Last element of GTD workflow is the Do. The whole purpose of previous stages, collecting, processing, organising is to allow a worker to make better choices about the stuff he or she is going to do. Planning things out intends to give more confidence that you know what’s going on around you and that you can make a confident choice about next thing to do.
Many people would expect that systems like GTD will spit out exactly what do to next, however they can only provide a list of choices. The ultimate decision is intuitive call that the next action is a good choice.
4 Criteria Model
To assist with making better choices David Allen outlined a four criteria model for deciding next actions.
- Context – There is limited amount of actions you could do anywhere. Being in the right place, having access to right tools will determine what you can do. If you’re out and about there is no point to look at your @home list for things to action. Your focus should be on Errands or to buy lists.
- Time – The amount of time available to you will determine your choices. If you have 15min in between meetings, than this limits what you can do and means that you won’t be looking at complex actions. You will rather look for some quick kills, maybe refer to your read & review stack of papers and tackle couple items there.
- Energy – Human body has peak and low energy periods during any day and throughout a year. Being in high energy period means that you can do complex and intensive work. You can get sufficient amount of focus to complete high value tasks. On the other hand you might feel exhausted and tired so you would look for something simple and easy.
- Priority - having considered all the above criteria you need to look at what’s most important. Which of you actions that you could possibly complete give you biggest return. The decision is very intuitive and based solely on your own judgment.
3 Types of work
To assist you with determining what’s more important David Allen refers to additional two models.
First looks at the different types of work we do and second focuses on establishing how your actions fit into your life, goals, plans etc.
When doing any sort of work you could be looking at one of the three elements:
- predefined work – this is where you check you list and do whatever you’ve planned to do. During your weekly or daily review you can determine what’s important and needs to be done and this will be a basis of your day.
- as it show up work – this is where you’re focusing on the incoming items and do them as they arrive. As almost every day brings unexpected it’s necessary to leave some time for such items. However if you allow to work only on those items and ignore your list that means they were more important that the next actions and projects you’ve plans.
- defining your work – this is last element where you are engaged making sure your system is up to date and complete. In this stage of work you look at processing your inboxes, defining your schedule and next action list.
All your actions and activities for part of a bigger thing. They should allow us to move into the ultimate direction of purposeful life, a life which gives you a feeling of accomplishment. This is where a 6 level model for reviewing your work comes in play. It’s takes a form of altitudes which represent different forms of goals, plans, dreams, visions and allows your to check how well your actions are aligned with above element.
- Runway – all your current next actions.
- 10,000 feet – your projects
- 20,000 feet – areas of responsibility
- 30,000 feet – short term goals (1-3 years
- 40,000 feet – long term goals (4-6 years)
- 50,000 feet – life purpose.
Although all this may look overly complicated the process happens in your head in a fraction of a second. If you know your schedule you know that you have 15min to next meeting so you can try to find something quick to do. Assessment of your situation will happen instantly you won’t be rethinking every criteria individually.
These models should serve you in selecting the right actions and making better more aligned plans. Not all will be used on daily basis. The 4 criteria model is the most likely to be used and the 6 level model works best during planning and review sessions where things need to be thought through.
There is a myriad of factors which contribute to making a right decision. Ultimately if the actions you’ve completed make you feel good than you’ve made right choices.