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Five habits that help get important things done, by David S. Allen

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I was in line to board a Southwest plane one morning when a gate attendant stopped me and asked if I was “THE David Allen.”  David Allen had become THE David Allen because he had written the wildly successful Getting Things Done.  I gave her the disappointing news that I was not THE David Allen, which at least partially explained why I was flying Southwest that morning. 

Like millions of others, I read the book.  And I made a few changes to help me better get things done.  But the book I really wanted THE David Allen to write--the book I think we would all benefit from reading--is How to Get IMPORTANT Things Done. 

Why?  Because we have a limited amount of time to get things done.  They need to be the important things. 

I know people who are good at this.  Here are the habits they have developed to help them get the important things done:

  1. They have goals and they continuously review them and work toward them.  They establish long-term goals first.  Then they develop short-term goals that are directly linked to the long-term goals.  Day in and day out, they work on the short-term goals.  By doing that, they reach, in time, their long-term goals.  From what I can tell, this is the most critical habit in getting important things done.    
  2. They prioritize.  They often have surprisingly short to-do lists and from those lists, they work on the most important things first.  They know what should have their attention and, at least as importantly, they know what should not. 
  3. They focus.  Multitasking is unavoidable.  We all have times when we must juggle several things.  But for people who get important things done, multitasking is the exception and not the rule.  They focus on what is truly important and invest their time and energy pursuing those things.
  4. They stop, think and plan.  Whether it is closing their office doors and turning off their phones for an hour a week or taking an occasional one- or two-day getaway, they are smart enough to schedule time for thinking and planning.     
  5. They begin their day the night before.  They spend at least a few minutes thinking through what they need to do the next day.  Getting the morning off to a productive, focused start usually builds on itself and yields a productive, focused day. Preparing for that kind of morning is better accomplished the night before, when phones are not ringing, coworkers are not dropping by and the email box is not filling up.