Getting Things Done: The Five Phases of Project Planning

David Allen posits that the key ingredients of “relaxed control” are:

clearly defined outcomes – PROJECTS

next actions required to move them toward closure and  reminders placed in a trusted system that is reviewed regularly. He calls this “horizontal focus” and it’s all you need in MOST situations.

However, if you need more focus to get a specific project under control and moving forward, this will require “vertical focus” which should take place within the framework of his “natural planning model.” This sounds like some sort of fertility exercise to me, but I bear with it…

Your brain is already an amazingly accomplished project planner (who knew), automatically dividing a complex task into the following steps:

(1)  defining purpose and principles – why are you doing this thing?

(2)  outcome visioning – what would success look and feel like

(3)  brainstorming – capture all of your ideas, big and small, in an easily relatable format like mindmapping

(4)  organizing – identify components, sequences and events….what are the things that must occur to create the final result and in what order?

(5)  identifying next actions – activate the “moving parts”

For example, I’m really considering writing a book. It’s a biography about a figure I admire, but I’m not going to share because if it doesn’t happen, I’ll feel like an asshole for bringing it up. So, neh.

Anyway, to apply this model to my potential project would look like:

(1) I want to write a book about Person X because she is amazing and relevant with a life story worth telling, and she has not been the subject of a previously released biography

(2) This book will be interesting, engaging, timely, and will honor the subject. This book will be published, successful and read by a wide variety of people.

(3) I need to do a great deal of background research. I need to determine if her previously published written content can be included as part of this book by the people who currently own the rights. I need to sit down and really dive into her life story, her writing, her process and figure out the most interesting and relevant way to present this information in book form.

(4) Write up a plan: start researching, put an outline together, start writing, shop the book around.

(5) Immediate action item would be to start the basic background research

ImagePhew. There. I put it out there – out of my head and onto the internets. I’m making it real – and I’ll do it using these techniques I’ve been working on this year and report back on my progress. I’ve been mulling this for months and I just really need to get off my ass and at least get started – even if it takes me a decade to finish.

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