Whereas David Allen stresses efficient and effortless work-life management, Tiago stresses efficient and effortless workflows.

Here’s the start of an ideal work session for me:

First, choose what to work on. What task will either give me the most enjoyment or it will release the most brain tension or it gives me the most leverage in my career?

Today that was: “catch up on blogs” as that’s been on my mind.

Second, we want to figure out: what exactly are we trying to achieve in the work session?

Now this name for the session, catch up on blogs, is seemingly bad. David Allen talks about naming your tasks by the next physical action. So for me that would be something like: “open the blog ‘what I learned’ and write the first draft.” But ‘catch up on blog’ captures the purpose of this session better for me: lately in the morning I’ve been frustrated and scrambling to post a blog and I want to release tension around that. So I know that I want to complete 4 or 5 blogs.

But what does completion mean? When would this tension be released? This is where we define the unit of leverage. Tomorrow morning, when posting a blog, I want to simply give one final read through and then post it, spending less than 15 minutes on that process.

Now my goal can be further defined: “write at least 4 blogs that you approve of being posted.”

Third, what information will help us, what information has done some thinking already? I pull up all the information possible that will help me with that activity. I want to SEE it all. Ideally, my past self did some thinking for me. Maybe he linked a few potential blogs to the task. Maybe within those blogs he included bullet points. Maybe he also included other related notes to the blogs. All of this thinking is already done.

Forth, is it clear what you should start working on now? Often, I can just start working. But when I still don’t know exactly what to do, I use some of Tiago’s workflow methods. Quick bullets of my favorite:

  • Archipelago of Ideas. This is mindmapping. Getting any thoughts, ideas, tasks all out and onto the page. From there you can start to connect pieces under the same banner. From that vomit of ideas, your entry point into the session will arise, and you can start working.
  • Headings first. This seems like a great technique for blog entries. When you don’t know where to begin, write out very simply, the truest headings you can think of. Then, if need write subheadings under those. Do this until you know where to begin.
  • Dial it down. Are you trying to write a full essay in an hour session? How can you scale back the project so that you complete something within this session? What is the smallest unit of output that provides leverage for your future self?

Fifth, I often find it helpful to break the task even further and scribbling out checkboxes on paper. This is where I have real David Allen type Next Actions. And at this point work is incredibly easy.

Now, that’s a lot of steps and information. Much of this is done beforehand. Sometimes I end one session by doing this set up work for the next session. But I don’t overdo it because I like doing this work to start the session. I find it hones in my focus. I also am then able to tailor it to my current mindset. I found previously that I would do a lot of work ahead of time, then I would sit down and it wouldn’t even feel right. So not only was that work wasted, but it was actually even harder to get into the work because I had to backtrack.

This checklist still takes me longer than I wish, but with practice that will diminish to a few minutes and makes a world of difference.