Productivity and GTD

Reach Balance through Your Areas of Responsibility

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~ Thomas Merton
Balance

The GTD capturing phase has normally got a reactive nature. This means that you will be doing some work, going for a walk, or in the cinema, and suddenly, you see something, someone tells you something, you remember something or an idea comes to your mind. So you capture it to avoid the stress of having it at the back of your mind all the time or making you feel worried you might forget it.

Capturing this way is paramount and indisputable but also incomplete since you only capture self-evident things, meaning that they somehow emerge by themselves to the surface. However, there are other things which are not so evident and that, unless you make an effort to think about them on purpose, they will only emerge when it’s too late, as problems.

In order to avoid this it’s recommended that you design a check list in which you will need to to reflect from time to time in a proactive way. What things should you check on that list? Your Areas of Responsibility. Think about each one of them and determine to which things you are not paying enough attention. Capture the result of that reflection, so that you can act and correct any imbalance. How often should you do it? Well, it depends on you and the rate in which things change in your life, but a reasonable frequency would be between 2 and 6 months.

In order to do this review you have be to clear about your Areas of Responsibility (ARs from now on.) Also called Areas of Focus and Areas of Interest, the ARs form part of the 6 perspective levels of GTD. The ARs represent different aspects of your work and your personal life to which you want to dedicate your time in a balanced way, expecting to obtain good results in all of them.

At your work you probably have a main responsibility but if you are a knowledge worker, surely you will have various secondary responsibilities. Mentally carry out a detailed description of your work to become conscious of them. Do you have any problem in your role as a boss, manager, employee or partner? Are there general issues that you could reinforce in order to improve your work conditions? Think for example about your administrative tasks, team work, the hardware and software you use, your planning skills or your personal productivity. Are there any specific aspects of your specialty that you should improve? New technologies, advances in your area, training courses, books you should read, seminars you should attend, etc.

The ARs related to your personal life can vary a lot, but usually we all have some of them in common. The most usual ones are:

  • Family. Are you participating in your kids education as much as you would like to? Do you care about maintaining your relationship with your partner alive? How long has it been since you shared some time with your parents or siblings?
  • Friends. Do you keep in touch with those friends who are now living somewhere else or is it that their rhythm of life doesn’t help spending some time together? How long has it been since the last time you called them?
  • Personal development. Are you happy with your abilities in general, with the way you interact with people, with your role in life? What would you need to do to improve? What would you like to do to grow as a human being?
  • Leisure. Is there time in your life for amusement and entertainment? Do you get enough rest? Do you travel? Do you save time for your hobbies, and things that make you enjoy?
  • Health. Are you a dynamic person, are you in shape? Do you take care of yourself? Are you eating healthy? Do you exercise? How do you feel?
  • Finance. Are you aware of your economic situation? Do you save enough money so that you don’t have to worry about unexpected things? Do you invest in your future? Is there something you need to change?
  • Society. How do you like helping the community? What can you do with your actual resources? Donations? Volunteer?
  • Spiritual life. Do you save some time for yourself and to meditate? If you practice any religion, are you happy with your level of involvement?

Normally, we pay almost all of our attention to two or three ARs, leaving the rest of them in background, which ends up generating problems in our work, relationships and personal balance.

Which are your Areas of Responsibility? Which is your degree of satisfaction with each and one of them? If you want to be the director of your life, respond every so often to both of these questions.

6 comments

8bb2c9a97155fbcffcc91ca918d103c7
Commented over 3 years ago Cyrus

Another excellent article. Thank you for posting it.

Many times people get Areas of Responsibility mixed up with Areas of Focus. These are not the same thing. As you have already mentioned, Areas of Responsibility represent slices of our lives that make us whole. Work, play, family, friends, and everything else that defines a small part of what and who we are, our goals, our ambitions, and aspects of our lives in which we have a major stake and ownership.

In contrast, Areas of Focus are more like projects, defining specific times and levels of attention in specific areas. For example, the "Work" Area of Focus could be any and all work related to the office and office projects.

