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Getting Things Done® with David Allen

Published by Summit Marketing Team on Mar 17, 2023 6:00:00 AM

The Modern CPA Success Show: Episode 85


Do you need to get things done? The Getting Things Done® methodology has been implemented worldwide by more than 2 million people! In this special episode, our host, Tom Wadelton, Virtual CFO at Summit, teams up with the host of Summit’s Virtual CPA Success Show and Director of Virtual CFO, Jamie Nau, to interview one of the best-selling authors and productivity coaches of our time and creator of GTD®, David Allen. If you need help getting 2023 off to a productive start, this podcast is for you!





[00:00:21] We are very excited to have David Allen as our guest. David is the author of three books, including GTD, the Art of Stress-Free Productivity. That was originally published in 2001 and then revised in 2015. He's also the founder of the David Allen Company, an executive coaching firm where they coach and teach getting things done, also known as GTD, including One Day Seminars.

[00:00:42] The book and his company have introduced GTD to over 2 million people. David claims to be a lazy person trying to be productive with the least amount of work possible. He currently lives in Amsterdam with his wife Catherine. So David, welcome to our show.

[00:00:55] David: Hey, thanks for the invitation. Yeah, glad  to be here.

[00:01:00] Tom: Yeah. Anything else you'd want to tell us about yourself and then for some people who maybe aren't familiar with GTD, maybe just a quick summary of what it is.

[00:01:07] David: Well, I've spent the last 40 years of my life trying to figure out how do you get stuff done with a little effort if possible.

[00:01:14] and get the right stuff done. I never had any traditional formal education in business psychology or time management. All this is street smart. You know, came out of my consulting practice with lots of small companies. I was a good number two guy for the number of companies. And I would just walk in and say, how much easier can we do this?

[00:01:33] I say, you know how much, because I'm the laziest guy you ever met. And so , as you mentioned you know, and I said, how's, can we just leave earlier today, you know, if we get this stuff done? So now they call that process improvement. You know, I just said, let's just fix this so we don't have to work as hard and get outta here and do some other fun stuff.

[00:01:52] Then I'd fix it and get bored. Go find another gig. Then I discovered they call those folks something and they pay them. Called consultant. Yeah. So . [00:02:00] Okay, now I are one and hung out my shingle, Allen Associates in 1982. Before you guys were probably born, I don't know. 

Tom: I was born.

[00:02:09] Jamie:  I was born as well, but that I was definitely young 

[00:02:12] David: Anyway, so and then I started to do, and I, I had a background in sort of clear space out of my spiritual meditative practices.

[00:02:19] Martial arts got a black belt in karate, and a lot of that teaches how do you clear your head so that you're most present, be able to then engage with four people who jump in a dark alley or cook spaghetti or whatever you wanna do. Being present now. You know, there's all the being present, you know, models out there these days, but I learned that 40 years ago.

[00:02:39] Sure. And so I, as my world got more complex and busy, I discovered, Hmm, that's kind of screwing up my clear space. How do I stay clear and focused on the right things? Not being distracted. And so I found these techniques one by one. I didn't wake up one morning with this whole methodology, you know, it was a long string of EPIs, as I say, you know, over a period of five or 10 years.

[00:03:00] And I began to Cobb Co 'em together. And what worked for me, I turned around and used with my clients. It worked for them too. You know, they implemented these simple, but you're not born doing 'em. But these simple techniques and more stability, more control, more focused, more ability to focus, more space to focus on the meaningful stuff.

[00:03:19] So that became a lot of the core of what my, I didn't call it coaching back then, was mostly consulting with mostly small businesses, and then some big head of HR in a big corporate world saw what I was doing and said, David, we need that result in our whole culture. Can you design a training program around all this?

[00:03:34] I said, well, I'll do my best. So designed a training, two day personal productivity training. We did a pilot program for a thousand executives and managers in Lockheed in 1983 and ‘84 in Burbank. And they hit the nerve. They said, this is the best training we've ever done, da, da, da, da. And suddenly I found myself thrusted into the corporate training world.

[00:03:53] You could have fooled me. I was an American intellectual history major in graduate school in Berkeley in 1968. If you told me I was gonna be [00:04:00] doing that, I'd say, come on, whatcha are you smoking? You kidding? You know, come. But it turned out that was the ripest audience for what I come up. And, you know, they were, the fast track professionals in that world were getting hit with tsunami of the emails and changing organizations and flattened organizations, and people needed to manage themselves a lot better than they were doing.

[00:04:22] And so my stuff just hit a nerve. So found myself thrust into that world. And then for the next 20, 25 years, I trained hundreds of thousands of people in the corporate world and, and spent literally thousands of hours one-on-one. A coaching desk side with mid to senior level of people in these companies, how to implement them, this for themselves personally.

[00:04:43] So that's where all this came from. At some point, I, it took me that long to figure out what I'd figured out. I thought I was the last guy in the world to figure all this stuff out. I'm coaching people, making more money than I ever see in my life. I figured they already figured this out. No, they hadn't.

[00:04:56] As a matter of fact, the more senior they got, the more responsible they got, the more outta control they. , you know, and it doesn't get easier as you graduate if you guys probably know that. Yeah. And so, you know, that was my Ripest study. Great. That I had, got some of the busiest and brightest people in my network, you know, that started to be champions of my work.

[00:05:18] And so, Hmm. So I got some good coaching. David, you ought to write the book. How do you write a book? I dunno. So that is where, I said, okay. But by that time, I knew it worked. I had this, I had brought it into some of the most challenging environments you could ever bring something like that into, and it went viral in those cultures.

[00:05:40] And I said, well, if it worked for them, like Goldman Sachs, people like Deutsche Bank, people like, you know, all kinds of places we we're dealing with truly best and brightest folks. And it hit a nerve in those cultures. And so I said, okay. If they can't punch a hole in it, I don't think anybody else can. So that gave me the confidence to go ahead and write the [00:06:00] book.

[00:06:00] At least the first edition would've been out in, as you mentioned, 2001. Yeah. And then I had no idea how popular it was gonna be. I just needed to get that on my head and capture kind of what I discovered in my 20 or 25 years of career and get it up in case I got run over by a bus. At least somebody to have a manual that they could pick it up and use it or learn it if they wanted to.

