GTD Roadmap: Looking Above The Horizon

As stated previously, I had a chance to attend David Allen’s GTD Roadmap seminar when it came through town about 10 days ago. It was a fantastic and surprising experience. Part of the reason I say surprising is because it really changed the way that I view the power of the GTD system. Sure it is great for getting the daily grind of tasks and projects completed or what David referred to as the “Horizontal Map”. Time is certainly spent during the seminar covering those basics but what I took away from it was much larger than that. It was the time spent discussing the “Vertical Map” which took up the later half of the day. A vertical map is basically how these things all are part of and work towards your entire life’s roles, goals, objectives, principals and values.

This Vertical Map is broken into six “horizons of focus” that are broken out from the bottom up as follows:

  1. Runway – Actions: The next physical and/or visible actions to take on any project or outcome. these should include calendar items, next actions on your context lists, e-mails to take action on, items to review, etc. these are the things you should be engaging daily.
  2. 10,000 ft. – Projects: These are the projects and multi-step outcomes that can be finished in a year or less. These should be part of your weekly review and should be generating the things on the runway.
  3. 20,000 ft. – Areas of Focus: These should be the areas of focus in your life and areas of responsibility in your work. This can include a high level job description, personal lifestyle checklist, etc. This should be reviewed monthly to ensure that your projects are properly aligned with these roles.
  4. 30,000 ft. – Goals and Objectives: This can include any job or personal goals you have. Twelve to Eighteen month out items to be reviewed yearly.
  5. 40,000 ft. – Vision: These are long term three to five year goals. What would success look, sound or feel like that far down the road? How will you know it when you get there? Write it down and review this once a year to make sure you are on the right path.
  6. 50,000 ft. – Purpose and Principles: This should be the beginning of everything. What is the purpose of the life you wish to live? What are the driving principles and beliefs? This can take the form of your faith, personal mission statements, personal manifestos, etc.

In other words, your actions at a daily “runway” level should be directly and vertically tied to your principals and values at the “50,000 ft” level. To get a real sense of this, look at it from the bottom up. Once you can see and understand how a project like “Fixing up the house for move In” fits into the overall goals of life (In my case “Relationships: Bethany: Life Partner”). It will give you a new drive and focus on the importance of follow through on the ious associated action items in the project. How are the projects you perform at work fitting into your job description? If the project is not fitting into that description or role then is your role changing or is that project better delegated to someone else more appropriate?

There is real power in this. It really helps you focus and align your life along a path that gives each action meaning and context. This did not seem as well covered in the Getting Things Done book to me. Maybe it was and I did not really understand the connections. Bottom line is that this alone was well worth the price of admission and I have been working on this vertical map ever since.

If the GTD Roadmap seminar is coming in or around your town don’t miss it. If you are new to GTD than it will be very helpful but if you are already a GTD devotee than it very well could change the very way you view the system as it did for me.

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