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The Simple Dollar

Making It All Work – Getting Control: Reflecting

This is the eighth entry in a twenty part series discussing the wonderful time and priority management book Making It All Work by David Allen. New entries in this series will appear on Tuesday mornings and Friday mornings through December 10.

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For example, if I’m consistently not keeping up with some activity I’ve adopted in life, I know it’s time to sit down and ask myself whether it’s something I really value or not. If it’s not – and if I’ve adopted a pattern of avoiding it and mostly just thinking about it, it’s not something I value – then I make the hard decision to just move on as soon as I can, without regrets.

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Otherwise, it hangs on like a cobweb in my mind and my to-do lists, slowing down my thoughts and popping up as something I ought to be doing. For a long time, my life was chock full of those things – things I thought I should be doing and were taking up space in my thoughts and often physically in my home. Systematically reviewing all of it and getting rid of the cobwebs makes it incredibly easier to do the things that actually are important with gusto, focus, and passion.

Getting Perspective
All of the above material comes from applying a bit of perspective to all of the things going on in your life. Just as important is reversing that paradigm to look at the big picture things in your life and seek out how they lead to the day-to-day things you’re doing.

Once a week, I sit down and go through every major goal and project I have in my life and simply ask myself if this is still important to me and, if it is, what am I going to do in the next week to move forward on it. This takes about two hours, believe it or not – I usually do it when the children are napping on Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

This seems like a lot of work, and I like how it’s addressed on page 167:

“Write everything down? Decide the actions you need to take on everything? Keep all that on… how many lists? Keep an index of all my projects? And … what? Take two hours every week to review all of that and get all these lists complete? You’ve got to be kidding! I’m too busy.”

That’s exactly how I felt about all of this when I first started. “I have too much to do to waste my time with this,” I thought. What I found, though, is that I was constantly making poor choices in my life that didn’t reflect on what I really valued. I would choose work projects over my kids. I’d burn time on pointless conference calls instead of getting useful projects done. I’d deal with piles of paperwork that really didn’t need to be done while big projects sat untouched. I’d run around doing household busywork while my children were out in the yard wishing Dad was there. I’d devote hours and hours to things I didn’t really want to do because I was convinced I was supposed to be doing them.

Having a weekly review and a consistent system ended all of that. I threw out mountains of busy work – it wasn’t really important. I started spending a lot more time with my kids and a lot less time on household projects or other things. I let go of some unrealistic projects and started focusing on hitting home runs on projects more in line with my life goals (like The Simple Dollar, for example).

The simple process of having a list of all of my goals and dreams in life and all of my ongoing projects and a to-do list and then sitting down once a week to go through all of them and ask myself whether they’re really important and how I’m moving forward on the important ones is the single most valuable part of my week. It keeps me from wasting my time on the less important things and redirects me to spend my time on the more important things.

That’s well worth two hours on a Saturday afternoon, if you ask me.

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