[00:06:22] and it turned out to be a bestseller. And then long story short, we're now in, you know, represented in 90 countries, 2 million copies, the books sold, you know, and this stuff is kinda spread around the world cause it hit a nerve globally, especially the tech rope. The tech people really got onto this pretty fast because it provided a very intact model that they couldn't punch.

[00:06:46] And it, because it's too agnostic or non-specific, people can use their own favorite gear to then implement these best practices. They're not hard to do, but you're not born doing 'em. You're not born knowing how to learn spaghetti or how to cook spaghetti or how to speak Italian, or how to raise kids.

[00:07:03] You gotta figure those things out like this. You have to figure out how to make sure that you work. Your workflow works, right? So, Again, long story short, that's what I've figured out and by the last 40 years, is how do you manage the flow of work as an art and craft in your life? That's what I did. 

[00:07:19] Tom: Yeah, in my story.

[00:07:21] So I'm one of the full-time virtual CFOs that we have. And so in my role I've got clients and I act as their CFOs. They're kind of mid-size companies, three to 5 million in revenue. I read the book around 2001. , you remember over spring break with my kids reading through and found it really interesting and then didn't come back to it till years later.

[00:07:41] Back in oh one, I was sort of in this mode that when I found something new, I was like, this is perfect. My life will never have stressed it if I just do this. And then of course, that's never true. You still have challenges. And when I came to this job four or five years ago, someone asked to give me a talk and they called it getting things done.

[00:07:55] And so I picked back up the book and read through it. And started a group and the company [00:08:00] and Jamie ran another one that we led people through and kind of went through and said, Hey, how do we apply this methodology? And it's been really good. And then as I mentioned to Jamie preparing for this interview, it turns out both of us kind of went back through the book again and said, okay, are there certain things that we could be doing better?

[00:08:16] Than what we are currently. Jamie, I'd be curious your story and kind how,

[00:08:20] David:  By the way, Tom, I, yes. I've had somebody read the book 20 times. I said it's a totally different book every time you read it. 

[00:08:26] Tom: I'm not surprised. Yes, I've read this time.

[00:08:28] David: Yes. I, you know, I coached the head of the World Bank, you know, a few years ago, and he said, , he'd been the head of Dartmouth College and he'd been the head of the World Health Organization and he said every time he changed careers, he had to go reread the book.

[00:08:39] Cause he had to recalibrate and re gear to whatever the next set of challenges and opportunities and that he was having to deal with. Yeah. 

[00:08:48] Jamie: And that's exactly, so that's, that's exactly my story. So I read GTD the first time when I was working for one organization, so I was working for.

[00:08:55] Organization as a, I'm director of accounting and kind of oversaw the whole accounting department. But again, it was a different type of organization because it was one company with one set of needs and, and everything like that. And so I read it at that time and really fell in love with it and became, became part of the cult, as you know and our listeners hopefully know is that, you know, if you search G T D, you can find it anywhere.

[00:09:14] You can find it in Reddit, you can find it on YouTube. Any tool out there that is used for organization has a writeup on how to use their. For GTD. So OneNote, Trello, any, any tool out there has like a, using Trello with GTD. And so I am part of that cult and part of the, the Reddits and all that group and have always been a big fan of GTD.

[00:09:33] And,then again, when I moved to Summit, I originally was a CFO, like Tom. And so I'm like, okay, now I have. 12 different clients and my work environment has completely changed. So I better read the book again. And then moved into a director role, which I am now the director of accounting, so I kind of oversee the department and want my CFOs and my accountants to have a similar methodology that they use.

[00:09:54] And so read it again. And so you know, my daughter has the Harry Potter book, and you look at and you're like, I don't even wanna [00:10:00] touch that thing. It's, it's so gross. It has like food all over it. It's like she's read it a thousand times. And then the only book I have that's even close to that is my GTD book.

[00:10:07] Cause I've read it so many times and it has writing in it and all that. And so I'm definitely a huge fan of my story with GTD has been a long one, but for this podcast, I would love to you know, I don't wanna talk about the basics and I know there's a lot out there about the basics of GTD and hopefully someone listening to this podcast has either read the book or watched a video to kinda get the basics.

[00:10:27] I want to kind of really gear it towards our listeners, which are client facing organizations. So really the challenge with client facing organizations similar to us is: A. a lot of meetings. You know, our team is in meetings from 8:00 AM till 5:00 PM and so a lot of times they're back to back to back and there's very little time to do anything other than those meetings.

[00:10:47] And so their day is, is pretty cramped. And I think that is both true for CPA firms as well as small businesses, especially service-based businesses. And then I think the other two factors that really pull in is they're pulling a lot of directions. Like I mentioned, our CFOs might have 15 clients.

[00:11:01] So there's a lot of different people reaching out to them and really needing their time and needing what they do. And then I think the last part that makes it a little bit challenging is if you have 15 clients, every client has a different tool they want to use. You know, one client wants to use Asana.

[00:11:17] One wants to use teams, one wants to use Slack. And so there's really a ton of inboxes when you're a service-based organization, is what I found. So I'd love kind of to hear your thoughts on how a service-based organization or someone working in a service-based organization would go about implementing G T D and what specific things they need to think about that might be a little bit different than the basis model.

[00:11:39] David: [00:11:43] Well, nothing you mentioned is exactly unique to the service industry, you know, come on, wall to wall meetings. Who's setting those meetings, by the way, and who's agreeing to 'em? 

[00:11:52] Jamie: Yeah, so a lot of times it's the recurring meetings that we have with our clients or our customer, or that our clients have with their customers [00:12:00] where, you know, it's set by us.

[00:12:03] And so it's set by the employees, the people that are serving the clients. 

[00:12:06] David: If you don't give yourself time after your meetings to process, what happened to that? You're gonna eat it on the weekend. Yep. If you, if you eat it at all. If not, you're gonna regurgitate at the end of the week, you know?

