GTD: A WPPI Follow-up

I struggle…a lot with getting things done (GTD).

There are so many ways to get things done and so many distractions preventing me from just doing it.  The saying I try to live by is, “You always have time for what you do first.”  After this bit of learning what I’d add to that is, “Do the deep work first”.  Being honest, the reasons I don’t take the time to do the deep, focused work are tied to distraction, laziness and avoidance.  This brings me to a talk I went to while at WPPI 2016 in Las Vegas.  The presenter was Dane Sanders, whom I’ve seen before and enjoyed.

His topic was Rebuilding Your Business from the Ground Up.  The target audience for his talk included those just starting their business all the way through those that have been in business for some time and looking for a re-think.

Dane covered the categories to consider when evaluating your business.  Things like: value creation, marketing, sales, value delivery, business model (whether you’re freelance or a signature brand), what systems you use to process your work and finally how you work with people.  Obviously, there’s a lot of content in each of these categories that I won’t cover here.  The one I want to spend a little time on is a point that would fall within the systems category having to do with how you organize your day and how you get things done.

The reason why I feel like this one is a big deal is that if you don’t have the focus and wherewithal to do some deep work to sort through questions like: 

  • What can I bring to the client experience that only I can do?  
  • What’s the best way to identify and target clients in a meaningful way? 
  • What can I do to make sure my brand presence is consistent from end-to-end?  

These are all pretty hard topics and not something you’ll likely figure out easily.  Without diving into these topics, my business will not flourish as quickly as if I did take that time.  Dane suggested several books but one stood out and I’ve just finished reading it, its called "Deep Work" by Cal Newport.  "Knowledge workers are forgetting the value of going deep”, Cal tells us.  According to a McKinsey study, "60% of the work week is spent doing internet searching with 30% of that time spent answering emails alone.”  Hard to hear but it doesn’t seem far off to me.

Without getting into too much detail, the highlights from the book are first learning to identify the different types of work and the effect of each.  Primarily, the book focuses on shallow work and deep work.  Examples of shallow work are things like checking email, surfing the web and catching up on social media.  A good example of deep work for me would be editing video or writing a blog post like this one.  This is an exercise that I need a large block of uninterrupted time to parse through the message and spend time thinking before creating.  What the author argues is that to produce anything of substance, you need to devote time to deep work.

Finding a way to structure your day so this deep work gets done leads to the topic of forming good habits and continually prioritizing what’s important for you to succeed both personally and professionally.  Another photographer I follow, Chase Jarvis, shared these thoughts  on how feels about being "busy" and how he organizes his day to get things done (skip to 3:07 for the meat of it).

The take-aways for me are: 

  • Consider your entire day as a set of opportunities and possibilities
  • Have a set of goals identified 
  • Prioritize those goals and aggressively find ways to minimize distracted, shallow work to allow for blocks of time for deep thinking.  There were many suggestions on how to manage the disconnection from email, social media, noise, etc.
  • Watch the rewards of this deep thinking come back to you many times over

Now the test.  Let’s see if I can take the time needed to dive in and make this a reality.