Life

Simple five-step strategy can help teenagers get organised and feel less stressed

The successful five-step business technique should help teenagers get things done, writes Lisa Salmon

Author David Allen says Getting Things Done is a way of learning to become focused and engaged with the present

BEING a teenager was never easy but today's teens face unprecedented levels of pressure, facing both new stresses like social media and age-old problems like exam stress and puberty.

However, a new book aims to help teenagers by showing them how to use a simple yet successful business strategy to navigate the tsunami of distractions life throws at them and feel in control by being organised.

Getting Things Done for Teens outlines a common-sense way of identifying goals and projects and coping with the complexities of day-to-day life through a simple five-step system of written lists and mapping, plus instructions on how to clearly focus on achieving both small and large goals in an orderly fashion.

One of the book's authors, David Allen, says Getting Things Done, or GTD, is a way of learning to become focused and engaged with the present, being aware of what's next, and finding stability when things feel out of control.

"What can you do to take control of your life in a distracting world?" he asks. "These timeless productivity tips can be used to reduce stress, increase self-confidence, and get things done in school and life."

:: The five steps

Allen, who wrote this book with Mike Williams and Mark Wallace, after first writing the Getting Things Done work-life management system book, says the initial five steps of GTD can be done alone by a teenager, or together with a parent. All you need is paper, a pen and 15 minutes.

Step 1: Capture

At least once a day, write down on a piece of paper the stuff on your mind that has your attention. The authors call this a mindsweep. Set a timer for five minutes and see how much stuff you can capture.

Step 2: Clarify

The Clarify process takes one item on the paper at a time. Teenagers need to decide whether it's actionable, and if so, write down the very next action on an actions list. Complete this for every item captured on the mindsweep list.

"We also like to call this the transformer tool, as it transforms stuff into actionable or non-actionable items, " says Allen, who points out it may take about 10 minutes to clarify all your 'stuff'.

Step 3: Organise

Find a trusted place to store the action list you've just created. It can be a paper list or a digital list on your phone or computer.

Step 4: Reflect

Look at all the actions on your action list. Reflect for a moment and select an action that needs your attention. Circle it.

Step 5: Engage

Do that action. Repeat the process for the rest of your life.

"The Five Steps is a starting point for the GTD journey," says Allen.

:: Levels of Focus

After gaining control through the five steps, the authors say teenagers need to look at their six levels of focus, which are:

Purpose: Teenagers need to write down why they're here, and this can be changed repeatedly on a 'purpose map'.

Vision: This involves writing down on a 'vision map' what young people would like to see themselves doing if they were wildly successful in the coming years. This can include who the teen will be, who they'll be with, and what they'll be doing – basically, a map of their ideal future.

Goals: What do the purpose and vision maps inspire you to do this year? These should generally be larger aspirations with a more immediate time frame – for example, getting on to the school football team. These goals should be written down and checked off when they're achieved.

Areas of Focus: This is a list of the major parts of a teenager's life that continually need their attention. These areas can change over time, and will include things like family, school/college, and activities.

Projects and Actions: Projects may be well-defined, like 'English homework in on Friday', or something teenagers have to make happen, like 'get a summer job'. Write these down. Actions are then the physical, visible actions needed to get the projects done.

:: Planning Map

The final stage of the GTD process is the planning map, which aims to help teenagers work their way through any situation by outlining the natural steps the mind automatically goes through when someone wants to accomplish something.

These include defining the purpose, brainstorming, organising and identifying the next actions.

"The practice of gaining control of your life is simple and powerful," stresses Allen. "If you practise and master these simple steps, you'll know how to gain control, lose it, and gain control again. It will boost your self-confidence, reduce your stress, and increase your creativity.

"You don't have to take our word for it. The best way to understand is to give it a try – let experience be your teacher."

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