[00:12:18] Sure. So that's a good point. You know, so, come on. Who's managing your schedule? Say, we know that it take at leap an hour a day to process what happens that day. Just to clarify it and organize it appropriately so it's not backed up on you, you know, like bad. and sometimes it just backs up. But that's where the weekly review comes in.

[00:12:37] You better be spending at least two hours at the end of your week to bring up the rear guard and catch up with all that stuff so you know, deep, you know, heavy client-based, you know, work that you do. You've gotta process those meetings sooner than later. You go longer than seven days. That's like trying to find a needle in a haystack to go back and recreate what happened in that meeting 10 days ago.

[00:13:00] You can do it within seven days. That's why the weekly review actually has a neurological base to it. Anything that happened within the last seven days, it's a lot easier for you recreating your head. Oh, that reminds me. Oh, that's right. I told them, oh, that's right. Now it's nice. If you can do that daily so that you don't have that stuff back up sometimes that, you know, you can't help that you do wall to walls, but stop doing wall to wall.

[00:13:23] Give yourself at least 10 minutes. You know one of my partners in London, they don't schedule meetings any more than 50 minutes or 20 minutes. or 80 minutes depends on whether it's an hour meeting or a half hour meeting or whatever. It's so that people have time to get to the next meeting,

[00:13:41] Yeah. Not only exactly, not, not just process the stuff, but just to get onto the next meeting, you know, that is a very good practice. Supposed to show up late. What happens when people show up late? How much money did money did that client lose baked upon the the loaded payroll cost of people sitting there waiting for a decent meeting to [00:14:00] start?

[00:14:00] At the scene, it's just obscene. Sorry, I'm 77. I'm a little cranky now, guys. I don't see a lot of exceptions to that. There are some, there are outliers out there that sort of caught my stuff, caught What this is about that make sure meetings start on time. They make sure that there's a purpose for the meeting.

[00:14:18] They make sure that they don't end discussions without gonna, what's the next step? What we just decide who's doing it. They don't invite people unless they need to be in that meeting based upon the role that they have. People not agreeing to go to a meeting unless they agree there's a reason for them to be there given their purpose.

[00:14:35] I mean, this is just conscious stuff. but that's, and yes, that is GTD, but GTD is a good business. Yeah. You know, it's, I know you said cult, but it's not a cult. Like why would you start a meeting without going, what do we, what do we, yeah. Why would you end the discussion with a guy and said, when you decide what's the next step, yours or mine?

[00:14:56] You know, we've seen whole cultures just change by building that vocabulary into their thought process. Cuz GTD is really more about a thought process than it is a systematic way to think about your stuff. And you can use any system, but once you understand the system, you have total freedom to how you actually implement it.

[00:15:19] You know, again, the first critical theft in GTD is to capture stuff that has your attention. Get it outta your head. What has your attention about that client, meaning, you know, what's not on cruise control, based upon the conversation you just had with that client, what still needs something decided or done about it?

[00:15:37] By whom? When are you gonna do that? When are you gonna do that? Kind of, because that kind of thinking usually won't happen in the meeting. You know? You need to sit down and sort of recalibrate and regroup and step back and lift up a little bit in space and time and take a look at what happened. Say, oh, okay.

[00:15:54] Even if you're taking note, you know, God bless you. If you are at least that. Then you can look at your notes [00:16:00] and go, which one of these notes is critical? Which ones need to go into a CRM? Which one? Which one are just. Which ones do I just need to keep for myself for the next time I talk to my client. I know you know what their child's name is and what they, whether they'd like to play tennis or ski, you know, whatever, and all that.

[00:16:15] Just client support material. You just need to make sure you curate that, put it where it needs to go so you have access to it. You show up elegant. 

[00:16:26] Tom: Yeah. You know, we participate with lots of clients in their meetings and some follow this approach called EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System that came out of the book Traction.

[00:16:36] So it's a way of doing things, but it's got a methodology for following meetings. And I've got one client that is led by an ex-military person, another one that's sort of the opposite. If you think of that spectrum, what a dramatic difference. But one of the things as they capture to-dos and what the date is and the beginning of the next meeting is just done or not done.

[00:16:53] Did you get done what you were gonna say? What you said you would? and the one led by the ex-military is very efficient that people do those things and the otherwise laughing. This week they've had something that was supposed to be done the next week and they mark how many weeks? It's late. It's 59 weeks late, so they've gone more than a year.

[00:17:07] not, it's called get pictures of our drivers put on the website. And it's just interesting to watch this, that they'll say they'll do something and from the leader on down they, they're not willing to actually commit and be clear and get those things done. Since it,

[00:17:18] David: well, it's not clear is who has the role to do.

[00:17:22] Tom: That's true. Yeah. And you can see a difference with a very clear, if you don't have role,

[00:17:24] David: see, the military has very clear role relatively speaking. You know, but what's the role of the CFO? you're gonna be held accountable to have done what? By when? By whom? Are you clear about that? And role clarity is, and by the way, we're, I'm in the midst right now as we speak of finalizing our draft on the next book of getting themes done.

[00:17:50] Oh, basically, you know, how do you work effectively with other people? Because that's been the big complaint that most people once over the 40 years, people get this stuff, they go, God, how do I get everybody around me to do [00:18:00] this? my kids, my family, my boss, my team life would be too much easier if we all got this.

[00:18:05] And I never really had a good model or opportunity to, sort of create the manual about that. But I've got a great co-author who's been doing that with me, doing heavy lifting for the writing. It's gonna, we got a whole lot about exactly this topic. Lack of role clarity, lack of standards in terms of how you manage meetings, how you manage email.

[00:18:26] You know, those things. Those things. You can have the brightest people in the world, but the structure, the lack of a structure for the team is just gonna suck energy out of everybody's sales. You know, 

[00:18:38] Tom: That was actuallyone of the topics I was interesting asking you about around organizational [00:18:42] implementation Cuz I would guess, and maybe this was the approach when you first started with Lockheed or others of, if we just, I would assume some people, if we can just teach everyone GTD, then the team will work more effectively. And I'm curious your thoughts on that, cuz you're writing a book that I assume is not just everyone through, is that right?

