We all want to get our lives in order. At one time or the other we would have had this thought. Some go beyond the thought, and put things into practice. They try to structure their time & subsequently their life. And, given the distractions and information overload we experience everyday it’s become a necessity to manage our time or risk ending up accomplishing nothing. Even if we know to which port we are sailing to, there are too strong winds to deter us from that path unless we have a strong system to guide us. Having a system to manage our time actually helps us in knowing what all commitments we have and gives us a clarity to determine what we can take on additionally. My such choice of system has been GTD. From time to time I’ve questioned this choice but ’ve always felt it to be the most logical way of time management, so, over the years, I’ve invested time and energy into developing the right system for me and painstakingly refined it. But, I still fail. I still don’t do what I’m supposed to do. I procrastinate. I laze around. Why? Did I not do things right? Wasn’t the system supposed to make my life more manageable? Then why didn’t it? Every GTDer knows even the best of the best fall off the GTD wagon at one time or the other. I examined why. The reasons fell into two categories:
- Nature of the task
- System inefficiencies
Nature of the task:
All of us have something or the other in life we don’t want to deal with; some area in life we want to ignore but that needs our attention. When we write & put all these incomplete & ugly (that’s how we perceive them) things in our life into a system, we can no more escape it. It’s always there in our system and we know it. We cannot ignore it anymore. The system becomes a constant reminder of this stuff and compels us to deal with it every time we do a weekly review. So slowly we start dreading the system and one day we’ll end up at a place where we simply don’t want to do anything with it. I realised I’ve come to that kind of a place.
- When we have in it projects & tasks that have no deadline attached to them; that we can happily postpone to the last possible date until they become urgent & important. And, it is our nature to do work only when they are urgent.
- We clog the system with non-actionable items or reference material so much so we don’t know what needs action and what doesn’t.
- Moving from one app to the another looking for ‘the one app’ that’ll solve all our problems.
- We forgot what’s in the system – it has no relevance anymore.
- Too many inboxes – we have stuff piled up in too many places and we don’t know how to tame them.
What to do then?
- A friend used to say “If there is crap in your life, you have to deal with it, it’s not going to disappear just because you neglect it. So, pull up your socks and deal with it.” Identify why we are not able to deal with it. Try to find a solution. If you think you need help, get it. If you think you need more training, get it. If you think you can delegate it, delegate it. Identify your limitation and try to overcome it.
- Change your attitude. Eat that frog. Renew your commitment. Remember why you had this system in the first step. Push yourself to get things done. GTD is just a system. It does not do work for us. The responsibility to get them done is still ours. Unless we intentionally commit to getting things moving, we’ll not accomplish anything.
- Have separate systems in place to hold different data in different places. Non-actionable items/ reference items need to have their own system in place. Evernote is the best place for digital items. Similarly a separate file cabin or a rack to hold reference material is important. You can have however have tasks in your system reminding you to check these reference systems as and when required.
- Underlying the behaviour of moving from one app to another is the wishful thinking of “this app’ll get work done for me”. It’s just an excuse to postpone doing things. So, quickly zero-in on an application or material you want to us and stick with it until you outgrow it or you see a genuine need to change.
- Do the weekly review religiously. It not only helps in identifying what we can do over the next few days but also reminds us of all the unfinished stuff you have in life. Without a weekly review it is easy to forget what we need to do.
- What does David Allen have to say about collection buckets – inboxes? ‘Have as many as you need, but as few as possible’. When we have too many places to collect our thoughts, it becomes very difficult to know if you’ve already collected it or not and reviewing all those inbkxes itself becomes another chore. Look for ways to avoid friction. Use few places/apps you know you’ll review to collect your thoughts.