Productivity and GTD
Do You Need a Daily Action Plan?
“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” ~ Peter Drucker
The alarm sounds. A long day ahead to enjoy, but also many things to do. Do you feel relaxed or overwhelmed by everything you have to do? Do you have a plan for your day?
The truth is that there is a difference when you start your days knowing what you’re going to find. But beware! Preparing your day in advance doesn’t mean filling the calendar with good intentions, it means deciding what actions you’re going to pay attention to, and anticipating possible needs or obstacles in carrying them out. Planning doesn’t answer the question “When am I going to do this?” But questions like, “Will I have the time and resources to do this?” and “How am I going to do it?”
A daily action plan should be a guide destined to eliminate the stress of uncertainty and motivate you to carry out a series of actions that you have formulated as fully feasible. However, you don’t know for sure what will happen tomorrow, so you must be open to partially or even completely modifying your plan if the conditions you had imagined are not met (paraphrasing Eisenhower, “although planning is everything, plans worth nothing”.)
If you use GTD as your personal productivity system then you already have a structure of action lists that show you your action options when you need to see them. If you are also a good GTDer — you try to align your actions with your goals and areas of responsibility, and keep your system perfectly updated through the Weekly Review — then your daily action plan is reduced to knowing where to look at each moment:
- First, you must look at the events that you have committed in your Calendar. You will have to block the time necessary to carry them out.
- At times when you don’t have to do any Calendar activity, you must check your Next Actions list and decide which task is more interesting to get done at the time. Choose an action based on the context in which you are, the time you have available, and your energy at that time.
- If you use the Calendar correctly, that is, you only put there actions and events that must happen at a specific date or time, and your list of Next Actions is up-to-date, you may not need to look any further. As new items come into your life (emails, calls, ideas, unforeseen stuff, etc.) evaluate the need to spend a little time to clarify what each thing is and organize the new information. There will be days when you don’t need to do it, and others where you need to do it on a couple of occasions.