[00:18:58] David: That's true course. No, we see it all, you know, we've got great case studies. The whole team got it. Some of 'em bitched and moan and you know, whatever. But they were, they were starting to be held standard to those standard. Keeping agreement, keeping track of your agreement, keeping track of other people agreements that they make with you that you care about.

[00:19:17] You know, I, two of them . Two of the biggest things when I've coached executives over the years that they, this was just worth the price of admission. Two lists, waiting for an agendas. Yep. What did you give to somebody? What are you waiting on to come back from some other source or some other person, and what do you need to talk to this person or them about the next time you engage with them?

[00:19:40] An agenda list. Those two things. Most executive except don't have that. Right. Surprisingly enough. Your military man might, I don't know, but you know, or he is or he is tasked somebody on his path to track all that. Either one. But you know those, and again, it's not rocket science unless you're building rocket. [00:20:00]

[00:20:00] It's funny, I was doing a program for JPL, you know, in Pasadena many years ago, and I said, you know, just off the hand, this ain't rocket science. They go, yes it is.

[00:20:11] Tom: Well, and I will say when I looked at the gaps in my own implementation, it was the waiting for list was by far the biggest one. And it was usually, as you can imagine, the next week when I'm about to meet with the client, I glanced through what we talked about last time and said, oh, yes, I did ask the banker a question.

[00:20:27] They never got back to me. And so now what I'm telling the client is I followed up, but it was. Two minutes before this meeting. 

[00:20:32] David: Yeah. You're waiting until it blows up. Instead of when it ought to be navigated in a proactive way that hasn't, doesn't have that stress and pressure on, yes. Hey, by the way, how are we doing about these things?

[00:20:43] You said you were gonna need any help on that. Do we need to renegotiate that agreement? How are we doing? 

[00:20:48] Tom: Yeah, and you gave a tip in the book around emails that I'm now using, which is when I send an email, I can put it also in a cop in a folder called Waiting for, and so the email just goes in there and then you glance at that folder and you can quickly look through and say, okay, here are these six things that I sent out, and that reminds me to do things.

[00:21:03] Yeah. But one that I just hadn't quite figured out, a simple way to try.

[00:21:06] David: I still do it. I just BCC myself by automatic on any email I see. Okay. Then when it flip flips back in, then I can move it to a waiting port folder or reference the client or whatever.

[00:21:19] Tom: I will say in your books, it seems like you favor paper more than technology, and I know the book was written in 2001, then we released, are you still kind of feeling the same about 

David: Just for capture. 

Tom: Okay. Can you say a little bit more about that? So for capture, you prefer paper over using technology. Okay.

[00:21:36] David: No wifi, no batteries, . Right. I made one note right here about Lis. They haven't got my hotel yet. I right before I got on with you guys, okay. Right. It's right here, right? And there's nothing I, that's not my organization tool. That's my chapter tool of things that might need to be thought about or organized.

[00:21:59] And I live [00:22:00] with this for 40 years, right? So it goes wherever I go to all my plastic and it's got a great notepad. It's got a great pen. because your best ideas are not gonna happen. The more, especially the more material you get, it's not st. It is sophistication. The more material you get, the more your good ideas are not gonna happen where that idea's gonna be implemented.

[00:22:20] You'll be, you'll be Bri buying bread at the store thinking it's something to bring up with that next client. You'll be with that next client. Remembering you need bread, right? So, one of the most inefficient people, things people can do is try to keep stuff in their head. Your head is such a crappy, It did not evolve to remember, remind, prioritize, and manage relationships between more than four things.

[00:22:43] That's cognitive science proven now you're trying to keep more than four things in your head, subliminally or otherwise. You can only have one at a time consciously, but a whole lot of spinning in there. Those hamsters, spinning on those wheels in there. Oh, I need cat food. I need to talk to their client.

[00:22:58] Oh yeah. Did we have that? Did they get the hotel frame? Yeah. As soon as you have more than four of those things that are still in your head, you're not gonna take a test as well. You're not gonna be as present with your, your client that you want to just be there for with them, as opposed to having your mind go 43 other places while you're trying to talk to the client.

[00:23:17] That's one of the worst things a salesperson could do is not be present when they face to face with the client. 

[00:23:24] Tom: Sure. Yeah ,definitely. And then I like that. And then obviously the reason it works for you is because you trust that you will get back to that piece of paper and figure out what you really have, right?

[00:23:32] David: [00:23:33] Absolutely. important. That's not, that's not gonna stay there very long. You know, this is going to be as, I will do it right now, this is going to be, cause I got to the bottom of that page and thrown into my physical entry, physical, I got a bunch of mail I had this afternoon that I'll go, probably gonna be empty tonight or at least by tomorrow morning.

[00:23:52] You know, getting my capture placed. So capture, for the most part, for me anyway, it's paper based. Cause it's just easier, ubiquitous, it's [00:24:00] always available to you. It's easier to do. You don't have to click anything. More clicks you have to do to try to capture something, you won't do it. But if you're an ADHD person, okay, you won't, you don't have, you won't have the patient do it.

[00:24:12] Now digital capture is okay as long as you don't, it's not, as long as it's not a black hole where that stuff is going in there and you never doing anything with it. , right? So that's the problem is it's not in your face. See, my physical stuff is in my face, so that's why I like paper for that, and I use the paper-based planner.

[00:24:29] Probably no better tool to see the totality and gestalt of your life than a paper-based planner where you could pull all of my appropriate lists, as well as prob project support material as well, client support data. You know, you could put all that in one physical thing in your face that you could have it easy to access into and easy to access outta.

[00:24:47] As you need it, as opposed to click, click, where is that? Oh my God. I don't care how many screens you got on your desk, you can't, you know, even if you have three, you know, high tech screens on your desk with your computer, you're not gonna be able to see anything. As well as I could see a, my paper based planner.

[00:25:04] Now there's good and bad news to both of those. So I've moved to digital in terms of most of my organization and reminders simply cause of the, the value of clicking, connecting. , you know, and all that good stuff you can do in your digital world with tracking that stuff. But there's better or worse, I've, I know a bunch of tech people that have gone back to paper simply because of that reason.

