GTD 101: EngageAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"You can do anything but not everything" — David Allen
The last stage of the GTD workflow is probably the most misunderstood, perhaps because of its name. In the current version of the Getting Things Done book in English it is called “engage”, although at the beginning it was simply called “do”.
Regardless, this stage is neither about doing nor executing. It’s about “choosing”. Its usefulness lies in choosing what makes the most sense to do at any given moment.
All the previous stages (capture, clarify, organize and reflect) serve to shape your system so that at any given moment you can choose the best task to perform among all the possible options, so that you feel good about what you are doing at any given moment.
Whenever you have to choose what to do, you only need to look at two lists, the Calendar and your Next Actions, and in that order:
- Calendar: If you have things to do listed in your Calendar for today, then that’s what you should do. Of course, this only makes sense if your Calendar only contains actions that necessarily have to be done by a certain date or time.
- Next Actions: If there’s nothing to do on the Calendar, you’ll need to look at your Next Actions lists, where you will presumably have accumulated a good number of actions. Which one to choose? The decision is made by following these four criteria:
— The context in which you find yourself. Some actions can be done anywhere, but most require being in a specific place, having someone present or available, or having access to certain tools. What actions can you do within the context you are in now?
— Your available time. Activities close in time, e.g., a meeting in an hour, may limit your options. Look only at the actions you can complete in the time you have available right now.
— Your available energy. If you are tired or not feeling very well you should narrow your choices to those actions that do not demand a lot of mental or physical energy. Don’t embark on tasks that demand more than you can give at the moment.
— The relative priority of each action. Once you have narrowed down the list of actions based on the above criteria, of those that remain, which one makes the most sense to do right now?
If you follow these rules it’s because you’ve decided to dedicate yourself to doing predefined work, i.e., the things that are already defined in your action lists. Most of the time you will be doing this, but there’ll be times when you’ ll have to choose to determine your work, i.e. keep your organizational system up to date (clear your captures, do the weekly review, etc.), and there will be times, the fewer times, when you will simply have to do things that pop up unexpectedly or require your immediate attention.