If we do not change direction …

… we are likely to end up where we are headed.

I like this quote, a Chinese proverb brought to my inbox in David Allen’s ‘Productivity Principles Newsletter.’ Gives a different angle on (and is probably the source of, come to think of it) the now too familiar ‘if you keep on doing the same thing, you’ll keep on getting the same results.’ And also throws a side glance on the also now very familiar exhortation beloved of business gurus and coaches – never give up.

But what if one is headed in the wrong direction? Change tack, must be the answer. And how do you know if you are headed up a blind alley or just about to turn a corner? That’s the 64,000 dollar question, especially in these times of crunch. But, to be sure, the first thing you (by which I mean, of course, I …) need to do is to take stock of the situation; get a hold on where you are …

David Allen, productivity guru of GTD (Getting Things Done), has good stuff to say on this too:

Capture. Get the data. Acknowledge what’s true. (We have ____ in the bank. Our expenses are ______ . I feel insecure and apprehensive. There are no debtors’ prisons.) And clean up. This is when it’s super-important to identify and get a handle on all the open loops pulling on your attention.

Clarify. Identify the outcomes and projects you now need to focus toward, and of course, what actions you need to take. (Re-do personal budget; talk to partner re: asset inventory.) Get all your attention-grabbers processed. And leverage the heck out of the two-minute rule. Being an instant executive is the best cure for transcending a funk.

Organize. Get your lists and systems current and complete. Your psyche needs the freedom that affords to concentrate and direct your thinking.

Reflect. You may need to do Weekly Reviews daily. You must keep situational awareness vital and present to be able to trust your intuitive responses, which you will be calling on frequently. Regularly engage in forest management (instead of tree-hugging), so you can see smoke from a distance.

Engage. Keep moving. Pick an action and do it. Don’t get hung up on priorities. It’s much easier to control a boat that’s got way (momentum through the water) than one simply at the effect of the currents. It’s easier to know your priorities by taking an action that’s not so important than by stressing about them.

This is where getting control morphs into gaining perspective, and the Horizons of Focus come into play. Obviously goals and plans and job descriptions may need a recalibration. But, in addition, give yourself permission to acknowledge and take advantage of the deeper conversations with yourself and other key people in your life that will undoubtedly come closer to the surface in rough seas. …

The point is to make what you’re doing conscious and directed, instead of reactive and contracted. I’m not an advocate of a Pollyanna positive-thinking philosophy. Pretending that life is rosy when that’s not your experience is self-delusional and counter-productive. Rather, GTD is a positive-directional approach. Certainly being able to maintain a positive vision amidst the challenging and often messy day-to-day stuff is a wonderful life skill to hone. But you may need to be judicious and pick your battles. Though the storm you’re in is probably going to make you stronger and wiser, right now you might not like it. Your choice is how you get through it – as victim, or as captain/commander. In other words: life’s a bitch, and what’s the next action?

Pick the right battle.

You can sign up to the GTD newsletter at www.davidco.com

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