Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Getting Things Done

How to Get the Right Things Done

Dear David,

I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, as a teenager. I loved it. I purchased the FranklinCovey planner and for years I defined my roles and tried to execute on important-but-not-urgent matters related to those roles. I loved getting clear on my values and trying to keep them at the center of my life, even if I didn’t always succeed. Recently, I discovered the GTD system, and I’ve found that executing around context (rather than roles) works better for me. I actually get more done with less stress. Who knew!

That said, I feel I’m veering from my values. I’ve only just started with Getting Things Done so maybe I’m missing something, but I often find myself at the end of a week having accomplished a lot, though not everything I wanted to, and not what matters most to me. How can I better be productive at the things I value most?

Rudderless Speedboat

Dear Rudderless,

It’s quite true that once you’ve gotten some experience with GTD, you might be seduced by the positive experience of getting lots of stuff done and, as a result, potentially lose sight of some of the “bigger things.”

Based on my experience over many years with many people, you are probably in a “swing” mode—you’ve discovered and implemented operational productivity that you may have been previously lacking, but are now realizing you need to focus again on your higher horizons and values. It’s quite a natural process. And I’ll bet when you do spend some time reflecting on your bigger game, it will be from a more grounded and confident place.

It’s like learning to drive a car. You begin by getting comfortable with the nitty-gritty details of controlling and managing such a large and complex moving machine. And then at some point you feel confident enough to focus on where you actually want to drive it.

If your higher purpose, goals, and values have come onto your inner radar, it’s as much “GTD” to engage with those appropriately as any of the more mundane aspects of your work and life. What makes you feel like you’re “veering from your values”? What has your attention about any of that? What’s the next action you need to take to move forward for resolution? What’s your desired outcome?

Now that you’ve begun to learn and incorporate the powerful GTD thinking process to manage your everyday workload, you can apply it equally to the more subtle but important levels of what you’re about, and to great effect.

Best of luck,

You can learn more insights and skills like this in Getting Things Done

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