David, Marc & Merlin’s Interviews with Wired on GTD

By | July 14, 2005

Robert Andrews has done quite a bit of homework when he was writing his article GTD: A New Cult for the Info Age. He interviewed David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

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, Marc Orchant and Merlin Mann with some good questions.

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The Wired article does not cover all of the content in those three interviews, but good news is that each one of them has posted their own email interview to their blogs. They are good read – like the answer in Marc’s interview should help the recent question raised by our reader:

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Are there any core rules, processes or practises required if one is to live by the way of GTD? I’m interested in running a separate piece on the doctrines you have to abide by in order to simplify your life. What are the key workflows/procedures? I understand there are some PDFs showing this stuff. I’ve read about a five-step workflow and other methods, and what is the “natural workflow” method? What are the steps Wired News readers, new to GTD, should be taking to get things done?

The single most important discipline that is essential if you are going to be successful at integrating GTD principles and practices into your life is review. Daily and Weekly Review. If you review your action lists, your commitments, your Inboxes, your mid- and long-term goals – and you do it on regular basis – the system works. Regardless of how you choose to implement the particulars. I have a co-worker who does his GTD using nothing but a yellow legal pad and a file drawer. I know some people who are complete gadget and software freaks – constantly trying new ways to tweak their systems. It doesn’t matter which extreme you tend toward – if you review regularly the process works and if you don’t, it breaks down.


David Allen’s GTD interview
Marc Orchant’s GTD interview
Merlin Mann’s GTD interview

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Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination.

1. Make a List of Your Goal Destinations

Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

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So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

2. Think About the Time Frame to Have the Goal Accomplished

This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

Learn the differences between a short term goal and a long term goal. Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

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3. Write Down Your Goals Clearly

Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

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For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

4. Write Down What You Need to Do for Each Goal

Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

5. Write Down Your Timeframe With Specific and Realistic Dates

Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

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For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

6. Schedule Your To-Dos

Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

Write these action points on a schedule, you have definite dates on which to do things.

7. Use Your Reticular Activating System to Get Your Goal

Learn in this Lifehack’s vlog how you can hack your brain with the Reticular Activation System (RAS) and reach your goal more efficiently:

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8. Review Your Progress

At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

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Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

More Tips for Achieving Goals