This is a guest post by Ian McKenzie of Ian’s Messy Desk

David Allen says, regardless of task size, the human brain goes through what he calls a Natural Planning Model. These are five phases our brain works through when accomplishing tasks. He goes on to say that we should use this natural model when planning projects.

The five phases:

  1. Defining purpose and principles – Here’s where we ask “Why?” Answering this question defines the successful outcome, sets the boundaries, as well as focusing and motivating towards completion. You need to know where you’re going before you can plot the course.
  2. Outcome visioning – Allen says, if you can’t visualize the end result you will have trouble figuring out how to do it. He suggests going beyond mere completion and visualizing what “wildly successful” would look like.
  3. Brainstorming – Brainstorming generates the ideas for moving the project to completion. Allen recommends getting the ideas out of the head and onto paper. Writing serves to clear the mind enabling other ideas to come through. Writing also helps keep the focus on the project at hand.
  4. Organizing – Now that those ideas are out of your head and onto paper, start moving them around. Figure out which are the important pieces and sort by components, sequences and priorities.
  5. Identifying next actions – Of course, no GTD planning would be complete until Next Actions have been identified. What is the immediate action required to move the project forward on every front.

David Allen says this about the five phases, “Worked together, they create a whole model of how we get things done most effectively, with the least amount of effort. If any one of the five steps is done insufficiently, however, effectiveness can be severely limited.” David likes to quote this 18th-century inscription from a church in Sussex, England:

A vision without a task is but a dream,
a task without a vision is drudgery,
a vision and a task is the hope of the world.

Ian McKenzie blogs about Productivity and Personal Development at . By day, Ian is a mild mannered Human Resources Director with a large international non-profit agency.