got something done

A meeting in a stuffy conference room, over lunch, no less. Issues were raised, some fingers were pointed, solutions were discussed. Nothing too unusual really, until the end, when the host cleared his throat and inquired: Alright, so what's the next action?

This, right then and there made my day.

I am a fan of a lot of ideas that come with David Allan's Getting Things Done time management method.

Making a point of asking for the next action at the conclusion of a meeting is one of those ideas. Meetings with no discernable outcome can be pretty frustrating and easily perceived as a huge waste of time. The simple question for the next action can be a powerful way of steering towards a more meaningful result.

Another idea is a weekly review and it really proved useful for me just this past week. I typically have very little free time. Besides work and family there are quite a few different projects that require a lot attention. Currently I am researching graduate programs and various different product ideas. I need to experiment with different technologies, books and journals keep piling up next to my desk, etc. etc. - and all this is just about those things more or less related to computer science. I am sure you are quite familiar with this: Lots of things to do and really not much time available.

Last week my wife and I were hosting out-of-town visitors.

Although otherwise possibly convenient (I haven't tried it, only just found out about the place via evhead's site), this is not an occasion where I could bail out with a service like the new SaveMyAss. No flowers or other bribery would do: I had to be there. A lot.

Everything else had to wait. For a little over one full week. Now, I am not saying this was bad, because we really all ended up having a great time. We got to travel and entertain. Did I make any progress on any of my projects? Absolutely not.

That's okay though. Two days before our visitors arrived, I sat down and did my project review. I made sure, everything was in a known state, for each one of the little projects I am working on these days. That took a couple hours, but it was very well worth it.

During the following week, I just relaxed and didn't worry about anything remotely work-related at home. We just focused on having fun.

When we had the place to ourselves again this past Saturday I went up into my office and pulled out my papers. It was great and there was really no uncertainty. I had clearly spelled out, who I needed to send emails, which feature I had wanted to implement next in a piece of software, which requirements needed further work, how I had wanted to expand upon the database backend of a website, and so on and so forth.

David Allan talks about these and many more ideas in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I recommend it highly.