Categories | Best Practices of GTD | Getting Things Done | Implementation
Let’s talk about the Horizons of Focus. In my experience, this is one of the parts of the GTD approach that can take a little time for people to get their arms around. This is where priorities and perspective live. Whereas traditional time management approaches attempted to give people an ABC type coding system for defining their priorities, David Allen’s GTD approach has always been that priority codes are too simple for the complexity of most people’s changing lives, as the only measure of what to do. For example, assigning an “A” priority to something (or flagging is the popular method in email programs these days) could change with the next new piece of input you get. Plus, in my experience, people tend to get lazy with that code or flag without really deciding the next action. A flag, or #1, or lighting the email on fire still doesn’t tell you what your next action is. So is David saying to never use those? Of course not. Just be sure that what you are marking as high priority has a a clearly defined next action and be willing to change that priority the moment your world changes–which it will. What David Allen does encourage people to do is trust their gut/butt/hunch/intuition about what to do. A clearly defined set of projects and actions, with any relevant information captured for your longer term goals, vision and direction will be your best coach when deciding your priorities. GTD helps define your priorities through 6 Horizons of Focus:
50,000 – Life Purpose
40,000 – 3-5 year Visions and Strategy
30,000 – 1-2 year Goals and Direction
20,000 – Areas of Focus and Responsibilities
10,000 – Current Projects
Runway – Current Actions
The best way I know of to work with these 6 levels is to go with where my attention is. I don’t find it often works to assign myself to go map those out perfectly, especially 30-50,000 levels. They will get subtler the higher you go up in your focus, but they will all help in choosing what to do.
Will knowing your 50,000 tell you exactly which email to read or meeting to go to? Probably not. But it will probably bring to the surface if you’re in the job you want. Play around with them. See where your attention goes. David’s latest book Making It All Work goes into lots more detail on Horizons of Focus and seems to have cleared up some of the mystery around that for people who read and implemented GTD.
Kelly Forrister is a senior coach and presenter with the David Allen Company.