[00:25:24] It's more ubiquitous, it's more available, it's more in their face. Easier for them to actually manage their thinking about that and capture their thinking about that and access it when they need it. 

[00:25:36] Jamie: I definitely go back and forth all the time. I think I've used paper, I've used one note for the capture and have had success with boast for long periods of time and then switch back.

[00:25:45] So I'm definitely always thinking through that. I'd like to kinda jump back to the organization implementation because it sounds like, you know, I'm, I can't wait for that book to come out cause that's something that I've tried at almost every organization I've been at. But I'm curious how you deal with the detractors, the [00:26:00] people that come into the meetings and they're like, I'm the most organized person in the world, Jamie.

[00:26:04] I don't need any new system. So how do you deal with those people that feel like they already have it figured out, but then, you know, 

[00:26:12] David: when you find out that they don't fire them or say, gee, how can I help you not have that thing show up as a glitch in your system.

[00:26:22] I'll show you how I do mine. Cause modeling is the best way you can train anybody. Let me tell you why I'm leaving at five instead of eight. Yeah. You curious If you're not, fine. See, GTD doesn't deliver, doesn't deliver a solution, it delivers hope. How much people want to take advantage of that up to them.

[00:26:45] See what GTD and implementing these, the capture, clarify, organized, reflect and engage. Those best practices of how you get stuff under control, you know, in your life and work. Those things give you, they don't give you more time. They give you more room. Mm-hmm. . So I guarantee you, any of you guys, whenever you implemented any part of GTD, what gave you was more room, not more time.

[00:27:08] Gave you more room. What you did with that room was unique to you. Some people use it to be more creative. Some people use it to be more strategic. Some people use it to be more present. Some people use it to be worth service. That's up to you. So we don't tell people, and this methodology doesn't tell you what you should fill your space with.

[00:27:26] Well, it reminds you that you probably ought to look at your different horizons of commitments to what you're doing in your life and what to you, you know, that may mean you want to use your face to learn to paint like Howard Stern did. You know Howard's a huge, big, huge champion of my. He implemented GTD, gave him room to learn to paint, which he'd always wanted to do, still keep serious and keep his other entertainment businesses.

[00:27:47] I can talk about Howard cuz he did for six months on the radio . Yeah. About GTD. So, you know, so it creates room. So if you don't, those people don't need anymore room. They're not in enough pain, [00:28:00] by the way, if they're, if they're in their twenties, forget it. Only when they have kids.

[00:28:08] Only when they're promoted to a next level where they, instead of doing the work, they have to manage 10 people doing the work. Right. So wait till they have the need for it, but they don't, they're doing fine. They're doing fine according to their own standards.

[00:28:27] What, you know, the job, my job has always been to say, Hey folks, da da da, da, da. What if. You had nothing on your mind except whatever you want on your mind. What if all that stuff that's distracting you right now was off your mind, but getting done appropriately and automatically, naturally? Would that be cool?

[00:28:46] So, You know, I spent 40 years trying to figure out how to sell this guys, and I'm still not that good at it. 

[00:28:52] Jamie: Sure. Well, I think the interesting thing is, what we do at Summit is part of our onboarding is Tom and I created, I don't know, probably an hour, an hour and 15 minute training where we walk through how both of us use GTD.

[00:29:05] And so that's part of every, when someone starts at Summit, that's one of the first videos they watch is us walking through how we use it. And I think what we find is exactly what you said, a lot of people, so that's a really cool idea. Don't implement it. And then nine months in, they're so busy, they're like, oh yeah, there's that one video I can go back and re-watch again.

[00:29:20] Or maybe I should read that book. And, and really try to implement that because they realize that you know, working at Summit, you're gonna, if you don't have some kind of organization system that gets stuff outta your head, you're gonna constantly be distracted. So I think that's a really good point is to let them come to it as opposed to forcing anonymous.

[00:29:36] I think it's a, a really negative idea. 

[00:29:37] David: Well, that's why the pandemic sort of put, you know, put it on steroids. The necessity for people to manage themselves. And I mean, come on, consultants and salespeople and we're always in a living in a hybrid world. This, there's no not new normal for them.

[00:29:51] This is just normal. Matter of fact, they're suspect if they're in the office cause they're not working with a client or doing sales, right? , so [00:30:00] consultants and salespeople that this, the pandemic created no different. Yeah. They work wherever they could do work. What's different is 80% or 90% of the workforce now goes, oh my God, I can't instruct, I can't trust walking into an office with a structure that I can trust to keep me focused.

[00:30:17] Now I have to focus myself. 

[00:30:20] Tom: Interesting. Yes. Our whole company,

[00:30:22] David: That's, that's where a lot, a lot of the stress came from. How do I keep my cat from showing up behind me in my Zoom video or my kids? Stealing my bandwidth. Cause they're, they're stealing cars on a virtual game, you know, in the next room,

[00:30:38] Yeah. So, yeah, so, you know, it's, it's just kind of a simple idea, but it's true. It's that the world, the way it's changed, you just sped up what was going on. Anyway. I read some statistic a while ago and I forget where it was, but that some great percentage, 80, 85% of the American workforce is gonna be subcontractors by 2030 or somewhere.

[00:30:58] You know, you're not gonna work for a company. You're gonna work with a company to do a project or to be involved in an initiative, and when that's done, you move on. So I don't know where, how much you guys have seen that in your world. I mean, the CPAs may be a little more of a stable world than that, but you know, come on, working for yourself is then gonna be the new name of the game.

[00:31:24] If it's not already. 

[00:31:26] Tom: With many of our clients using sort of short term contractors is going up a lot and companies like Upwork where you can say it's just, here's this sort of task and people, the gig economy has people grab those kind of things quickly. So yes, I think that need to balance all those things versus a company saying, I'll spoon feed you what needs to be done.

[00:31:45] It’s changing 

[00:31:46] Jamie: Exactly. Our business model too. 

