February 18, 2012
You've got things to do. Your plate is full. No matter how quickly you eat, the wily waiter - life - adds more while you are not looking.
In the beginning of the century David Allen copyrighted the phrase Getting Things Done and created a wonderful methodology for coping with the things on your plate - GTD®. Over the years the methodology got widely popular and at the time of this writing enjoys the following of millions. Its runaway success is based on the straightforward and practical approach to dealing with "stuff" - big or small - that comes at you. In the fast modern society our to-do plates are so chronically full that we feel good every time we clean them up, however temporary the effect is. That's why GTD became a godsend for many.
We are so busy emptying our plates that oftentimes we don't pay much attention to what's in there that we've got to eat, figuratively speaking. Once we care to cast a closer look we might notice that our a la cart task meal has bits and pieces that do not taste good, are not fresh, and otherwise should not be eaten.
About a decade before Allen, in his fundamental works The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) and First Things First (1994) Stephen Covey highlighted the paramount role of importance. According to Covey and common sense importance is the main differentiator between things that should be done and the ones to be bypassed, omitted, and gotten rid of.
Covey's four quadrants should become your litmus test for whether a task is a worthy candidate for your to-do list or your trash can. Having imposed Covey's matrix onto your task universe you'll be surprised by the share of your day-to-day activities that fall into the infamous fourth quandant. These are the things you should stop doing and the tasks you should ban from your to-do lists.
Start right now. Go over your Someday/Maybe/Ideas lists and delete everything that's not related to one of your life goals. Inspect your email inbox and trash or file all non-actionable messages. Challenge your physical in-basket and get rid of anything that doesn't absolutely have to be kept. Be daring.
Now you are ready for the productive life. From this moment on be vigilant and check every single piece before it ends up on your to-do plate. If it's a task-burger of Covey's fourth quadrant, refuse it politely but firmly. Your healthier to-do diet will make you more productive, more confident, and more energetic person.