One of the things I catch myself saying quite a bit in coaching sessions these days is, “You have to slow down to speed up.” My fellow GTD Coach Meg Edwards shared this insight from David Allen with me years ago, and it has always stuck with me.
What do I mean by slow down to speed up? I work with so many people who are moving so fast, which can be great, as it allows them to get a lot done. However, these same individuals are often cruising at the speed of light while they are processing, and what happens is that they aren’t REALLY making clear decisions about their “stuff”. Instead of transforming their inputs into clear outcomes and next actions, they are making decisions too quickly and ending up with more “still needs to be decided upon stuff” on their lists. Then what happens? They don’t want to look at their lists.
The solution is to slow down to speed up. The payoff from GTD is all about slowing down on the front end, when you’re in the processing phase of the GTD Mastering Workflow 5-phase model. By following the decision through to the very next action or outcome, you already know what needs to be done when you have time to actually do the work. Choosing what is the most appropriate thing to do in the moment is so much easier if your lists have clear, physical/visible next actions that you are prepared to do in the moment, given the right tool, location, energy, etc.
It can be frustrating for people who like moving fast to slow down, but it will be even more frustrating to have to look at something two, three, or even four times to get clear about what really needs to be done to move something forward.
Have a look at your lists. Is there anything on them that you kind of glaze over when you look at it? Anything that’s been sitting there for months? Any resistance? A red flag to watch out for is having one word on the subject line for a next action (e.g. “Bob” under @Waiting For or “closet” under @Home). What physically, visibly needs to be done to move those items forward, and how are you going to do it? You don’t want to have to ask yourself those questions more than once. And that once happens during the processing phase.
I encourage all of you (myself included!) to s l o w d o w n when we are processing, and really experience the payoff of having squeaky-clean lists.
Julie Ireland is a senior coach with the David Allen Company. Learn more about Julie.