[00:31:47] David: Can't look to see if they were at their desk. . Right. And so bosses are in as much stress as anybody else cause oh my God, how can I make sure my people are doing well? How about you clarify what outcome you're [00:32:00] hired of the, and do you have some sort of measureing and metrics or some sort of a regular review in status reporting so you can see where they are?

[00:32:08] Tom: I agree completely. I was at a conference recently with the AICPA, so the American Institute of CPAs, and they talked about a study, and I'll get this number, approximately right. About 80% of bosses said they don't feel comfortable, that they know that their employees are being productive. and the panel answer around that was, we need to get people back in the office.

[00:32:28] And I'm sitting there thinking, the problem is you don't trust that your employees are getting done. And to your point, David, you haven't been clear on what, you know what you need. You haven't been measuring it. That's the problem And what not.

[00:32:36] David: What is done mean? You know, there's another GTD thing that's like, in a way it's kind of a duh thing, but another way.

[00:32:45] One of the most sophisticated things that you can come up with. Have you guys ever had to hire anybody. When was that? When was that done? When they, when you found the right person check off? When they signed the deal check off or when they'd been in the organization long enough to know if the immune system was gonna spit them out.

[00:33:12] The question is hiring done. Yeah. And I don't have the answer to that. But it's, if you don't have the answer to that, you're gonna have those little middly things on the back of it called where they find on. But I'm not sure that they're doing exactly the way they need to be doing it, and maybe they don't have a training or whatever.

[00:33:29] And you've got this open loop, you've got a project you haven't finished. 

[00:33:34] Jamie: All right, so that's something I need to add to my My inbox right there to capture is defining what done looks like in hiring, cuz you, what you described is exactly what we go through all the time. Like it is, there's multiple stages in it and we have a a 90 day probationary period where we figure people out and figure if they're the right thing.

[00:33:49] Is that the right time or is it, like you said, is there a certain number of clients they have where they're. Fully integrated as part of the system. So that, that's something that I definitely need to, 

[00:33:58] David: and you may, you may not need to do all of that, [00:34:00] but you need to keep track of all that. I need to find it somebody else who's doing it.

[00:34:03] that's right. You need to keep looking at how we doing on that. Who still needs to do something about this to get to that end game. So you can check that one off. A great, great example. Then Jamie. That's a great point.

[00:34:16] Tom: David, I wonder if you can help me reframe my thinking about one of the parts in the book that I'm struggling with a little bit.

[00:34:22] So in the book, you give some really good examples of where you can use a next action list. Like you're sitting in a meeting that hasn't started, so what things can you be doing or you're waiting for a child, an appointment, things like that. And you talk about making room for space. The place where I have a challenge is I think we're building a culture where you fill every single gap with activity.

[00:34:41] And that's part of the, there's a feeling of when I got the next action list I can always be doing, how do I make sure I set time aside to sit and think and have long-term things versus I can make six different 10 minute phone calls in different times. Somehow, I don't know that I'm thinking about it correctly, and I wonder if, 

[00:34:59] David: No, you're thinking about absolutely correctly, you just need to go.

[00:35:02] How important it is, is it for you to get the revolt of stepping back and thinking, 

[00:35:10] Tom: mm. Okay. Okay. And so then you would set aside the time if it's important enough, and say, okay, 

[00:35:14] David:  so well there where the horizons, there's where the horizons come in of GTD. What's your purpose in life? What's your vision of wild success?

[00:35:22] Of that purpose being fulfilled? What are the goals you need to complete over the next year or two? What are the things you need to manage and maintain so you get to your goal? What are the, all the projects you need to finish? What are all the action steps you need to take to move all the moving parts of what you're doing?

[00:35:37] If you had that inventory totally current and totally clear, you wouldn't have asked that question. 

[00:35:45] Tom: Okay. I could see that. That does make sense. You're right. And so as I think of the implementation, I'm, I guess I'm thinking much more in the short term. What do I have to get done now? And you're saying there's a lot, 

[00:35:54] David: there's nothing wrong with that.

[00:35:55] Sometimes doing that stuff triggers, you know, bigger things to think about. [00:36:00] So you're always doing, by the way, you can't stop. You're talking to me right now. Sure. If you decide to do nothing, you're doing that. You can't tell You're teleological, you're always about something. You are always about something.

[00:36:15] Okay. It's just, are you about the right thing? Maybe the, what you need to be about is stop thinking about anything right now and just let whatever pops into your head, pop into your head and then just deal with it if it's some cool shows up. late night thinking is where I often do that. Get a glass of wine, whatever.

[00:36:31] Everybody's in the bed. The dogs have been peed and pooped, and I'm sitting there by myself, kind of turn the lights down low and do nothing but out my little notepad, , okay. For whatever might, whatever might show up. Sometimes nothing. Sometimes some, some of the coolest stuff. 

[00:36:46] Tom: Okay. That's really helpful. I appreciate that.

[00:36:47] David: [00:36:48] I don't do that every night. It's just whenever I need the ability to be able to do that and the knowledge to do that when I feel like it. 

[00:36:57] Jamie: Well, I think that's a great concept of you're always doing, like, I think that's a, a really good thing that I think we need to add into our trainings, Tom, is to let people know, like you, you are always doing, whether you're doing, 

[00:37:07] David:  you're always visioning.

[00:37:08] Yeah. By the way, you're always visioning. you guys are visioning talking to me. You're visioning what you gonna do with this once you stop talking to me. Yep. You, you have a vision of getting out of the room. You have a vision of being dressed. You have a vision of having dinner. We're, we can't stop being about things.

[00:37:25] So we're, so when people say, I don't wanna set a vision, oh, come on, you , that is your vision. . 

[00:37:32] Tom: Yeah, . Yeah. That,yeah. I, I like both of those points. And you're right, it's what you're choosing to do at the time, cuz you're going to be doing Sure. Thanks.

[00:37:39] David: So, one thing that, you know, we're writing a whole chapter about the elegance and saying,  

[00:37:48] And you know, that's one of the biggest challenges most teams have individuals had to begin with. But if you get GTD, it's a lot easier to say no, cuz you know what your project list is and you know what your bandwidth is. And once you have enough maturity for [00:38:00] this, it's easier for you to go, nah, you know, that's just someday maybe for me, or I got some other things I need to do.

