what’s working, acknowledging success and wins. I think when people try and make radical change in the new year, part of why that fails is it feels like your sort of old habits or approaches sort of react to big change a lot more than small change.

0:08:04.7 RP: And we think of that as a bad thing. We think of it as, “Oh, it’s hard to get out of your comfort zone or this kind of thing.” But also I think there’s a protective element of that too. There’s the thing of you don’t wanna throw out the baby with the bath water, but you gotta know what the baby is in order to do that. So for me, looking back on the past year and acknowledging what is working, acknowledging what I did accomplish and achieve is a useful precursor to then going into looking at the opportunities for improvement. It could be in relation to my trusted systems, it could be in relation to ways that I’m taking on different kind of works and responsibilities and other things. It could be in relation to habits for self-care.

0:08:50.8 RP: But having that identification first, I think has been a really important piece for me. So a little bit of a review, closure, that kind of thing, then also helps me surface, well, what wasn’t working so well about last year? What do I want… Sort of what I want to carry into 2024? What do I want to sort of leave behind? I think are great questions as well to ask. And for me, when I start to think about, well, what do I want to have be true in the New Year? I find one of the things I do is what I call ideal scenes. And I’ll do those sort of ad hoc and as needed. So I’m looking forward to having some time at the end of 2023 leading up to Christmas, and between Christmas and New Year where I have actual time available to me to do this kind and level of thinking.

0:09:45.7 RP: And often it starts with a kind of mind map, spider diagram sort of thing, where I pick a particular focus, like let’s say career for example. And the fact that I have a sort of high slice portfolio career means I’m constantly sort of tweaking and tuning that to make sure the fullness of the mix satisfies a variety of different things for me. And so there I would look at not only the distribution of things and that kind of thing, but what do I want to be experiencing? And I think having these kind of junctures where you can look forward or look back and say, what do I want to be experiencing in my life is a really great precursor to then doing the GTD thinking about, what would the outcomes be in the coming year? What would actually be true as sort of deliverables or things that would happen that I would recognise I’m having more of that experience.

0:10:39.0 RP: But getting to the essential experience, to me is a great way to decouple it from the thinking of, “Well, I’ve gotta go down this one path to get there.” So just identifying, I want this experience, and then I want some of these actual things to happen as markers of that experience, very often is the right level of thinking for me, for an annual type of review, if you like. So anyway, just some thoughts about kind of how I go about doing it, how to kind of try to get to the essence of what I want to be, have happening. Yeah.

0:11:18.6 TB: Yeah. I think that’s a really interesting point and an important one. This kind of retrospective look at what’s happened. I’m reflecting on the… And I’ll call it the ever increasing popularity of journaling these days. And I know, I mean one of the things that I’ve been keeping an eye out is the very next version, as I understand it, of the Apple operating system for their mobile devices is going to be releasing a journaling app. And for that reason, it’s sort of on my mind. But journaling of course is one way for us to do some reflecting about what’s going on in our lives. And for most… What’s interesting for me about journaling by its nature tends to be, or most people think about it as a, “Okay, I’m gonna journal once a day or a few times a week.”

0:12:12.6 TB: But it’s not really… And don’t get me wrong, I think there’s huge value in that, and sort of reflecting on what’s happened as the world has gone by and as you’ve experienced it and what’s been your experience of it, what are your thoughts? But what we don’t really do, and the journaling apps generally I think don’t really promote is hey, really big long-term retrospective looks at what’s happened. Looking through your journal can support that, of course you can sort of do a day-by-day view. But I think the kind of… And you haven’t used the word, but the sort of just a brainstorm, let’s think back on the year and let’s think what’s happened and let’s try to identify bigger trends and whether there are improvement opportunities there.

0:12:55.7 TB: And quite frankly, let’s also just take some time, let’s just celebrate some success. Let’s just think, Hey, this went well, this… We ticked that box. I love by the way, the point that you made about quite often what you are looking to do is ensure that your experience of something is a certain way. And I think that’s… It’s funny that you say that because that’s been more and more important in my thinking. When I think about my desired outcomes, it’s in many ways, as much about how did I experience something as it is about what… Did I achieve something, right? And that I think is so valuable, ’cause you can… A metaphor occurs to me, you can cross the finish line in two ways.

0:13:45.4 TB: You can cross the finish line, feeling like, “Wow, I could do more. I really enjoyed that. It wasn’t easy, but I felt like that was really something that felt like an important and valuable experience.” Or you can just basically stumble over the line and be so exhausted and so completely overwhelmed by the experience that you’ve been through that you might not ever do it again. So again, I do love that. And I share that perspective with you to a great extent. So yeah, I think that kind of, we might call it an annual review, having a look back on your year and also of course, looking forward, I think would be a good thing. In terms of your… I’m just curious about your technical tool set. Is that something that you ever think about, particularly at the end of the year, re-engineering? Or do you sort of think about that just as time goes by and it occurs to you, “Hey, there’s some friction here and I want to resolve it?” Or what does that look like in your world?

0:14:48.9 RP: Yeah, it’s a good question. I haven’t taken the annual opportunity to really look at the tool itself, but I very often look at the structure within the tool of my projects, a bit of the grouping of the projects in relation to a few different key areas that I’m focused on in my life. And those fluctuate considerably, really fluctuate a lot over time based on my life circumstances. And things changed a lot during the pandemic, for example. Things changed a lot after the pandemic, for example. And I think one of the biggest things I’m looking at there is does it align again, with this experience I’m wanting to create. So the tools themselves, the actual tools, it’s much more kind of responding to events, like a new tool showing up that I want to evaluate or consider.

