Wednesday, December 01, 2010

How to get things done: Stop getting things done!


One piece of advice about setting up a system to get things done (GTD) more efficiently: be prepared to experience a combination of ‘adrenaline from *doing* stuff’ and ‘feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you have to do’. I’ve experienced this twice now: the first time I set up my GTD system, and just last month (when I radically simplified it).

Both times, I was left feeling stressed by the amount of stuff I’d taken on.

Which reveals one of the secrets to this whole GTD system: be careful about what you take on and decide to do. Taking an inventory of all of your commitments will reveal exactly how much stuff you feel obligated to finish and achieve.

Last year I read a book called Margin, which described the feeling of free time in your life as the white margin around the pages of a book. The more stuff you pack into your life, the less margin you have, the less freedom to relax, unwind, contemplate.

If you want margin, you’ve got to push back against obligations:

+ push some of them into your ‘Someday/Maybe’ list rather than doing them right now
+ drop some of them (or renegotiate to do them later)
+ take a break from using this system; just vege out for a day or two.

My mind, at least, is not designed to be productive all the time. It needs ebbs and flows. Being aware that sometimes you don’t need to get things done is key to this.

In that spirit, I was originally going to end this series of posts with an offer to help people who are interested in this stuff set up their own GTD systems. Instead, if you’re interested in this stuff, let me know and we can discuss it sometime.

In the meantime, ‘How to Get Things Done’ is available from the library (and from me); you can also read the Simple Dollar’s review of How to Get Things Done.

4 comments:

Karen said...

Def interested... and have seen some stuff I will use when I have some breathing space... but I also ebb and flow in my enthusiasms (and on bad days, even just the basics can make me feel overcommitted)

Steve Hickey said...

Cool. We can talk soon, but let me know how the 'applying some stuff' goes.

(And I hear you about the bad days!)

Karen said...

Started listing everything at work today... 1 1/2 pages and growing :-) Used a table with extra columns for when each task needs to be done (or how often if it is recurring) and for approx task size. It is less scary when I see it all... partly because I suddenly realised that there really are a lot of bits to my job and my priorities and expectations for myself may not be sane and reasonable... Next step... Repeat for family and self and start writing things down when I think of them... especially if they are niggling at me! But for now... collecting my kids seems like a plan!

Steve Hickey said...

Two suggestions: you can use your calendar for things that HAVW to be done at a certain time on a certain day. For tasks that are recurring, I find it easiest to just re-enter the task at the end of my to-do list once I've done it.