1. Prune Your Inputs

  • Get a secretary/assistant to filter the things you want to see and limit the things you don’t want to see
  • Find a way to get less junk mail
  • Eliminate all unnecessary email subscriptions – can always look up online when needed
  • Stop smart-foldering your emails and websites – Don’t let smart folders make you stupid; if they don’t get to Inbox then they won’t get processed; (Remember: “Whenever means Never”)
  • Eliminate folders in your email program – get out of email and somewhere else for you to process. Treat email as Inbox – not as Reference.
  • Shred junk mail immediately without opening it
  • Enhance your spam and email filters to eliminate junk email – get really clever and smart about it
  • Cut down your print subscriptions – Which ones fit into your life goals? Keep them. – Which could you cut? Do what it takes to unsubscribe to them.
  • Get smart answering machine or phone that limits messages to people you know – filter out those you don’t know / don’t want
  • Whittle down the number of devices you use to collect ideas etc.

2. Prune Your Physical & Digital Space

  • Cull through bookshelves for books you haven’t used in over X years. Which could you dispense with? sell? give away?
  • Purge Reference file folders for dated materials, things you don’t need any more. Make room for more important stuff.
  • One Inbox – If more than one space has become “in”, eliminate these extra spaces and/or orient them to your main Inbox
  • Get extra file folders, labeling tape, paper, pens, and other supplies you may be running low on – check and stock up
  • Check for piles – Identify source of why that pile exists – and get it back to Inbox where it can be processed and defined and put into a better place
  • Identify things about your space that bother you, collect thoughts about this, and put these in your Inbox
  • Clean out digital media stuff – old CD’s, DVD’s, backups, cables, etc. you no longer need – clear more space for more important and newer stuff
  • Check for holes and caves – Are there spaces where things go, but never get reviewed? – Identify the problem, and come up with more accessible space for those items or better reminders for reviewing those spaces.
  • Purge digital Reference files & folders

3. Prune Your Calendar

  • Cull for past calendar events and actions that need to be brought forward.
  • Check notes, memos, and other things in margins of calendar to make sure nothing slips through the cracks – Send them all to inbox.
  • Cross out past events and completed items on your calendar – bring any remaining open loops forward on your calendar.
  • Take off any events or items you’ve put on your calendar you’re not really committed to. Stop treating your calendar as a someday-maybe list or tickler file. Only things you’re 100% committed to go onto your calendar.
  • Pull out any slips of paper, post-it notes, 3×5 cards, etc. associated with your calendar and throw them to Inbox.
  • Don’t let other people put things on your calendar. Cut off all flow to your calendar from other people that bypasses without your approval — You have to approve any items that go on your calendar from others.

4. Prune Your Actionable Inventories

  • Delegate any and every actionable someone else could do. Delegate more and more often.
  • Is it the right context to get done? If not, change the location context to a location context that will provide the best ambience for getting that thing done.
  • Are you visiting the location context frequently enough? If not, schedule more frequent visits to that location context so that items in that context are getting done.
  • Is there more than one thing on the page to do? If so, separate out into individual things to do and re-assign appropriate location contexts for each one. Employ the one-at-a-time principle throughout your paper-based and digital inventories of projects and actions so you can focus and get each one done.
  • Does the item need to be re-thought because circumstances related to it have changed? If so, re-adjust and re-calibrate action with original outcome vision in light of these new circumstances; or, re-adjust the outcome vision in light of these new circumstances and re-calibrate this action in accordance with that more newly articulated outcome.
  • Is the outcome vision specified with the next action for that item? If not, articulate the outcome vision for that item and write it with the next action. ‘Done’ would mean… what? Describe it in past tense.
  • Are you still emotionally invested in the outcome of that action? If not, either ‘activate’ the actionable by re-articulating the outcome it is related to so that you can be more emotionally invested, ‘eliminate’ the actionable by deciding it is no longer worth investing in, or ‘incubate’ the actionable for a time when you may become emotionally invested in the outcome again.
  • Do you have the tools necessary to complete the actionable? If not, schedule a time and actions to obtain the tools you need to get it done.
  • Is it a purchase that never gets purchased? If so, articulate the reason for the purchase above the next action or attach the actionable to the outcome of a project that purchase is related to. Or, is it not really a purchase but really a wishlist/someday-maybe purchase? Then put it on a someday-maybe purchase list in Reference/Checklists folder under its appropriate category and review this list (when necessary) with your weekly review.
  • Has the due date passed or the project related to the actionable already been completed, and this actionable is leftover? If so, the inertia of your original intention lingers and thus you need to re-‘activate’ the actionable by attaching the item to a new outcome or project, ‘eliminate’ the item because the outcome it was related to has already been achieved and it is no longer worth pursuing on its own; or ‘incubate’ the item by putting it on Someday-Maybe or further on in your Tickler file.
  • Is the item too “thick”? Is it a 30 page item that needs to get read, a document that needs to be written, a pile of things to enter into your computer, a brainstorming session? If so, the time and energy you mentally associate with completing the task may be too much such that you constantly postpone ever starting on it. If so, break it up into shorter action-steps (e.g. Read first 10 pages, write intro paragraph, enter first five things, brainstorm 10 things) so that you more easily step toward the actionable and whittle it down until it gets completely done.

5. Prune Your Project Inventories

  • Still emotionally invested in closing the loop? No? Eliminate, Rearticulate, Bounce Back to Sender, Connect/Remind Higher Outcome
  • Can you delegate to someone else? Delegate any and every project someone else could do. Delegate more and more often.
  • Can you postpone/tickle/someday-maybe the project until some future time?
  • Review every element of all of your projects – check for hidden items slipping through the cracks

6. Prune Your Reading Inventories

  • Define purpose for all reading if not already specified
  • Define estimated time to read
  • Break larger reading down into smaller next actions – e.g. read chapter 1 rather than read book
  • Estimate energy level required to read??
  • Make sure location context is accurate – most likely to read this in location X
  • Delete reading no longer of interest
  • Prioritize reading based upon level of significance to you
  • Connect lagging reading to higher outcomes – make sure you can see higher outcomes when looking at item to read
  • File finished reading important enough to keep with active projects, someday-maybe projects, or reference

7. Prune Your Waiting Fors

  • Mark off completed items

8. Prune Your Outputs (i.e. Things You Commit / Say “Yes” To)

  • Reassess your job responsibilities – which can be reneogiated / changed / let go? Shrink the number of responsibilities dumped on you and those you voluntarily take up.
  • Reassess your career / life / etc – would a career change reduce your outputs? get you more focused on things you want in life? More want tos and less have tos?
  • Which people in your life do you never say “No” to when they ask you to do something? Find a way to say no to these persons more often, get them out of your life, or to come around you less frequently?
  • Come up with value judgments for whether or not to respond to an email, a phone call, etc. If email or phone call does not fit with your higher outcomes or adds items to your plate that will take you away from them, either ignore email / phone call or say “No” to them. Find a way to automate some of this if you can for email – templates, premade emails, etc. – and for phone – pre-recorded messages you can file then send.
  • Ensure all actions and projects on your lists are attached in some way to your life goals / outcomes / higher levels. Review each project and action in light of them and strip out those that don’t fit. Either eliminate them, rearticulate them, bounce them back to sender, or connect them with higher outcomes. Have way of being able to know this when reviewing each item.