Step 3: Time to Process All That Stuff
Once you’ve written all of your goals and you’ve taken the time to gather all your “stuff,” it’s time to go through and decide what you’re going to do with it all. It might not immediately see clearly as to why these two steps need to be taken apart. Here’s my best reasoning about this: If you try to get everything out of your head and down on paper, or if you try to gather everything, and you try to decide what you need to do with it in one step, you will very quickly become bogged down. This means you may not capture everything that needs to be captured. Here’s a chart from David Allen on how his processing flow works. It’s a great way to move through a lot of stuff very quickly. Here’s how I do it.
- Is it something that I can act on? If the answer is “no,” then I either delete or toss it, file it away for reference, or put it in my someday/maybe folder.
- If the answer is yes, then what is the purpose of the item? Does it relate to my goals? If not, I may want to go back to number 1 and toss it or put it in my someday/maybe folder (the word “no” is a great one). What will it mean to complete that item? This is described in past tense. For example, I’m working on a novel, Night Song. When I have published it, I will have successfully written it, edited it, submitted it to a publishing house, and re-submitted it with the suggested changes.
- Once I’ve decided what the completed item looks like, then, if it has more than one step, it goes on my project list. I then ask, “what is the next action?” If it were the only thing to do, what would I need to do next?
- Is the action something that will take 2 minutes or less? If so, I do it now. If not, I need to defer it. If there’s someone who can do it better, I can delegate it to them.
- I keep going through my inbox until it’s empty.
When it’s the first time you’re doing this, it can take a while to process everything. When you’re done, you’re going to feel like a superhero.
Remember, Every Goal Needs an Action Plan
I also go through my goals at this point. I ask, “What needs to be done to make this happen?” Then, I follow the same steps as above until every goal has an action plan. If I have goals without action plans, I put them in the someday/maybe category.
These early steps may start to seem tedious. If you’re like me, and all of your projects are still recovering from “moved-across-the-country while almost 20 weeks pregnant into a townhouse that didn’t work out for our family, so we camped out until the baby was born and bought a new house and moved again” syndrome, then you may break it into parts. Get the essentials accounted for. For me, this means my businesses, my current client work, my current creative projects. As we set up our home (which is itself a series of projects), then more will be gathered and processed. Set aside time regularly to get a handle on all the “things” that need to be done.