Getting into the “Zone”

by Dan McHugh, Director of Conference and Event Services

This post is first in a series of reflections through a common reading program with the Campus Center, Conference and Events, and Student Involvement and Leadership staff.  The book chosen is “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.

Getting things done often comes with challenges, some within our control, some out of our control.  The theme of “getting in the zone” seemed to be one that resonated with many around the table as we all have experienced being in the zone, and we’ve all experienced how difficult it is to stay in the zone due to the every day distractions we face each day.  We often struggle with how we stay focused and in the moment to allow us to stay in the zone and productive.

Folks touched on the notion of action steps.  The author talks about writing down action steps and folks agreed, we often know what to do, we just don’t take the time to write down the simple action steps to make things happen.  We often become overwhelmed with our “to do” lists that we don’t focus on what’s needed for each task or where to begin.

The concept of “open loops” was discussed at length, those things that come up but don’t get finished.  Folks felt the way to gain piece of mind was to answer the question of how we close the loop on items that are still hanging over our heads.  By closing the loop we then become less anxious.  Understanding what we can and can’t control can help, and managing our actions  helps us manage what we can.

Several people found the author’s flow chart helpful and systematic.  Folks tossed around the idea of how you mange tll the things already built-up before trying new systems.  Many felt they can manage their own items but it’s difficult to deal with  items and others outside of our control.

There was a lot of discussion of how we organize ourselves, from utilizing calendar systems to how we handle incoming email.  Folks had different ideas and used various tricks for organizing, there’s not one single system, but its more of a personal choice.

The organizing theme continued int he discussion in regards to the author’s 6 level model for improving work.  Many felt they do a good job in the work setting, but could use some work in their personal lives.  It is often difficult to manage actions when they are given to us by others such as a supervisor or significant other.  We don’t have as much control over these as we do actions we develop.

Do it, Delegate, Defer it, Drop it was a concept that was discussed.  Folks around the table felt this was a nice concept but struggle with follow-through, such as when to delegate and to whom because you need to be familiar with the person you are delegating to and know his/her strenghts and weaknesses.  Folks used words such as trust and control.  Prioritizing came up a lot in this discussion and we related back to how we organize items at work and in our personal lives.

Some of the items folks felt they’d take away from the first two chapters included the idea that if something takes under 2 minutes, they will begin to try to do it right away (to close the loop so to speak!).  Others want to delegate more, but know it may be a struggle and difficult to let others make decisions for us or do things differently than we might.  Some folks hope to make more intentional decisions for themselves than they are currently doing.   A final area that folks were thinking about was the idea of the “Ripple Effect”, that is, how what we do not only impacts ourselves, but also others around us.

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2 Responses to Getting into the “Zone”

  1. cindykane says:

    Great post! I love the reference to delegating to a significant other… I hadn’t thought of it as “delegating” until this 🙂 Wonder how he will feel about that?!

  2. Amanda Surgens says:

    I love delegating… especially to my husband!!! Love that you posed it that way!!
    Also… a few things came to mind when I read the part about “trust” and “control”…
    I think the trust and control issues that you talked about are huge. I know as a new professional, we work so hard to prove that we are trust-worthy and deserve the ability to control our own area. Then as you continue to move up the ladder, that trust then needs to shift to how much do you give rather than want to receive from others. You then are changing the control from your grasp of it to how much you give of it… It can be really hard to shift the focus of trust and control from yourself onto others…
    I think for many professionals that must be a tough transition and one that I’m sure not many are aware will be there when they move up.

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