0:15:46.5 RP: But the fundamental list keeping and calendar tool, I’ve had those two for a very, very long time. It’s much more the content that really, really shifts over time. And again, that content, the fundamental question is around, “Am I having the experience that I want in terms of the pie chart over the days, weeks, months, or the types of things I’m focused on, the amount of satisfaction that that brings me.” It’s almost sort of the Marie Kondo for the inner life. It’s the… Is are we sparking joy here, or are we building up administrative and other things that are unpleasant and unnecessary? It has to be done, it has to be done, and it might as well be systematised. But it’s just amazing how things can creep in and suddenly become accepted when we don’t have these externalisation mechanisms that allow us to look at it and go, hang on.

0:16:44.7 RP: That’s not something I absolutely need to be doing. And actually, I thought it would bring me these certain things, and it hasn’t. It hasn’t. So again, getting back to those qualities I think is really, really important when you’re looking from this level at the projects you take on, at the different routine tasks you take on, etcetera. So I don’t so much declare bankruptcy on the tool and get rid of the tool and print things out and move to a different tool. Although I have at various times in my life, I’d be much more likely to declare bankruptcy in a certain area and go, “Hey, that particular focus I thought was going to get me more of this thing, and it hasn’t and let’s move on and reallocate my inner energy kind of if I feel like”

0:17:33.5 RP: So that’s another… That’s kind of my approach. One thing this random thought I had that it occurred to me as you were talking about focusing on the quality of experience that you wanna have in crossing those finish lines. And I love that metaphor of, “Are you wheezing across the finish line with your last gasp? Or are you sort of joyfully breaking the tape and feeling really good about the run you had?” Is wouldn’t it be amazing if organisational KPIs factored in how the team was doing when they accomplished those goals? Wouldn’t it be incredible if in that updraft you’re creating toward the goals and toward the various things and the various waterfalls that we make and all of that about how different things cascade down, pulling toward the ultimate goal for the business. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if the company factored in, in some way how the team felt about that, or how the team was doing when they crossed that finish line?

0:18:32.9 RP: And it’s just an interesting thought to throw out there for organisations that do really want to support healthy forms of high performance. But it occurs to me, we have that opportunity for ourselves. We always have that opportunity for ourselves. I think we’re so focused on setting goals and focusing on the goals no matter what. Educationally we’re trained to do that, or in organisations and companies we’re trained to do that. But for ourselves, when we’re setting up what we want to be true, factoring in how we want to feel about it, I think, is to me, one of the big kind of takeaways and gems from this conversation. And I’m always grateful for these. ‘Cause I don’t think that would’ve necessarily surfaced just sort of spinning the gears on my own. So thank you for that.

0:19:15.3 TB: Not at all. And actually that reminds me of a conversation I’ve literally had in the last two days with somebody. Again, somebody that I’ve been working on a coaching basis. And one of his roles was, he was the head of sales analytics for a very, very large organisation. Okay. Global name everybody’s heard. And so he does… And he’s a very intelligent guy, very deep thinker. It’s really a lot of fun to work with him. And one of the things that he said was, he was talking about, in particular sales reward and he said, how do you reward your salespeople? And he said that there is… A lot of sales organisations, of course have targets. So you’re gonna get… You’ll have an individual sales target, and you’ll get commissioned on that, and you’ll also have possibly a team sales target, and you’ll get commissioned based on that.

0:20:10.7 RP: And the vast majority of organisations have those for their salespeople. And yet, what he said was, there’s a lot of good science out there that says, if what you want is the most impact out of your salespeople, in other words that they’re selling the most, you compensate them on things like, if they’re a sales manager, is your team happy? Are they engaged? Are they enjoying working with the people that they’re working with? I mean, these questions that don’t directly have to do with did you hit your target. But he said that there is all kinds of good data out there that says that that’s how you generate more sales. And so this goes right back to what you’re saying, which is that it’s about experience and it’s about… And don’t get me wrong, I mean, I’m not saying that everybody should give up all their sales targets, but I’m saying these other elements, these other more experiential sort of qualitative considerations, it’s not just fluffy thinking. Apparently this really does make a difference. So yeah, there you go. That’s a conversation from the last 48 hours that directly relates to what we’re talking about today.

0:21:25.7 RP: I love it. I just love it. Yeah. So I realise we’re kind of coming near the end of our typical timing for this. So I just want to say thank you for a rich and interesting conversation very… I think timely as people are going into the new year. For those of you that tune into these regularly, I’d be really interested to hear what you thought of this conversation. Because we didn’t go into detail about exactly how to groom your next actions into greater focus or any technical details of GTD. We’re talking more about the spirit of the thing. Is that useful? Is that inspiring? Is that interesting? What do you much prefer? How do we polish the wheels and gears of this? Very interested in your thoughts.

0:22:15.3 RP: So [email protected] or visit the Next Action website. Meanwhile, please do like, and subscribe. You can hit the little bell in YouTube and it’ll let you know when the next one of these is coming. And we’ve got some exciting things coming in the new year about how we present this information, how we support you in understanding what it means to embrace not only the Getting Things Done methodology, but a mindset that supports healthy high performance in your life and in your work. So stay tuned for that. Lots of great stuff coming in the coming year. Meanwhile, be well, enjoy, we’ll see you next time.


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