Our CORD model
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, you’re not alone. Realise that there are actually 4 distinct disciplines in knowledge work. At Think Productive, we have adapted some of the key principles from David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ into what we call the CORD workflow model:
CAPTURE & COLLECT – the gathering of all information, as it arises. This goes a long way to eliminating the stress created by fearing we’ll miss or forget things, as long as you know you will come back and process this information later.
ORGANISE – systematically analyzing what you’ve collected and making up-front decisions on what the final conclusion and next action will be for each piece of information, or of course, deciding things aren’t worth doing at all. The discipline of keeping action-orientated lists, where you have already defined the next action, the location and what the finish line looks like is one of the most underrated skills in knowledge work.
REGULAR REVIEW – regularly practicing two distinct forms of review: the ‘in the moment’ review of your ‘next action lists’, designed to make the decision about ‘what next?’ and ‘what adds the most value?’, and the ‘weekly review’, where you revisit your list of projects and make sure that you know the next action for each and every project you’re committed to and get a wider perspective on things.
DO – As Seth Godin calls it, ‘Shipping’. There’s nothing more satisfying in your quest to avoid information overload than clearing the decks with some good old fashioned action. But recognizing that there are three other phases we need to complete before a lot of the magic happens can make the ‘doing’ part so much more enjoyable.
Recognizing these four distinct phases on knowledge work can be a great help when we’re faced with information overload – where’s the ‘blockage’? Is it too much information coming in? Is it too much information remaining undefined, with no sense of the potential meaning? Is it because you need to take a step back and revisit priorities? If none of these three areas are blocked, you’re much more likely to start to experience ‘flow’ states.
Create the space by focusing on the bigger picture and once you’re confident you have this under control, you’ll probably find that you start to experience some quite profound states of flow. This is partly about using psychological techniques to help our ‘boss brain’ to manage our ‘worker brain’ and give our ‘worker self’ the permission to perform, rather than be subconsciously worrying about all the alternative actions we could be taking.
I work with organizations across all sectors to confront this very openly, helping to get email inboxes to zero, improve email and information etiquette, implementing the CORD model mentioned here with teams and helping to apply clarity and focus to meetings. Doing this openly helps create a culture where we can reclaim our time and attention, achieve a regular state of ‘flow’, control our information rather than letting it control us and ultimately create more value and meaning on our quest to make the world that little bit better.