Basic GTD: Natural Planning

By Francisco Sáez • December 22, 2011

Sometimes we need some kind of rigor to keep complex projects under control, find a solution or determine the right steps to take in order to complete them successfully.

The Natural Planning Model is a productive way to think about projects, because it allows to get maximum value with minimum effort. This is an informal approach that does not require great elaboration. Although you don’t realize it, you usually do these five things to accomplish any task, however simple it is:

  1. You define your purpose and principles. First you ask yourself why are you going to do that. Defining a clear and specific goal is common sense and has significant benefits. It allows you to define what is the project success, create a framework for making decisions, think about the needed resources, clarify the focus and awaken your creativity.
    You rarely think about your principles consciously, but they exist, and are of particular importance when there are more people involved. You don’t want to reach the result at any cost. If your personal values are violated, you will consider the project as a failure.
  2. You envision the outcome. This is the what. You get a clear picture in mind of what the final result should look like in reality. It must be the best picture possible, with the project completed successfully. This way you can activate all the conscious and unconscious resources available to you—ideas, thoughts, patterns—.
  3. You get ideas. Here comes the how. Ideas start to pop into your head in a somewhat random order. It is usually an internal process, but if the project is complex, you should capture those ideas using mind-mapping or any other type of technique. This prevents you from forgetting the ideas and helps you to generate new ideas from the original ones.
  4. You organize everything. Once you know why, what and how, you are able to identify the different components of the project and to define the sequence of activities to be undertaken and their priorities.
  5. You identify the next actions. Finally, you allocate the needed resources to get the project moving. It is about deciding the next actions for each of the moving parts of the project.

To what degree of detail you should plan a project? According to David Allen, to the point where you stop worrying about it. Most times, it will suffice to define one next action.

About the author

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Francisco Sáez (@franciscojsaez) is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a web developer specializing in Ruby on Rails who is passionate about personal productivity and GTD as a means to a better life.

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