David Allen interview in Fast Company

Thanks to What’s the Next Action for calling attention to an oldie but a goodie, an interview with David Allen in Fast Company.

Here’s the answer to one of the questions, and why I think the GTD perspective on organizing “stuff” is so helpful…because everyone seems to be facing so much of it.

If there’s one thing that all of our readers probably agree on, it’s that they have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Why do so many of us feel that way?

There is always more to do than there is time to do it, especially in an environment of so much possibility. We all want to be acknowledged; we all want our work to be meaningful. And in an attempt to achieve that goal, we all keep letting stuff enter our lives.

The problem, of course, is that we also want to finish what we start. Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started. That’s why a lot of my work has to do with how people deal with their input — email, phone messages, reports, conversations. Everything that isn’t where it should be is an open loop, an incomplete, a distraction that slows you down. Your brain says, “Hey, that doesn’t belong there,” and you have to deal with that impulse.

If you allow too much dross to accumulate in your “10 acres” — in other words, if you allow too many things that represent undecided, untracked, unmanaged agreements with yourself and with others to gather in your personal space — that will start to weigh on you. It will dull your effectiveness. You’ve got to dig into the mess and put those things to rest. Productivity is about completion.

Isn’t it interesting that people feel best about themselves right before they go on vacation? They’ve cleared up all of their to-do piles, closed up transactions, renewed old promises with themselves. My most basic suggestion is that people should do that more than just once a year. In fact, I tell people to take inventory weekly — to sort through all of the stuff that they haven’t yet acted on. If you can get a clear picture of everything that you have to do, you’ll be able to say, “Oh, this is what I have to do right now” — and then take the next step in getting it done.

Momentum Building Against DM&E Loan

On Friday, David Strom, the President of the Taxpayper’s League of Minnesota, came out forcefully against the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern railroad’s proposed $2.3 billion loan from the Federal Railroad Administration. Here’s an excerpt of what he said:

What if I told you that right now the Federal government is considering making the largest loan guarantee in its history to a private company—a loan that dwarfs the size of the Chrysler bailout in its scope—and yet almost nobody has ever heard a word about this plan?

It sounds incredible, but unfortunately it is true. And in my mind, it is a prime example of what is wrong with the way that Congress spends your money.

Back in 1979, when Congress was considering extending loan guarantees to bail out Chrysler Corporation, there were vigorous debates about the propriety of such a large-scale government intervention into the marketplace. The size of the loan guarantees–$1.5 billion—was unprecedented at the time. It wasn’t until the Federal government stepped in to help the airline industry after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that there was such a large-scale government bailout.

But today, in a world where dead-of-night earmarking can move billions of dollars in Federal spending, a $2.3 billion loan to a struggling railroad can pass Congress without a moment’s scrutiny or debate.

Ah, progress!

While the Chrysler bailout was a bad idea—the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers in the economy—at least there was a plausible excuse at the time for doing it. Chrysler employed over 100,000 people in 1979, and lawmakers worried that its financial collapse would have unacceptable consequences for the American economy.

Nothing so grand is at stake here. The Federal government, through the Federal Railroad Administration, is seriously considering loaning $2.3 billion to a struggling railroad called the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern (DM&E) to expand its service into the Wyoming coalfields.

Full disclosure: I work for Mayo Clinic, which has helped lead the Rochester, Minn. coalition opposing the DM&E expansion and this record taxpayer-backed loan.

It’s heartening to see a taxpayer organization come on to the scent of this stinky federal business. There’s no way taxpayers should be on the hook for a $2.3 billion loan to create a third railroad option for the Wyoming coal fields. It’s one thing to provide incentives to the railroads 150 years ago, when there were no transcontinental railroads and no other viable transportation options either.

Likewise, this morning’s edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has a strong

If you have followed the DM&E Railroad’s plan to upgrade tracks and send more trains through Rochester, carrying coal and tankers of toxic cargo by Mayo Clinic, you may wonder how such a bad idea has stayed alive so long…

This is not a NIMBY fight, nor a fair one, and the stakes are high: disruption to Minnesota’s fourth-largest city and risks to a world-class medical center. And there’s another reason the outcome should matter to people living far from Rochester: DM&E’s project is poised to get a $2.3 billion federal loan — more than the Chrysler bailout — despite opaque finances and a troubling safety record, and without a public hearing.

You can read the whole editorial here.

Turning Back the Clock

There’s something about being 39 that causes people to take stock and try to reclaim the physical abilities they had in their youth. I was no different. When I was six months from my fortieth, I decided to start running and training to take off the 20 or so pounds that had crept on over the years. My goal was to dunk a basketball again…something I hadn’t done since I was 19 or 20.

Starting slowly (and a month before the New Year’s crunch, when the gym gets a lot more crowded), I gradually increased my training on the elliptical machine (low impact was good) and started a weight training program too. By March I was touching the rim again, and I continued to make progress, but couldn’t make the dunk.

Finally, the big day arrived: May 15, 2003. I had taken the day off from work, and went to the local Y to play in a pick-up game. Having played reasonably well, I thought, “Why not give it a try?” To my utter amazement, being really warmed up and having stretched, I slammed it down.

I quickly called my wife, Lisa, and asked her to get down to the Y with our videocamera, to document this for posterity. I’m no Michael Jordan (although we are the same age), but here’s the proof that I made it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkF0s4QsAeI]

By the way, immediately after reaching this pinnacle I joined the gang you see in the background in another pick-up game…and within 15 minutes had broken my left index finger (my first fracture!) That took me out of training for several weeks, and it’s been downhill since.

This summer has been a good training time too, although now because of life events it’s been a week since I’ve gone running. Making time for training needs to be a priority.

How David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” Changed My Office

I first read David Allen’s Getting Things Done last November. I immediately saw that the organization system and workflow management concepts in GTD made sense and that they could free me from a lot of psychic overhead. Here’s the visual proof.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxjsAAU3np0]