I try to avoid being overwhelmed simply by avoiding tasks. Ever invited me to something? I got all cringy and didn’t want to talk about going to it, right? Yeah – I avoid tasks. It’s not a social anxiety thing, it’s a “I have way too much stuff asking for my time to sign up for yet another party/event/whatever” thing.
This should only be one tool in your toolbox. At some point you have to reckon with the responsibilities you do accept.
In the last few years, I’ve gotten better. I embraced the idea of putting thoughts into a calendar and task manager and working off those instead of trying to work off whats in my head.
Accepting that brains are bad at remembering things was easy. I think more clearly when I’m not trying to remember things.
A lot of these ideas I got from blog posts online and two names popped up a lot: David Allen and Merlin Mann. I never totally followed either of them, but the trend was obvious. One day I was in a used bookstore and saw a copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen, so I snagged it.
And never read it. D’oh.
I never learned the remaining tools I needed to make use of all these lists and calendar appointments with best efficiency. I even complained about this on a post, To-Do Debt.
My colleague Bryan read the post, empathized with me, and wrote a follow-up on his blog: Battling To Do Debt.
He had some great advice, and also mentioned reading GTD, so it went on the reading list instead of just my bookshelf. I finally did it!
The book did commit one of my pet peeves: it spends several paragraphs of its opening chapters making promises about what I’ll learn by reading on. Snore. I already own the book, get to the point.
What follows after that is a document you immediately want to read again, as you follow its advice. It’s odd because once you’re about halfway through, every time you pick up the book you ask yourself, “should I read more or spend some time doing what I’ve already learned from it?” The only answer I have is “plan to read it more than once.” Then it doesn’t matter how many times you put it down to get stuff done.
Thankfully I had already done some of the hard work. I’m not in overwhelm mode and my mind is mostly dumped. But there’s more efficiency to be had,for sure.
For the Olympic weightlifter, the title is won with efficiency not just strength. The same is true for work. Efficiency with your tools and planning can push you much further than just worker harder for more hours.
The biggest new habits GTD has convinced me of is to focus on Next Steps and to hold Weekly Reviews. My biggest pitfall that lead to “to do debt” (as I called it) was trying to use my to-do list as a habit changer. Really I should use thought-out next steps as the habit changer and not be scared to leave some things on a Someday/Maybe list. So long as a I have my Weekly Review, the Somedays will be seen and maybe allowed to be a project with a Next Step.
I even convinced Ber to do a portion of my Weekly Review with me to make sure we’re on the same wavelength.
So I guess what I’m saying is: it’s a good book if you’re ready to work.
Getting Things Done by David Allen, part of my 2016 Reading