[00:38:05] Can you take, can I renegotiate? Or can you have somebody else do that? It's a lot easier to individually have those conversations about what not to take on, but teams have another challenge. , when does the team need to know what it can't do? Because the team is already overwhelmed. See, every time an organization changes anything or anything in its external world changes, it creates new projects.

[00:38:27] Very few teams curate the old projects and say, which one should we get rid of now? Sure. So what they, what they're doing is piling info on injury and teams are burning up. For that reason. So being able to say no, being able to know what to say no to, and right now you, how many things are you guys not doing talking to me right now?

[00:38:52] Oh, how many things am I not doing talking to you right now? We've said no, we've already said no to ion things. Everybody's saying no all the time based upon whatever they choose to do. They're saying no to everything else, right? They just hope that's a good choice.

[00:39:05] Tom: But if you're a team, it'll be on your list and maybe not resourced and not prioritize.

[00:39:12] It just creates stress.

[00:39:13] David: Exactly, exactly. I think of whoever, production, whoevers, whoever owns, whoever owns the team, whoever owns the purpose of the team. So you only have a team if there's a purpose. where are we? Why are we a team? What are we trying to accomplish as a team? And somebody needs to own that and be able to own the review of that.

[00:39:31] On some consistent basis, and given the purpose of the team is this new project, we've either been handed or somebody said, let's take on, is that purposeful? Is that on purpose? Or maybe we need to skinny it down to the three things we need to do and let's put five on a Sunday. Maybe list that When we get these other things done, we can pull those up and activate them.

[00:39:54] Jamie: And then to me that was one of the really things that set home for me on GTD is it's not just a working to-do [00:40:00] list, right? Like this isn't, just, doesn't relate to Summit CPA and like you said, like I'm part of many teams, right? I'm part of my family, I'm part of Summit, I'm part of a basketball team.

[00:40:09] I coach, like, I'm part of several teams and like I don't just limit. GTD to my work life. It, it also has to do with my personal life and with all those teams I'm part of. And so again, that's, that's where it gets complicated is, is there's just so many different teams that you're interacting with and how they, how they work together and how to make sure that all of them and you prioritize 'em correctly.

[00:40:27] And I think that's what I love about GTD is it's not just, this is only for your work life. It's for your life, you know? And it makes your whole life a lot more clear. Yeah. 

[00:40:35] David: Well, Jamie, it might find it interesting. You know, I implemented Holocracy, the sort of self-organizing organizational model 10 years ago.

[00:40:42] and one of the basic protocols in Holocracy is you do not make a commitment with anybody about any time commitment until you go back and look at your whole weekly review and your whole thing, because you're making a commitment not knowing all the other stuff you've got on your plate. So you better know what all the stuff is on your plate.

[00:41:01] And so we don't make commitments about time. We might say, Hmm, let me get back to you about that. Here's when you'd like that. But I'll get back to you as to whether I can do it then or the way we need to re renegotiate a time frame. So that's a pretty mature professional discussion. But also your basketball team, they've ask you to do what?

[00:41:18] And you go, Hmm, let me, I dunno. Let me see. Yes. If you haven't done a good weekly review in the last week, you know, if at least done a monthly, weekly review, you know, you'd be in a, he'll be in a better state to make a judgment call about what you can and can't commit to. But very few teams do that. 

[00:41:39] Jamie: No, yeah, that's great cuz I think that, And it's come out from a couple of different things you said is like when you are choosing to do stuff, you're prioritizing different commitments.

[00:41:49] And so if you just say, oh yeah, I'll do that today. What are you putting to the back when you're, when you're deciding to do something today? Just because you, you're in a call. Yeah. And you want to be, you want to be attentive and you wanna be that [00:42:00] best client service person, say, I'll get that done today, but what are you, what are you putting to the back that's gonna upset someone else?

[00:42:06] Or put someone else outta the priorities. Mm-hmm. . So sure. There's, there's all those competing priorities that when you commit to something that you're throwing, throwing to the side. So I think that makes a lot of sense. 

[00:42:14] David: And you also have, come on, you guys are probably better at this than me. And just in terms of sales management, I mean, your 80 20 rule.

[00:42:20] Who's, who's working with the easy client as opposed to the one that's really gonna give 'em the payoff. And what can, how can they put the easy client a little bit more on the back burner? Cuz they're easy to negotiate and deal with and spend some really, you know, rigorous time strategizing about how they're gonna go for the low-hanging fruit and the, and the big client.

[00:42:40] So that's, you know, that's again, more content. In terms of how they're thinking about this stuff. But again, if they don't have all of that stuff externalized in terms of what are all of my opportunities and clients, and a lot of salespeople, you know, should and probably appropriately consider big clients a project.

[00:42:58] My project is to optimize my relationship with this client. or either get to a go or no go decision by the client, you know? And those become projects, again, part of the subtlety of defining what a project is, what is done, done with this client. Don has done maybe when I've just got a great relationship with them, they said no this year, but let's check on when I budget next year.

[00:43:19] We might be able to do something fabulous. And then you put that on your calendar and you get a, you tickle it. So you know, y doing what you do to manage that relationship, to get that relationship on cruise control. Those are projects for field people. How do I get this relationship owned, cruise controlled?

[00:43:35] So I, so I don't have any attention on this at three o'clock in the morning. 

[00:43:41] Tom: That's an interesting idea. , David. And the other thing I think of, and I don't think of my clients as projects, I have projects within clients, but the way you're framing it also I think is a much more proactive way. Because if you don't do that, then it's much more what has a client asked me to do.

[00:43:56] I'll get all those things done. And that gets you a certain level of service. 

[00:43:59] David: Well, [00:44:00] you could, you could also reframe it in the areas of Focus Horizon two, which is areas of focus on accountability and responsibility. And you could put those clients on that called client management could be part of that.

[00:44:10] And then you could just review that regularly to then see what projects you might need to have about any one of those so that that works. That works fine too. 

