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Time cannot be managed!
David Allen offers a solution to the stress and pressures working executives face, as he draws on learning from the key principles of Getting Things Done, speaking to Aditi Sharma Kalra
The originator of Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, that focuses on improved personal productivity, David Allen is the world’s leading personal productivity consultant, sought out by CEOs for his advice. Here, he shares the importance of being constructively engaged with the process of creation and completion, rather than worry about finishing all tasks at hand.

Q. How can we apply the GTD principles in our lives, where we are often burdened by stress and other pressures? 
A. The opportunities to apply the key principle of GTD are both immediate and infinite. We live in a continual flow of making and renegotiating our agreements with ourselves and others - whatever it is that we think we might want to do or experience that we have not yet. This can range from a poem we feel like writing, to a company we want to start, to a walk we want to take, to the feeling we should clean up our old emails. The point is not to finish everything, but to be constructively engaged with our process of creating and completing. 

Q. How to identify a time management problem? 
A. First of all, there is no time management problem. You cannot manage time. When you think you might ‘need better time management’ it simply means that you think you do not have things as under control as you would like them, and/or you have a sense that you are not putting the appropriate attention on what you should. Losing control and focus is not a bad thing - it happens every time you come up with a spontaneous inspiration to do something outside of your normal rhythms and systems. Your ability to regain that control and focus, at a new level, with the new and creative inputs integrated, is the master skill of GTD. 

Q. How has technology impacted us?  A. Technology is neutral - not good or bad, in itself. It has merely increased the ease and speed of communication. It will, of course, magnify any lack of clarity you may have about what kind of communications and information you are interested in giving and receiving. The bad news is that being clear, current, and discrete about what you want and need to be involved in is being demanded, through technology, on a much more consistent basis. You cannot rest on your laurels. The people you wanted to talk to yesterday, along with the web sites you wanted to surf, may no longer hold the same attraction, merely a few hours later. You must stop, look, and listen, much more in the moment. The good news is that the bad news demands of us increased clarity of our intentions, so we can focus our attentions accordingly. 

Q. Which are the distractions that prevent us ‘from getting things’ done?  
A. We are mostly distracted by things that grab our attention and seduce us into doing something more immediate and obvious than staying focused on things that demand thought and decision-making. That can range from a You Tube link in an email to someone walking into your office asking a question, to an almost infinite number of “I want or need to do that” stuff that surfaces from our environment that give us a short-term positive feeling of productive engagement. 

Q. What do knowledge workers expect from their managers?
A. There is an implicit assumption for many people that their superiors in organisations know more, are clearer about priorities, and have advanced skills to manage the information and the workflow process. They do not realise that those issues get worse, the more senior you become. The smart knowledge workers of today expect transparency, humility, and a “we’re all in this together” attitude. 

Q. What are some lifestyle changes you can suggest in regard to dealing with stress?  
A. Changing rhythms  and restoring your energy are critical factors to keep our cognitive functions working optimally. Take a walk, take a nap, take a break in all the forms that are available. 

Q. You had told us that your next book would be on training and development for children – targeted at parents and school administrators. How is that coming along? Can you help us understand some of the principles that can equip today’s youngsters better with what they may face tomorrow? 
A. We are still in the formative stage of this work. We have been gathering some great stories about outcome-and-action thinking opportunities, organising motivators, and the like. We do not seem to be born knowing these things, but they can be taught and learned at a fundamental and simple level much earlier, I think, than we have realised. We are still in an exploration mode, but it is very encouraging.
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