Getting Things Done

Become More Productive with Less Stress

I recently read David Allen's book, Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. It gave me some interesting insights into the productive mind. First, he says, we have a hard time being productive because we have too many things on our minds.

Right now you probably have a half dozen things to do around the house, at work, with the family or for your community that you have swirling around in your head. One of these things may have awakened you or caused a sleepless night. And this is the problem: it's all in your head which can lead to a sense of overwhelm.

Too Many Things "On Your Mind"

Allen says the reason you haven't gotten it off your mind and into action is because you haven't:

  • defined a specific outcome
  • decided on the next step in the process
  • gotten it out of your head into a reminder system that you trust

First Step: Get It Out Of Your Mind

If Allen gets an idea, he immediately writes it on a sheet of paper and puts it in his "in" basket which he later processes into his reminder system.

I do something similar. At night before I go to bed if I have too many things on my mind, I write them all down on a Post-it note before I go to bed. That way, my conscious mind doesn't have to worry about them all night, but my unconscious can work on them.

I use Post-its. He uses 8X11 sheets of paper. Some people I know use voice recorders. Whatever you use...

Get it out of your mind

Some of the items that come out of your mind will be simple, but others will be more complex. Every more complex project has a desired outcome.

Step Two: What's Your Outcome?

If you don't know why you want to do something, you'll rarely summon the motivation to do it. From the NLP model of well formed outcomes, you simply ask yourself:

  1. What do I want, specifically? (It's not enough to say I want to be rich; the question is how rich? One million, ten million?)
  2. How will I know when I have it? What's the evidence? What will I see, hear, smell, taste or touch that let's me know I have it?
  3. Where, when and with whom do I want it?
  4. What are consequences of not getting it? What are the consequences of getting it?
  5. Is it within my control or do I need help?
  6. Do I have everything I need to achieve this goal? If not, what do I need to learn, do, get, be or develop to allow me to achieve the goal? (Surprisingly, this may be your first action step.)
  7. Would I be willing to accept it if I could get it now?

Think about some project in your life.

What's your outcome?

Step Three: What's The Next Action Step?

Simple things may only have one step (take out the trash), but projects will have many steps. Another NLP strategy is called "chunking". If you identify the next action step, you've effectively started to chunk your project into doable steps.

A friend of mine needed to write a new keynote speech filled with fresh insights, but he was stumped about where to begin. I suggested he contact a research librarian at the Denver Library to help him find the latest and greatest information. Research librarians love to look stuff up, but he doesn't. He loves to speak, but they probably don't. So contacting a research librarian became his next action step.

Think about some project in your life that you've been procrastinating to get started.

What's your next action step?

Step Four: Review Your Projects and Actions Weekly?

If you review and update your projects and actions weekly, you'll be surprised how much you get done. While most time management systems are about assigning priorities (A, B, C), Allen's strategy is about getting it out of your mind onto paper and letting your unconscious figure out what is the best thing to work on right now.

I don't know about you, but I find that I work better when I'm passionate about the subject. Some days I have no enthusiasm for my A projects, but I'm wild about a B or a C. If I work on the B or C to completion, it makes me feel good. And I often find that the passion for the A project comes a few days later after I've found an idea or article that makes me think more deeply about the subject.

If I tried to work on the A project before I got the new information, I would have missed both opportunities: the passion for the B and the insights for the A.

This requires a certain level of trust in yourself and your unconscious mind. But that's the art of stress-free productivity. I call it "effortless achievement" because when I'm working on something passionately, time passes and the work energizes me.

Isn't it time to start getting things done by getting them off your conscious mind and turning them over to your unconscious mind?

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