Business worker smiling

As a consultant, you know that time is money… and it’s often in short supply! Not only do you have to commit to producing high quality work for your clients, you need to find the time to procure new work and build relationships for the future.

If only you had more time!

Funnily enough, David Allen (New York Times bestseller and author of ‘Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity) thinks this is the least of your worries.

What you should be worried about, instead, is being appropriately engaged. When you’re fully committed to a task – or ‘in the zone’ – your productivity spikes, you’re more creative and you can get things done. Our problem is that we often aren’t able to be appropriately engaged in anything because we’re so distracted by the small things. Our minds are constantly clogged with small reminders, unfinished thinking and planning for the future. His advice? Get rid of it! Being able to free your mind of the small things allows you room to be creative and productive, leading to a stress-free mental environment.

Now, ‘getting rid of it’ isn’t about just forgetting everything and living life in the moment. It is about recognising the small things when they come, capturing and processing them, and reviewing frequently as a way of training your brain to empty itself for the higher-order cognitive functions. While there are hundreds of apps, programs and systems that can help you do this, it all boils down to 5 simple steps:

1. Capture: collect 100% of what has your attention and record it in some way (in-basket, notepad, or voice recorder).

2. Clarify: take everything you have captured and process what it means. Is it actionable? Decide on the next action required then and there.

3. Organise: sort action reminders into relevant groups.

4. Reflect: look over these lists to determine next steps and review frequently to clean up and update. This will help you keep your mind clear.

5. Engage: use the system to take action with confidence, knowing that your thoughts are clear and have been organised appropriately.

This may sound simple enough, but it is often counter-intuitive, especially for those who have spent most of their lives preoccupied with trying to get things done. It takes time to master, but the rewards are infinite.