Back when manufacturing ruled, crankable widgets were supreme. For example, in my summer vacation back in college, I worked at a paper factory. My job was pack boxes into cartons and put them on a line that went down to shipping.
I was cranking out widgets – twelve diapers to a box, twelve boxes to a carton, 750 cartons per eight-hour shift. That’s a lot of diapers and a lot of crankable widgets.
Now that we are knowledge workers, crankable widgets would seem to no longer exist. But they do. And Cubicle Warriors need to take advantage of them.
In July, I had the privilege of attending David Allen’s GTD Mastering Workflow seminar. GTD, for those that do not know about it, is a methodology of organizing your tasks, projects, and higher level purposes while consistently executing tasks for productivity.
A critical component of this methodology is the “Next Action.”
Next Actions are those items are on a context list that, when you look at them, are the next physical thing you need to do to accomplish a task. A knowledge worker’s “crankable widget,” just like shoving the next 12 diapers into a box to place into a carton to send to shipping.
Getting to the “Next Action” so that the task can be executed is not as simple as it sounds for knowledge workers.
Consider e-mail. Hidden in your 100+ e-mails a day might be things that you need to do and don’t even know about it yet. But instead of reading the e-mail and making a knowledge worker decision on what the “successful outcome” and the next thing is that needs to be done, we tell ourselves we need to do “something” and we leave it in our inbox as read, but still lurking.
Even though I have been practicing GTD for three years now, I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what the next physical action is based on a known successful outcome. Next Actions are small components to complete. I never get simple and small enough.
Until crankable widgets for knowledge workers was explained at my seminar. Then it was “diapers in a box” for knowledge workers.
Open your next e-mail. Decide what the successful outcome is that you need to do from the e-mail (if there is anything that you need to do). Then decide the very next physical action you need to take to reach your successful outcome.
And give yourself a crankable widget to work.