After you’ve captured everything on your mind, the next step of GTD is to clarify all of the “things” in your productivity inbox. If you try to tackle as much as I do (Of course you do, that’s why you’re reading my post!!) this is much harder than it seems because clarifying requires you to have a grasp of your responsibilities.
This series was coming along swimmingly until I reread what David Allen had to say about the clarifying stage because I suddenly realized that the person I was when I started practicing GTD didn’t resemble the person I am today. In the last three years I’ve become a husband and a father; my improved productivity has enabled me to take on more producing responsibilities and become a more efficient delegator. But even the best system has its limits.
Let’s just get this out of the way: I don’t like David Allen’s definition of a project and I think OmniFocus errors by following GTD methodology here. Things 3‘s application of “Areas of Responsibility” is the more sensible decision, but we’ll get there.
David Allen defines a project as: Any multi-step outcome that can be completed within one year.
At first glance this seems innocent enough. That screenplay you’re writing: project. Gathering your S-Corp receipts and filing your taxes: project. Even your current show is just one giant multifaceted project.
But I’m a dad and I often have things that I need to do for my daughter, and I HOPE that the father gig will last much more than one year. Being a father is on-going job. But at the same time, I need a place for my fathering tasks to live.
If you use OmniFocus you’re SOL. Ok, not really. OmniFocus has different project types, but I find them deeply unhelpful…
I mean really? It took me a while to realize that the areas of my life that didn’t feel like projects (Family Life, Self-care, Career) were considered Single Action projects in OmniFocus.
Things 3 has projects, but also has the organizational concept of “Areas of Responsibility” which is refreshingly self-explanatory in my opinion. You can nest projects within these areas if you’d like.
Learning to say, “No”.
Implementing a personal productivity system requires you to take a long hard look at all of your temporary and continuing commitments. Some of these commitments will end and you’ll call them projects. Others will be ongoing and you’ll call them “Areas of Responsibility” (or Single Action Projects). But whatever you call these commitments, if you’re honest with yourself and thorough you will probably realize that some of the things occupying your mental space probably don’t fit into your life.
While working through Getting Things Done Chapters 2 & 6 I had to admit a hard truth to myself: I needed to let go of at least two projects. And if I’m honest with myself, two more are hanging by a thread. I need to cull the herd so my other projects can flourish. It’s been emotional.
When I set out to write this series, I envisioned rereading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done and sharing my experience of working through how I’ve re-implemented this methodology in my own life. Clarifying my responsibilities has been eye opening and challenging; and we’re just getting started. In the next post we’ll shift from Projects to Specific tasks.