How you too can reach financial independence with GTD®

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In 2007 I discovered Getting Things Done® (GTD®) and David Allen. I had just been promoted to Deputy CEO of one of the biggest conglomerates in Mauritius. I had my work cut out for me with their investments in financial services, banking, insurance, asset management, car dealership, consumer finance, retail, tourism and leisure, healthcare etc. and an asset base of close to USD 500 million at that time. In 2010, I became CEO of the Financial Services division, which fueled the growth of the asset base to USD 1 billion by 2014.

At that time, I realised that I would need a system to manage my time, resources, collaborators, and the challenges that I was about to take on. The group had about 3,500 employees with about twenty operating subsidiaries.

I read more than a dozen productivity books, investigated methodologies like the Pomodoro Technique, Eat that Frog, Lean, Six Sigma, and others before I finally opted to go with GTD. I do not regret this decision. In hindsight, I have now come to realise that GTD provided me with tools that enabled me to reach financial freedom.

For me, financial freedom and independence means being in control of my finance rather than being controlled by it. It is about being prepared and making life decisions without overly stressing about the financial impact.

This article is not about how I did it. That I reserve for another article or for one-to-one mentoring. This article is about what I did. It is about the GTD concepts that have helped me reach my goals sooner. Here are a few of the most valuable ones.

1: The Horizons Of Focus – The Six Level Model For Clarifying Priorities.
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Using the 6 Horizons of Focus, I clarified my real priorities and where I needed to direct my attention. I found that my true areas of focus and accountabilities were not what I had thought they were. Instead, I allowed myself to be guided by the higher-level horizons. These drove the priorities that in turn drove the choices I made. I began making decisions from a place of clarity.

“GTD is not about giving your life a purpose. It is about discovering your life’s purpose.”

Arif & Ali Vakil
(GTD Master Trainers)

With my priorities clarified and aligned with my Purpose and Principles, the Vision of what I wanted to be and achieve became much easier and clearer. I therefore set out to achieve my Goals which included being financially independent to retire by the time I was 45.

This model was helpful as it provided me with an intuitive way of identifying and clarifying what should be important to me. I spent quite some time on deep introspection and it paid off.

2: The 5 Steps Of Mastering Workflow
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Once my priorities were clearer, I used the Five Discrete Stages for managing commitments or "open loops" to remain focused on my goals. GTD defines an “open loop” as anything that has one’s attention. The objective is to reach the Zen like state of “mind like water”. This is the state when you are appropriately engaged with what has your attention, moment to moment.

David Allen’s saying “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them” is well known even amongst non GTD practitioners.

I used the Capture, Clarify, Organise, Reflect and Engage steps on whatever had my attention, be it a memo, a report, an email, an action, a project, a client or staff issue or any “stuff” that came my way. Whilst the Horizons of Focus gave me “Perspective”, the 5 Steps of Mastering Workflow gave me control over anything life and work threw at me.

This system allowed me to remain focused and trust that I was making the right decision to engage, moment to moment, with whatever was on my plate. Getting Things Done, after all, is not about managing time but about managing attention. There is indeed “magic in being in the present of your life”.

3: Defining Work - The Third Type Of Work
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Most people know only two types of work, predefined work and unplanned work. GTD introduced me to the third type of work: defining work.

Without the understanding of this type of work and the ability to renegotiate commitments, pressure caused by unplanned "stuff" would have been intolerable.

“You can only feel good about what you are doing when you know what you are not doing”
says David Allen.

Through the complete inventory of my projects, next action lists, and the weekly review that GTD introduced me to, I always kept stress in check. Things were addressed when they showed up, and not when they blew up.

Finally, the Productive Experience was a way of life as opposed to an objective. I increased the number of hours I spent on “Defining Work” and began using my goals to make appropriate choices in the present moment. It became easier to trust my judgement about what to do, what to stop doing and what to do instead.

I began advancing effortlessly towards my objectives, not just the financial ones, but the emotional, family, health and spiritual ones too.

If you want to read more about the Three Fold Nature of Work directly from David Allen, click here.

