This article first appeared on my Medium blog
One of the wonderful things about implementing Getting Things Done, is you stop feeling the stress of every day life. Because you are fully aware of what you are doing and what you are not doing, when things are due and what is coming at you in the near and distant future, everyday stress just melts away. I think it is this, more than anything else that makes GTD a game changer in the modern world.
I write about this because recently the Korean version of Getting Things Done book was launched. I immediately put the book on my recommended reading list for all my students and dedicated an hour with each of my clients extolling the virtues of the GTD lifestyle. Yet almost one month after sending out the recommendation only a few my of students / clients have gone out and bought the book. The excuse? “I’m a bit busy at the moment.”
On deeper investigation, it seems many of my clients enjoy being in a state of perpetual stress. Worrying about what they have to do, by when and how and having no idea what is coming up in the near or distant future. There is a fear that if they read the book, they will come face to face with the very things they have been avoiding for so many years. All those little things around the house that need fixing, all the relationships that need a poke to get moving forward and all those little, but important projects, they have promised they would do for and with their families.
The reality is you cannot avoid these things. If you don’t capture them and decide what you want to do about them, they will just buzz around inside your head reminding you you need to do something about them at the most inappropriate times. It’s not a very healthy way to go about your life and the unnecessary stress these thoughts and todos create is just not healthy.
And that is the thing about GTD. It allows you to capture everything on your mind and to know exactly what is coming up in the near and distant future. It allows you to feel in control of your life, and that control allows you to focus on the things that really matter to you, your family and your life in general and it takes away the stress these un-captured thoughts, promises and commitments cause.
So if you are on the sidelines about GTD, or if you are fearful of finding some unpleasant task you had conveniently forgotten about and are not sure about whether you should join in the fun, let me explain what GTD can do for you on a more mental level.
When you implement GTD, you collect all the things that are in your head in to one collection bucket. That could be a digital inbox or a physical inbox, it really doesn’t matter. Once you have collected everything on your mind, you process that inbox by making a quick decision about what that ‘thing’ is and then make a decision about what you want to do with it / need to do with it. If it can be done in 2 minutes or less, you do it straight away. If it needs more time, you decide what you need to do it (computer, spouse, phone etc) and add it to the appropriate list. Of course there is a lot more to GTD than this, but to put it as succinctly and clearly as possible, that is the essence of GTD.
However, what overviews like this do not show, is the mental benefits of GTD. You see, by getting all this out of your head and on to a list you trust, you very quickly begin to feel less stress. After all, you can now see everything you have to do. You now know what you have to do, and will have a pretty good idea of when it needs to be done. You are now able to make decisions based on what is important by time and by what is important to you. That in itself removes a lot of the stress most people feel every day.
Once you have that clarity, the clarity of knowing exactly what you have to do and by when, you also have the clarity of knowing what you do not have to do and you can then allow yourself to relax, knowing you have everything under control. I see so many people spending their weekends worrying about things they can’t remember about what they have to do and by when. If you have things like this flying around in your head, how can you possibly relax and enjoy the moment with your kids? You are constantly trying to remember all these things you cannot remember. Trust me, your brain is not very good at things like that it tends to exaggerate the importance of these unremembered things and that just makes you feel even more stressed.
So, aside from getting all your stuff in to a well organised system, GTD does so much more than that. It reduces a huge amount of stress because the principles allow you to gain control in your life, and that means in both your work life and your personal life. It means there are no nasty surprises blindsiding you on a Tuesday afternoon, and it means you leave work at the end of the day, knowing all the important things have been done. That’s why I highly recommend you read GTD. Not just for your future, but for your health’s sake and for the sake of your family and friends. A GTD mind means you are actually enjoying the moment you are in, because all the other stuff in your life is in control and on a list you trust you will get to in the near future.
You do not have to live a life of perpetual stress. You can live a life of little to no stress. A life where you are in control of what you do, when you do it and how you do it. You can enjoy the comfort of knowing what is due, what is coming up and being able to see the future with much more clarity and optimism than you do at the moment. All it takes is to read a book, implement the principles in the book and just get on and enjoy the ride. I can promise you it is a fantastic feeling, and one well worth the time and effort to do the reading and implementing.