A different perspective on getting things done: Tony Robbins

“Time is emotion”. “Throw away your todo list”. With these provocations Tony Robbins pushes us to go beyond the mechanics of traditional time managament and even GTD, because mechanics accounts for only 20% of success, passion for the remaining 80%. “Reasons come first, answers come second”. If you have a strong enought purpose,
it doesn’t matter if you have the “right” gear, the latest task manager, the smartest way to prioritize your to-dos. Great men and women in history did not have Omnifocus, Scrivener, Mindmanager and the likes. Beethoven did not have Avid for composing the 9th, nor was Nelson Mandela versed in Project Management and Gantt charts.

This does not mean that  we should not look into cool techniques and buy awsome gear for getting things done. But it does mean that we should not delude ourselves into thinking that they will make us that much more “productive”. As a matter of fact, for a person who lacks vision, drive and passion, “productivity” software and techniques are more of a liability than an asset: they can easily become tools for procrastination and for “busy work”. Checking off meaningless tasks gets us no closer to our fulfillment. By atomizing our to-dos instead of focusing on meaningful goals that connect to our vision for each area of our life, we easily lose track of the forest for the trees. Our day becomes a box-ticking exercise instead of a stepping stone towards the realization of our life vision.

It is therefore important to think more in terms of results than in terms of tasks. “What are the top 5 results I want I out of this day”? As opposed to “what are the 25 tasks I need to check off for today”? Of course, in order to accomplish a result I will have to perform various tasks, but often I will not have to write them down. What needs to be put in writing is the result I am after, and the purpose that motivates me to attaint that result… and, even better, how this result is connected to my vision for that particular area of my life. Purpose is key. The actual “next action” is just a means to an end. We must also keep in mind that there are many different ways to attain a given result. By putting too much emphasis on the task, the risk is losing track of the ultimate goal (isn’t that what box-ticking is about?). For a thorough discussion on the difference between tasks and results, a good read is “Getting results the Agile Way” by JD Meier.
To be fair, David Allen’s GTD is not only about tasks, but also about projects, areas of focus and vision. David is very clear about the necessity of both “control” and “perspective”, especially in his underrated book, “Making it all Work”. But the reality is that GTD is first and foremost about taks management: about capturing your thoughts, organizing them and doing them. Very few people pratice the “second part of the book”. For some reason, vision, long term goals, passion, emotion seem to always fall in the background in conversations about GTD… conversations that often tend to be quite dry (task managers, labellers, “contexts”, “perspectives” ecc). To parody Tony Robbins, this type of GTD seems to be 80% mechanics and only 20% passion. That’s why I find Tony Robbins’ take on time management (and Stephen Covey’s, which I will cover in a later post) so refreshing.

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