David Allen on creating a stress-free workplace and getting things done


David Allen is one of the world’s most influential thinkers on productivity, whose 35 years of experience as a management consultant and executive coach have earned him the titles of “personal productivity guru” by Fast Company, one of America’s top five executive coaches by Forbes, and among the American Management Association’s top 10 business leaders. David’s bestselling book, the groundbreaking Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity has been published in thirty languages, and the “GTD” methodology it describes has become a global phenomenon, being taught by training companies in 60 countries. David, his company, and his partners are dedicated to teaching people how to stay relaxed and productive in our fast-paced world.

Q- What is your methodology for getting things done?

Quite simply, it’s defining what “done” means and what “doing” looks like and where it happens, plus maintaining a complete, current, and clear inventory of the outcomes to which you’re committed and all the action steps required to complete those outcomes. As simple as that might sound (or maybe not), it requires a set of behaviors that must be implemented to achieve those results and move you into your most productive state. You must first capture/record whatever has your attention in some place holder location. You then must clarify exactly what the nature of each item is, and what exactly you need to do about it, if anything. You then need to either complete the necessary action at the moment, delegate it to a more appropriate person or park a reminder of it in a trusted personal system. You then must ensure an appropriate review of all the contents you have clarified and organized, which will lead you to make trusted decisions about what to do at any moment, wherever you are.

Q- Tell us about your new upcoming researches and books?

We have just completed the publishing of two new GTD-related books, which have both been in the works for a couple of years. First, Getting Things Done for Teens, which frames this methodology for younger people learning to deal with the complexities of their worlds. And just recently, The Getting Things Done Workbook, which provides an easy step-by-step way to understand and being to implement the methodology, for anyone. Currently, there is nothing yet further on my horizon, other than supporting our training and coaching partners around the world with blogs, podcasts, and additional articles.

Q- What are the factors influencing people’s performance and productivity?

Clarity of role(s) and all accountability’s tied to those roles, plus the awareness and skill to execute on those commitments appropriately. And defining and managing all of that within the larger contexts of one’s purpose, vision, and goals, and areas of focus. Those behaviors optimize any individual’s output and confidence that they are appropriately engaged with things that are most meaningful to them. However, the organizational culture itself, with individuals who are not managing themselves in such a conscious way, can foster a very unproductive environment, causing even the most effective people to have to overcome the “drag on the system” that the dysfunctional people produce. Unclear and conflicting objectives, things falling through the cracks, unfocused meetings, conversations that don’t produce specific actions, outcomes, and commitments–all of these make it that much harder to get things done in a stress-free way

Q- How can companies ensure their employees have a stress-free environment at work?

Support this awareness and these productive behaviors I just mentioned, by them being modeled by key people; and building in company standards and a lexicon that support them. Don’t start meetings without clear outcomes defined for them, and don’t end discussions without deciding any next actions and who has them. Train people on how to ensure leakproof personal systems and keeping things in trusted “external brains,” which are reviewed consistently for status checking, follow up, and managing the complexities of day to day work. Then expect the results of those behaviors being implemented: clarity, focus, control, stability, and balance in managing the flow of work, personally and organizationally.

Q- How work well with stressed out Colleagues?

Ensure that you yourself are relaxed, focused, and in control, using this methodology (so you don’t catch their disease); and support them with the coaching you do for yourself to achieve and maintain it.

Q- Any concluding remarks to make employees more productive?

Realize that it actually is possible to be relaxed, focused, and in control and still function in a highly productive way in a world of way too much to do. And also realize that it doesn’t happen by itself. It requires becoming aware of a best-practice methodology, upgrading systems to put it in motion, and changing some key habits that keep up the new standard. It does take some investment on the front end but quickly repays it many times over in time saved, output increased, and expanded mental space for being creative, strategic, and simply present with whatever you are doing. Then you can relax and pay attention to the wise, inner voice we all have, as to what’s best to be doing, at the moment.

Thank you, David!


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