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Clarify Your Stuff

Clarifying the stuff you have captured is the second stage of the GTD workflow, and it is something you should do at least once a day (a couple of times a day if you have a lot of daily inputs).

Clarifying does not mean doing. It just means spending a couple of minutes on each item to establish what exactly it is, what is the next step (if any) to achieve the final result, when it is necessary to do it and what is needed for it.

Tasks are not obvious in the knowledge work, they must be defined. Clarify means to transform an abstract thing into something concrete and evident: an action, a project, a delegated task, useful information, a possibility, or garbage. Clarifying what we capture on a regular basis allows us to transform chaos into calm, freeing our mind from worries.

The best way to clarify is to dedicate a moment of the day to process all the captured stuff, one by one, in the order in which they were captured. So, when you are clarifying an item, the rest of the things do not interfere with your thinking. In addition, this way so you treat all the captured items equally, without subjectively prioritizing before being clear about what each thing really means.

To clear your inbox, click on the Clarify option in the main menu. The following screen will appear:

clarify section

The Process of Clarifying the Inbox

When clarifying, the first step is to answer the question what is it? What does that thing mean to you? What has to happen for it to become a resolved or completed issue? The answer must be clear and concrete, it can not give rise to different interpretations.

If it is a task, choose the appropriate verb to express the next step you should take. Assign the right context. If it is an event or an action that must be carried out on a specific date, click on the calendar icon on the left to assign the date (1).

assigning a date

Now, when you are picking a date, you can see what you currently have in the Calendar for that day (3), so that you can foresee possible conflicts. If it’s something you have to do periodically, you can create the corresponding routine (2).

The second question you need to ask yourself is: Is it actionable?

clarifying an action

If this is something that you should do as soon as possible, be sure to set the choice criteria that will allow you to choose the right next action to get done when you are in the Engage stage (expected time, energy level, and relative priority) .

If you have assigned a date, the action you have to do will go to the Calendar. If not, it will go to the Next Actions list. In both cases, if you have indicated a start date, the action will go to the Tickler File until that date arrives (use this option to hide actions that cannot be performed until a certain date).

Before clicking on the “I will do it” option, you should ask yourself if you will reach the final result when executing this action. If so, it is a simple action. If not, you will need more actions and, therefore, it is a project. In this case, you can create the project (click on the icon with the + sign on the right of the project field) and give it the name of the desired final result. The current action will be the first action of the project.

Don’t forget to associate your actions with a goal and/or area of responsibility. If an action does not fit with any of your focus areas, probably you should not do it.

delegating an action

If it is an action that has to be done by another person, indicate who is responsible for the task by writing a person context in the description of the task (or by picking a person context in the list of the most used ones) and delegate it using the “another one will do it” option. The action will go to the Waiting For list.

done in two minutes

If it’s something you can do in a couple of minutes (The Two-Minute Rule), you can just do it and set it as done. It will go to the Done list. 1

If no action is required, you have three options:

  • If it is something that you do not want to commit yet, but you would like to reconsider it in the future, click on I will clarify it later, and it will go to the Someday/Maybe list.
  • If it is information that could be useful, save it as Reference Material.
  • In any other case, you can delete it. It will go to the Trash.

You can complete the necessary information by writing notes, attaching files or links, and adding a list of checkpoints.

Adjusting the Final Decision

The final decision of the Clarify stage — where to put the item — overlaps with the Organize stage.

  • The possible options (defer, delegate, do, incubate, save and trash) are enabled or disabled depending on the information populated. For example, if you have indicated some choice criteria, then the delegate, incubate and save as reference material options get disabled because it is necessarily a next action.

disabled options

  • If it is a next action that belongs to a sequential project, you can choose to add it at the beginning or at the end of the project.

next action on a sequential project

  • If it is a next action that belongs to a Kanban-type project, you can choose to add it to the To-do column or to the Doing column.

next action on a kanban project

  • If it is a delegated action and you haven’t assigned the responsible person, the system will notify you.

delegated action with no responsible person assigned

Clarifying External Stuff

Once you have finished clarifying the FacileThigs Inbox, you have the possibility to clarify external stuff.

access to clarify external stuff

What does this mean? If you have post-its stuck on the computer screen, notes about a meeting in a notebook, or tasks captured in other applications, you can clarify them without having to previously capture them in FacileThings. When you click on that button you enter in Clarify mode, but this time with a blank template that you must fill in:

clarifying external stuff

Populate the new item and clarify it like any other. The editor will be cleaned every time so you can continue clarifying external items. When you do not have more stuff to clarify, just click on the “clarify completed” button on the bottom left.

1 Although David Allen speaks of “the 2 minute rule” in his book, it seems to us that executing something while clarifying contradicts the objective of the Clarify stage, in which you only should be thinking and deciding. We consider that executing something within this stage supposes an interruption of the process.

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