It's important to separate these two if for nothing else that Areas of Focus help you zero in on what you should do and Areas of Responsibility help you identify what is important (as it relates to Goals and Purpose).

Balance, in my opinion, can only be achieved once an individually has a clear view to the horizon. Up close, everyone feels too busy and cannot determine what steps to take to move forward. Zooming back, the Areas of Responsibility provide a clear markers and the tasks become the roads. The end result is a map that helps keep the individual on course and moving forward.

8bb2c9a97155fbcffcc91ca918d103c7 Cyrus

Another excellent article. Thank you for posting it.

Many times people get Areas of Responsibility mixed up with Areas of Focus. These are not the same thing. As you have already mentioned, Areas of Responsibility represent slices of our lives that make us whole. Work, play, family, friends, and everything else that defines a small part of what and who we are, our goals, our ambitions, and aspects of our lives in which we have a major stake and ownership.

In contrast, Areas of Focus are more like projects, defining specific times and levels of attention in specific areas. For example, the "Work" Area of Focus could be any and all work related to the office and office projects.

It's important to separate these two if for nothing else that Areas of Focus help you zero in on what you should do and Areas of Responsibility help you identify what is important (as it relates to Goals and Purpose).

Balance, in my opinion, can only be achieved once an individually has a clear view to the horizon. Up close, everyone feels too busy and cannot determine what steps to take to move forward. Zooming back, the Areas of Responsibility provide a clear markers and the tasks become the roads. The end result is a map that helps keep the individual on course and moving forward.

B106331265724a910e735e2ebf3895a3
Commented over 3 years ago Steve Parker

Really enjoy the articles. Thanks for the constant reflection they afford.

B106331265724a910e735e2ebf3895a3 Steve Parker

Really enjoy the articles. Thanks for the constant reflection they afford.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented over 3 years ago Francisco Sáez

Steve, thanks for the compliments. Glad you liked it!

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Steve, thanks for the compliments. Glad you liked it!

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented over 3 years ago Francisco Sáez

Hi Cyrus,

Although the meaning is responsibility and focus is obviously different, I don't find there's a real difference between the terms Areas of Responsibility and Areas of Focus (as it refers to GTD). Actually, David Allen uses both terms in his writings.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Hi Cyrus,

Although the meaning is responsibility and focus is obviously different, I don't find there's a real difference between the terms Areas of Responsibility and Areas of Focus (as it refers to GTD). Actually, David Allen uses both terms in his writings.

8bb2c9a97155fbcffcc91ca918d103c7
Commented over 3 years ago Cyrus

I am not surprised to hear you say so, Francisco. Mr. Allen did use the terms "responsibility" and "focus" interchangeably. My own personal preference is to label areas where I have committed myself to complete tasks (be they self-created or delegated) as "responsibilities" and the specific tasks and actions I am working on as areas of focus based on context per the responsibility "bucket" in which they are contained.

Once again we see that Mr. Allen's GTD system truly can be all things to all people. My interpretation does nothing to hinder yours when it comes to simply getting things done and keeping our lives stress-free.

Thank you for sharing your views on the subject, Francisco.

8bb2c9a97155fbcffcc91ca918d103c7 Cyrus

I am not surprised to hear you say so, Francisco. Mr. Allen did use the terms "responsibility" and "focus" interchangeably. My own personal preference is to label areas where I have committed myself to complete tasks (be they self-created or delegated) as "responsibilities" and the specific tasks and actions I am working on as areas of focus based on context per the responsibility "bucket" in which they are contained.

Once again we see that Mr. Allen's GTD system truly can be all things to all people. My interpretation does nothing to hinder yours when it comes to simply getting things done and keeping our lives stress-free.

Thank you for sharing your views on the subject, Francisco.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented over 3 years ago Francisco Sáez

Hi Cyrus,

Of course, your interpretation is perfectly valid.

Thanks for make us think deeper ;)

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Hi Cyrus,

Of course, your interpretation is perfectly valid.

Thanks for make us think deeper ;)

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