Be Comfortable Not Doing What You’re Not Doing.

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Last week I received an email from a student in my Learning Centre saying he now felt guilty playing videos games — a hobby he loved to do. Despite becoming much better organised and more productive, every time he sat down to play video games he felt he was wasting valuable time.

Becoming better organised and more productive is not about doing work all the time. Becoming better organised and more productive is about freeing up time so you can do the things you love doing. Whether that is playing video games, watching your favourite TV show or taking a walk in the countryside.

One of the inevitabilities of life is our to-do lists will never completely zero out. There will always be something to do. Washing the dishes, cleaning the house, doing expenses, preparing our kids’ sports kit. While not all our tasks will be work-related, there will always be something we should be doing.

If we accept our to-do lists will never be completely empty, and that it is impossible to be doing stuff 24/7, then we need to get relaxed about not doing work when there is work to be done. One of my favourite quotes from David Allen is “defining what you are not doing is as important as knowing what you are doing”and that is where you need to get comfortable. Knowing there is work to be done and being comfortable not doing it right now.

The key to creating a stress-free life and being productive is to be fully aware of what needs doing and making the conscious decision not to do that work at this moment. Instead, if you prefer to relax on the sofa and watch an episode of Mock The Week or Would I Lie To You ( two of my favourite TV shows) then do so.

Of course, if you have a project deadline at 8 am tomorrow and you have not finished whatever work is required to complete the project, sitting down on the sofa playing video games or watching TV might not be the best way to spend your time. The project needs completing and that is where you would best be applying your time.

This is where getting all the stuff that needs doing into a system helps to keep stress down. Because you know what needs doing you can make better decisions about what you should be doing right now. When you know what you are not doing and knowing you have everything under control and time to do the work that needs doing you no longer feel the stress and overwhelm from not knowing what needs doing. ( I do hope that makes sense)

And that is where the stress comes from. If you have a pile of stuff you are not sure what needs doing with, your brain is going to be constantly telling you to do something about it. It’s what in GTD speak is called “open loops” — unclear stuff to do with unclear deadlines and unclear next actions. The fear of missing something important becomes overwhelming and so if you do try to sit down for an hour or two to play video games or watch TV you will have this nagging voice in your head telling you you should be doing something else. The problem is you don’t know what. And so you have this vicious cycle going on inside your head and that is where your stress (and guilt) comes from. It’s a fear of the unknown and thinking you should be doing something else instead of what you are doing right now.

When you have everything processed and put in its rightful place, you no longer have that worry. You know what you are not doing and are comfortable with the decisions you have made about what you are doing right now. You can play video games or play with your kids knowing everything is under control and you will have enough time to complete all your upcoming projects. That’s the wonderful thing about becoming better organised and more productive. No stress, no overwhelm and enough time to do the things you enjoy doing.

If you feel stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, then I have a FREE course that will help you get control of your stuff. It will give you a framework to collect your ‘open loops’ and organise them in a system you create for yourself so you have control and you know what you have to do and you know when you can relax and do the things you love doing.

You can get yourself enrolled right here.


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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.