Getting Things Done

By Scott Westerman

Scott Westerman“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

THE ESSENCE: Being more productive is all about defining your desired outcome, figuring out what to do next to get there and developing a set of behaviors to help keep you on task.

I fight a constant battle within myself. Every day, I’m presented with opportunities to do stuff. I could easily fill my calendar with speaking engagements, meetings and projects. The list of requests I get to become involved in worthy activities could fill the days of three people.

And everything seems to fit into my life’s mission.

So a daily task is prioritizing what’s most important and figuring out how to organize my day to make progress.

There are literally hundreds of books out there on how to be more productive. Your own personal productivity formula may be as unique as you are. We all bring strengths and weaknesses to the game at hand and learning how to leverage each is the true key to accomplishment.

This week, I’ve been digesting David Allen‘s best seller, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Wired, Time and The Guardian have all hailed David’s approach as a fresh and effective set of tools to help you get more done with less stress. He recently shared two fundamental questions to help define a goal and begin to work toward it.

What’s the successful outcome? And, what’s the next action to make it happen?

Too often, we spend our time doing things that don’t move us closer to where we want to be. It’s an easy trap to fall into thanks to the two biggest productivity killers: distractions and obstacles.

If you were to keep a log of what you do each day, you would most likely find a lot of  distractors, those interruptions to our concentration that throw us out of that magical flow zone where productivity and joy live. And we’ve all known the frustration of running into brick walls. These are the rules, processes, bureaucracies and people who plant improvised explosive devices along our road to success.

These two challenges are givens in life. But surmounting them is a lot easier if you have a clear picture of what a successful outcome looks like. Effective outcome statements might look like this:

  • “I will renew 25 expiring apartment contracts by the end of the quarter.”
  • “I will review employee satisfaction survey results and create initiatives to improve on the two most important feedback points for discussion with my leadership team by the end of the month.”
  • “I will work to improve my relationship with (fill in the blank).”
  • “I will create a training plan that prepares me to run a half-marathon injury free by May 21.”

I’m currently working on a more etherial success definition at MSUAA right now: “What defines productive engagement with MSUAA? How can we impact it within our organizational and budgetary constraints? And, how do we measure our progress toward success?”

You can see how clarifying those questions can make it much easier to create and execute a game plan.

The second question, “what’s the next action to make it happen,” is worth a lot of thought and consideration. The answer may seem easy; “I’m looking for my first job after graduation so I should write a generic resume and shotgun it out to 100 different companies.” But as Kelley Bishop and John Hill told me in our conversation about getting a job after graduation, the first steps may not always be the obvious steps. The time you spend thinking about what to do next can be some of your most productive investments.

Finally, it can be helpful to develop your own personal productivity system. Whether or not you follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach, defining a set of behaviors that work well for you and practicing them every day can help keep you moving in the direction of  your dreams.

Have a great week!

Feedback welcome to scott@spartanology.com or @MSUScottW on Twitter.

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More Links:

Search the Amazon.com Keyword “Time Management”.
The Best of “Getting Things Done” – LifeHacker.com.
David Allen’s Website
GTD Times – David Allen’s Getting Things Done blog.
Omnifocus – A suite of productivity tools for the Mac, iPhone and iPad.


Scott Westerman has been a broadcaster, cable television executive and entrepreneur. In 2010 he joined the MSU Alumni Association as Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations & Executive Director. He is a 1978 graduate of Michigan State University. 

This blog post was originally featured on http://www.scottwesterman.com and has been used by the author’s permission.

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