Addressing Anxiety

DA-SmallWhen you travel home from work, do you ever feel a small sense of anxiety coming along for the trip?  With input coming fast and furious throughout the day, it is a challenge to process everything during our 9-5 day.  It is tempting to let it all pile up and resolve to handle it tomorrow.  However, when a part of your mind lingers on unprocessed work, it can be a source of deep unease at home.

In a recent blog post, David Allen shares that even a black belt GTDers like himself is not immune from this source of stress.

“I still have to work with myself to ensure I’ve captured, decided, and tracked all the commitments and creativity that happen with phone calls, meetings, social interactions, and even random communications in passing. I do know that this is one of the sources of much of the free-floating anxiety many professionals experience relative to the gnawing sense of overwhelm that is so pervasive. It seems that there is an unconscious part of us that hangs onto all of those incomplete creations. It is a part that will not let go until it can trust those agreements have been kept or re-negotiated with ourselves.”

Learn how David resolves this tension in his own life at the Getting Things Done blog.


GTD + BASB = Better Person

Personal productivity and knowledge management are related skill sets required for most of us to perform our best at work.  While they are both mostly thought of as functional efficiency tools, did you know their practice can also build virtue?

forteTiago Forte of Forte Labs recently shared his thoughts on how productivity and knowledge management skills can increase our own potential to do good in the world.  By committing to Getting Things Done (GTD) and his own Build a Second Brain (BASB) course, Tiago believes that we will become not only more efficient, but also a better person as a result.  He explains how we start the journey this way:

“Often, when we embark on this journey – learning digital fluency, task management (GTD), personal knowledge management (BASB) and beyond – our motivation is primarily one of utility. We want to stop procrastinating, to get more things done, to excel at our work, and have a vibrant, flourishing career. GTD and BASB will absolutely help you meet those goals.

While on this journey, however, we start to realize that GTD and BASB can serve another purpose: sheer pleasure.”

Learn how this eventually leads to mastering higher virtues by reading the rest of the article at Forte Labs.

There is Always Too Much to Do

Have you ever felt overwhelmed?  You know that feeling that there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them in?  This is especially true if you are an “ideas” person whose mind constantly generates new thoughts and insights that eventual lead to a string of projects.  How are we supposed to handle this overwhelm and stay sane?

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The first step is to understand that there is always more to do than time allows.  If you follow GTD practice, the generation of action lists and a robust project list will quickly demonstrate this fact.  Accepting that some things will never be done is a part of good mental health.  The trick becomes deciding what is essential to complete in terms of your larger mission and purpose.  Spending a lot of time completing small tasks with little payoff becomes exhausting.  It is far better to complete fewer tasks well that lead to bigger payoffs.

I was once asked this question in an Efficient Librarian workshop: “How often do you empty your action folder?”

I replied that as a functional folder the point wasn’t to empty it regularly like the inbox, but instead to corral actionable items together into one place.  In fact, in the last four years my work email action folder has only been completely empty once.  Since I am very active at work, it may never be empty again until I retire!

So, relax and remember that there will always be more to do than can be done.  The question you have to consider is what is the most important thing to do in the time you have.  That answer will lead you productively and efficiently forward.

Making Meetings Meaningful

It is common for people to dread meetings.  However, the game of knowledge work is played out not only at your desk but in the many different conversations we have with our colleagues, clients, and collaborators.  In that light, a meeting is simply a conversation that is scheduled for a specific time and place.  While important to getting work done, meetings can also be a source of confusion and conflict if not done effectively.  So, are there best practices to having better meetings?

gtdcoverIn a recent blog post, David Allen shares his insights about meetings and it starts from the top of the Natural Planning Model, that is defining purpose.

“An essential question to answer at the start of any meeting is, “What do we want to accomplish here, and by what time?” If purpose isn’t clear, no one has sufficient criteria by which to frame and monitor the ensuing conversation, nor the information to know whether he or she should participate in it. So, step one, make sure the purpose of each meeting is clear.”

Read the rest of the blog post at Getting Things Done.

The Strategic Value of Clear Space

DA-SmallAt the end of an Efficient Librarian training seminar or webinar, I like to close with a phrase from David Allen that has stuck with me for a long time.  To my mind this phrase encapsulates the power inherent in the GTD mindset.  The phrase is “The Strategic Value of Clear Space.”

In a recent blog post on the Getting Things Done web site, David Allen expands on “The Strategic Value of Clear Space” at length.  Here is a key takeaway:

“To tackle something most productively you must begin in clear space. Physically you need all your tools in order and an open space for spreading your raw elements and assembling structures. Psychically you need an empty head, clear of distractions and unfinished business holding your attention hostage. From this starting point you will have your best chances for creative thinking, optimal ability to deal with surprise, maximum flexibility to come up with workarounds and innovative solutions. You’ll be able to take advantage of serendipitous, potentially valuable ideas.”

Read the rest at the Getting Things Done web site.

Email and Your Job

davidallenIt seems like every year the email beast gets larger and hungrier.   According to the the web site Templafy, the average person receives 121 emails a day.  This sheer volume of electronic correspondence lead to a fascinating question that was posted to the Getting Things Done web site:  At what point did answering e-mail become my job? 

The answer from David Allen is very insightful:

“Well, at what point did answering anything—your mail, having conversations in your hallway—become your job? It’s all your job. You just have to decide what your work is. As the late, great Peter Drucker said, that’s your biggest job, to define what your work is.”

Read the rest of his response on the Getting Things Done web site.

The Weekly Review

Quick question: According to David Allen, what is the “critical success factor” in making your GTD practice stick?

Answer: The Weekly Review

In our fast moving times, it is very important to step away from the daily grind to get perspective on your work, goals, and mission.  The Weekly Review is that opportunity. The Review is typically done on the last day of the gtd-logowork week in order to reflect on your calendar, tie up loose ends, and make sure the everything that has your attention is captured for processing.  I know from my own personal experience that whenever I miss a Weekly Review, there is a feeling of incompleteness.  The Weekly Review is an excellent way to move into a stress free weekend.

Check out this free podcast and guide available on the GTD web site.