Categories | Best Practices of GTD | Family | Implementation
I recently presented a seminar where a participant brought up the project of getting her daughter into college. Since that had been a project for me as well, I wrote to her about how I applied the “Natural Planning Model” to this project. For those of you unfamiliar with the Natural Planning Model, it is David Allen’s approach to getting projects creatively under control. The specific details of this five-phase approach can be found starting on page 54 of David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.
Here is the email I sent to this participant regarding her project:
I wanted to share with you what I did to help my son with his efforts to get into college. Like your daughter, my son was looking at schools. The deadlines for college applications had been approaching, and he had not completed any applications. In response, I took him through the Natural Planning Model. Specifically, here’s what I did with him:
I asked him to tell me why he wanted to go to college. At first he started with reasons that seemed to belong to others, but I encouraged him to get real with it – why did he really want to go to college? Was it to learn a trade? Develop strong friendships? Have an adventure? Meet new people? Enhance his education by broadening it or giving it more depth?
2) Guiding Principles
I asked my son what was important to him as we went through this process. He said that he wanted the process to be easy and fluid, and it was also important to him that we do it in a spirit of cooperation.
Once we got his Purpose and Guiding Principles clear (and I had him write all this down by the way), I asked him what his ideal scene was for college as best as he could describe it in that moment. I used the following cues to stimulate his thinking:
- Large or small school?
- Metropolitan or rural setting?
- East coast? West coast? In between? Or abroad?
- Large classes or small intimate learning settings?
- Male/Female ratio?
- Living on/off campus?
- What is his major?
- What will he know at the end of four years?
- What types of courses will he take?
- Other extra-curriculars? – he came up with wanting to be close to ski areas (!)
- Political/ideological/religious leaning of the school?
We skipped this phase because he already had plenty of schools he was interested in. For kids who haven’t yet identified schools of interest, I’d encourage them to take a very broad look at every school that holds any appeal to them, using tools like Barron’s, etc.
I then had my son rank each of the schools on his preliminary list on a scale from 1 to 10, based upon the criteria he himself had established in the Vision section. When we looked at the schools ranked 6 and above, we realized we had too many. When we only looked at schools ranked 7 and above, we came up with 10, which seemed more manageable. I’d also recommend that students apply the idea that most college counselors encourage – to include a few “fall-back” schools, as well as at least one that would be a stretch for them in terms of the average GPA and SAT scores.
6) Next Actions
There were a few schools for which my son lacked sufficient information to be able to rank them, so that became a next action for him – to take “virtual tours” and see what number he would assign based on that information. There were only a few, however, so the next actions we identified were to determine the application requirements for each school in his top ten and set them into a grid so that we could see which applications were due when, and what needed to be completed.
This process worked very well. Not only did it get my son moving toward getting his applications done, but it also shifted the energy that we all had around it from drudgery to joy and anticipation of the adventure ahead.
Wayne Pepper is a senior coach and presenter with the David Allen Company.