4: There Are No Problems, Only Projects
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Life happens and there is no doubt that problems and challenging issues do crop up, often when we least expect it. I probably faced more challenges after 2007 than I faced throughout my life before then. What changed was the way I addressed the issues with the mindset that GTD helped instill in me. Through reframing of problems into projects, I forever dropped the victim mentality that I had often carried with me. I had now come to realise that I always had choices.

Getting Things Done did not give me solutions to my problems. However, it did put me in the driver’s seat to find my own solutions. It helped me realise that I did not need to change my world but rather how I engaged with it.

I embraced the Natural Planning Model developed by David Allen and turned each coming challenge into a project. I defined the desired outcome using project verbs, brainstormed the solutions, organised them, captured these in my project list and focused on the very next physical action required to keep my projects moving ahead. Like magic, things started to happen. After all, the Universe (in my case, God, the Infinitely Loving & Generous) is known to give you what you want. You just have to know what you want and take action.

If you want to get a copy of my Natural Planning Model Template, just drop me an email at staher@sakeenahgroup.com. I will be happy to share one with you.

5: The Weekly Review To Get Creative
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Anyone who appreciates a productive annual company retreat will understand the need to take a break periodically and step back for a higher perspective. The Weekly Review gives the same feeling and results as those experienced during the annual retreat.

It enabled me to take a step back and review and update my system so that whenever I am making a choice about what to do I am comfortable with what I am not doing. Life normally comes faster at us than we can keep up, often with a curved ball. The Weekly Review enabled me to stay afloat and fine tune my system and sharpen my focus during the coming week or two. It enabled me to get creative and is probably the reason why I am known to be a solution driven professional.

Getting Things Done is not about creating plans to achieve fixed goals but about having the freedom to explore options. By getting Clear and Current on a weekly basis, the space and conditions for Creativity are set up for my mind to access and explore new ideas and directions.

If you want to get a copy of my checklist for the Weekly Review, send me an email at the above-mentioned address.

The Weekly Review is such a powerful step that I have adapted it to myself and now I have a regular monthly, quarterly, yearly and five-yearly review. Each with its own purpose. I strongly recommend that you too take the time to step back periodically, take a higher perspective, and reflect on each element of the Horizons of Focus.

Conclusion

As I mentioned in the introduction, this article is not about the how but about the what. How I achieved financial freedom is personal to me. We probably each have our own definition of personal financial independence; it depends on our ambition, our priorities, our own circumstances and our appetite for life. There are plenty of resources on the internet about this subject. If you are keen to explore some of the strategies of the Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE) movement, I recommend the article "The 9 Best FIRE Blogs You Should Read" from Forbes. I also strongly recommend that you read "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich" by Tim Ferriss for a different view of looking at your work and life relationship. Finally, for a step-by-step guide, read this article, "How do I achieve Financial Freedom".

For me, Getting Things Done® has been instrumental in helping me clarify my purpose, goals, projects and the daily actions that I needed to take to achieve whatever I had set my mind to. I believe that it would be selfish and a waste if I do not share what I have learned and practiced for all these years. This is the reason why I became a GTD trainer. Thanks to GTD, my employers benefitted along with me. Through its application, I believe we can improve the economic conditions of the community and society in general. This is my next goal and I am excited by this new journey I am embarking upon. If you want to find out more, email me, leave a comment below or send me a message via LinkedIn.


Swadeck Taher OSK is a Chartered Accountant (ICAEW) and a Chartered Marketer (CIM) running businesses and coaching, consulting, mentoring CEOs and entrepreneurs ranging from startups through family businesses to established top 100 companies in Mauritius. He enjoys sharing the expertise he developed over the last thirty years at senior leadership/directorship level with his clients, business partners and other budding entrepreneurs.

Swadeck is also a GTD Practitioner and a Certified GTD Trainer. He helps others experience what the Productive Experience feels like and how they too can savour stress free productivity.

Sakeenah Co Ltd is the only Certified International Partner of the David Allen Company in Mauritius.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.

Disclaimer: All images are copyright to their respective owners. If any of the images used in this article belongs to you and you wish these removed, please send me a message and I shall oblige.