[00:44:22] Tom: Okay. Great. One of the things that strikes me and, and I'm, I'm curious if you agree that with this, you give lots of individual tips and I've heard you say like in one of the, I think the two day, maybe the one day conference, Hey, if this is many people say just the two minute rule, if you can just do that, you get a great benefit.

[00:44:38] And so you talk a lot about individual things that you could do that could help, and I don't hear you say you have to implement the entire GTD system to get benefit from it and I really appreciate that. Cause I think some people can say, okay, it feels overwhelming maybe, or maybe I'll do these one or two tips, which likely has 'em say, that's so good, I should be exploring and seeing if there are other things.

[00:44:58] David: Yeah. That's the best, that's the best approach. Absolutely. 

[00:45:04] Tom: I agree. Okay. I'm curious, what do you think is the best way for people to stick with G T D for long term? If someone says, I follow it, are there one or two things you're like, are you doing. This to tell you, okay, you actually are or you're not? Or is that not really how you think about it?

[00:45:16] David: [00:45:16] Stick around, stick around people doing it. Other people talk. Doing it. you'll only go running on a regular basis unless you're really, really disciplined. If you've got a bunch of mates that you go running with. Right. So interesting. Yeah. Good to get around people doing this and then have this standard, you know, in terms of doing it.

[00:45:36] Otherwise, you know, the biggest barrier to people implementing that's fully is their addiction to stress. Addiction to life's much Stress. Stress, yeah. 

[00:45:47] Tom: Oh, interesting. Okay. 

[00:45:49] David: They're willing to tolerate this ambient anxiety that hangs out because they don't do this. Okay. See, once you get used to no ambient , [00:46:00] then it was like, oh, I, now I'm feeling a little ambient anxiety.

[00:46:04] I gotta fix it. You know, there comes a point in the maturity of your work with this methodology. Up until that point, you can get thrown off very easily. I suddenly had a sickness I didn't expect I suddenly got, this situation in my company that happened and I couldn't keep track. I suddenly had the three week trip and I locked control of the yada yada y I fell off the wagon.

[00:46:28] So you guys fell off the wagon, right? You mentioned that? right. What you didn't do was go, wow, I'm off the wagon. I need to get back on. You didn't do that very quick. You did that when things changed or when you got stressed by another kind of thing. Yes. I can't, I can't go but a few hours with ambient anxiety before I fix it.

[00:46:49] Okay. I got, I got used to not having it, so it's like, you know, the same reason they brush my teeth and take showers if I don't discover the factor gets too high. So you guys had to wait for a while for the stu back to get high enough to get back for the game? For sure. Yes. Yeah, that's great. So if you say, how do I change that beats me.

[00:47:10] Other than have people just somehow experience this. Cause it's hard to get into GTD until you actually do some of it. go ahead and go ahead and write down the top 10 things on your mind right now and decide the next action on each one. See how different. I could tell them that would be a good thing to do.

[00:47:26] And they go, yeah, that'd probably a good thing to do. And if they don't do it, they get no value outta that. Okay. There's something I could do, might be useful. But if they actually sat down and did that, they go, oh, . Yes. Oh. Oh wow. That's cool. Yeah. That's right. So getting used to feeling in control and, and stress free and having space to be present with whatever you're doing, getting used to that is however long it takes you to get used to that.

[00:47:54] Some people get it right away cause they're close to it anyhow, and they see my stuff and they go, ah, that is just the pieces I [00:48:00] needed. And they get there and they're on after a couple of weeks. Some people, a couple of months, some people a couple of years, some people never.

[00:48:09] Don't shoot the messenger guys. I'm just chilling.

[00:48:11] Tom: Yeah, that makes sense.

[00:48:13] Jamie:  It's, it's, again, it's exactly what I experienced with myself and with the team is exactly what you're talking about. So as we, as we wrap up here and we get close to the end of time, one thing we like to end all of our shows with is a final thought.

[00:48:24] So I know we've, we've hit a lot of different topics here. We've talked about a lot. Hopefully this brings some, some new people to your, to your book and to your process. Cause I know there's been a lot of. I've written down a lot of things here that are sitting in my inbox right now that you've brought from me.

[00:48:36] But I, I'd love to get, we'll start with you, David, your kind of final thought for our listeners of one thing they should take away from this podcast, 

[00:48:43] David: your ideas for having ideas not holding them. Mm. Great. 

[00:48:50] Jamie: That's, yeah, that's a good one. All right. Tom, what about you? What's your kind of final thought from this from this podcast?

[00:48:56] Tom: I think the reframing that David gave us to the very beginning where you and I said, okay, we're in back-to-back meetings, sort of how do you manage within that? And the thinking about, okay, does it have to be that way? And the question was, who controls those and why does it have to be like that? And I think there are many parts of what we do that you could stop and say, is this really the best environment?

[00:49:14] And maybe I changed the environment versus trying to be efficient within. 

[00:49:19] Jamie: Nope. That's, that's great. And there's, there's two things that I took away. I think as the highest one, I think I've. I'm gonna go back to the paper. I like the way you show, showed the paper in the paper inbox. I think that does make it a little bit more visual.

[00:49:33] So I think that's one of the things that I'm gonna definitely think about doing. And I think the second one that you've talked about a couple different times in here is prioritized not just for myself but for my team and make sure everybody knows what their priorities are and what their goals are for their job and for their day.

[00:49:47] And I think that will make their make GTD a lot easier to implement because, like you said, they're you're making a choice to do so. All the time. Every, even when you're sleeping, you're making a choice to do something, right? So I think that you know, how do you, what are your priorities will make those [00:50:00] choices a little bit easier.

[00:50:00] So that's definitely kind of my final thoughts for, for this episode. So definitely appreciate. Okay. You coming on, as you probably could realize through this podcast, both Tom and I are huge fans, and this was an honor for both of us to have you have you on here. And we're, I really appreciate you taking the time to, to chat with us.

[00:50:16] David: Fine guys. This is fun. Yeah. Good stuff. 

[00:50:20] Tom: Yay. Thank you very much. Have a great rest of your day. 

[00:50:22] David: Yes, you too. Bye-bye. 

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Getting Things Done® with David Allen


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