Be Comfortable Not Doing What You’re Not Doing.

2019-03-12-Blog Post.jpg

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.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story


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.

How Being Organised Improves Your Creativity

2017-10-17-Blog post.jpg

One of the problems with being a disorganised mess doing unfocused busy-work all day every day, is you lose the ability to be creative. When you fill your brain with todos and reminders, there is no space for your brain to relax and think and develop ideas you may have to improve your life or your work. 

As David Allen says, “your brain is a crap office” and by that he means your brain is useless at remembering to do the right things at the right time. That is why your brain reminds you to buy milk, not when you are at the supermarket, but when you open your refrigerator at 7 AM and find you have no milk. It is why you remember to call your colleague in Frankfurt not when she is in the office, but when she has gone home for the day. If you rely on your brain to remind you to do things at the right time, you are going to find you are not performing at your optimum best and you will add unnecessary stress to your life as your brain is continuously reminding you to do things when you cannot do them. 

This is why it is so important to get your commitments, todos and ideas out of your head and into a trusted place. By trusted place I mean somewhere you regularly look at and review. It could be a simple note taking application on your phone or laptop, or it could be a little notebook you carry with you everywhere you go. It really does not matter where you put them, what matters is you do not keep them in your head, or on a random scrap of paper you will lose. 

I discovered this a long time ago. In my early working life, I always thought I was organised. The truth is I was not. Sure, my diary was well organised and looked beautiful, but I was not in the habit of collecting my commitments, only my appointments. In my early working life, I worked in car sales. We regularly had a morning sales meeting where our sales manager would tell us which customers to follow up, which ones to arrange delivery for and what housekeeping needed doing that day. In those days I confidently thought I could remember all these things and never wrote them down. What I found was that when the day began for real, with customers coming in and out of our showroom, all those little tasks my sales manager gave me at 8:30 AM were forgotten by 11:30 AM. My sales manager regularly asked me after lunch if I had done this, or done that, and that reminded me of the things I had forgotten to do. By 5 PM, only around 20% of what I had been asked to do was done and I spent the last hour of the day as a stressed out mess trying to remember to do the things my sales manager had asked me to do in the morning sales meeting without having to ask him to remind me, and incurring his wrath.

It was after a few months in this job that one day the general manager, one of the most organised and stress-free people I have ever met, showed me his diary. It was a beautiful leather bound A4 diary with a week to view and at the bottom of every day, there was a space to put the things you had to do. He told me where to buy one of these diaries and on my next day off, I drove the forty-five miles to buy one. That diary changed my life. I soon got into the habit of writing everything down and from that day, I found I very rarely get stressed. That one moment led to my obsession with productivity and I quickly progressed on to a Franklin Planner. After that, there was no turning back for me. 

What I found was that by making the commitment to write everything down in a trusted place immediately I was asked to do something, cleared my brain of a task it was not designed to do. It also gave my head space to think about more important things in life, creative things, and made me a better salesperson and ultimately gave me the space to think about what I really wanted to achieve in life. 

I learned that if you truly want to reduce the stress in your life, you need to stop overburdening your brain. Your brain is an amazing thing. But if you fill it up with stuff that can easily be put somewhere else—a diary, Evernote or Todoist for example—then you are seriously reducing its ability to work at its most effective. You are hampering its ability to come up with creative solutions to problems and difficulties and when that happens you get stuck in the rut of busy-work, missed commitments and a lot of stress. 

If you do find yourself missing commitments, feeling you are running around all day not achieving very much and feel stressed out, try emptying your brain of all the stuff it is trying to remember into a notebook, diary or note-taking application. Take that notebook or app wherever you go and get into the habit of writing everything down. Within a few days, you will feel a lot less stressed and you will find you will have much more time to come up with creative solutions to things you were unable to solve before. 


Enrol in my FREE online productivity course right here:

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit the like button below ❤️ It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My goal in life is to help as many people as I can to live the life 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, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here



You Know You've Got GTD When...

  • you start living your life by contexts
  • you know what a "UCT" is [Ubiquitous Capture Tool]
  • you write / type every thing down into a "trusted" place
  • the only things on your calendar are hard landscape things that you absolutely must do that day (or you / it will die)
  • you re-read the GTD book every year
  • you have bought or you are considering buying the David Allen Notetaker Wallet (with the really cool pen)
  • you've done at least five complete mind-sweeps 
  • you've tried every GTD type app available for your phone /computer / laptop / tablet
  • you have a saved search for "GTD" in your browser and in Twitter
  • you no longer segregate your life between work and home
  • you not only do weekly reviews, you now do mini daily reviews
  • you ask yourself "what is it? Is it a project?" 700 times per day
  • you've got a "Someday / Maybe" file (in Evernote)
  • you have started a "tickler file"
  • you always have something to do where ever you are - you just check your contexts
  • you know who Merlin Mann is and you practice "InBox Zero
  • you are stress free and you feel in control. 

The Ubiquitous Capture Tool [UCT]

In a recent post on Getting yourself organised, I talked about capturing everything and processing it later. I wanted to expand on this capturing concept a little more as it is so important if you really want to get yourself organised and stress free.

The tool you decide to use for capturing your tasks, commitments and ideas is possibly the most important piece of equipment you need if you are going to get yourself organised. Without a capture tool, you are not going to be able to capture all the things that cross your mind and instead rely on your memory to remind you of the things you need to remember, and you memory is probably the worst place to store all the things you need to remember.

In David Allan’s Getting Things Done book, David Allen calls it the UCT - the Ubiquitous Capture Tool. For David Allen it is a note-taking wallet - a wallet that contains a small note pad and pen where you can write down anything that captures your attention. For me, it is my iPhone. The key is that whatever tool you use it needs to be with you everywhere you go, and your smartphone or wallet are likely to be the things that go with you everywhere.

There are times you may feel uncomfortable pulling out your smartphone and typing in to it, as perhaps the person or people you are with may think you are checking Facebook or Twitter during a meeting for example. In these situations I go ‘old school’. I will use simple pen and paper to take notes and then later use a scanning app to capture the notes into my Evernote account. Any tasks or commitments I indicate using a simple drawn square in my notes so I can easily identify any tasks. I will input these tasks later into my system. However, I will add a task in my inbox to check notes made in the meeting.

And essentially that’s the point about the whole system, more often than not you are going to remember to do something when you cannot do anything about it. Or, you are going to make a commitment to do something in the future, but you are not entirely sure at that stage exactly what you are going to need to do. That is why capturing stuff into a central place is crucial. Later, when you have time, you can go through the list and make decisions about what you will need to do to move everything forward. Once you have captured it, you can forget about it until you have time to process everything you captured. Learning this has been the number one reason I have found myself very rarely being stressed.

Often, I have found myself capturing the same idea or task two or three times throughout the day. For some reason I forget that I have already captured it. But that really does not matter. I can cross off the things that are duplicated. But when this does happen it is a reminder that this is something I think is quite important.

So, when making a decision on your capture tool you need to choose wisely. Ask yourself what do you carry with you everywhere you go? It is no good using a notebook that you keep on your desk at work. That is not going to go with you everywhere. You need something that you have with you when you are at work as well when you are in your local pub enjoying a few drinks with your friends. Those great ideas have a bad habit of hitting you at the most inconvenient times and if you are not in a position to capture those ideas when they arise, you’re either going to forget them until it’s too late or there’s going to be this annoying thing on your mind you just can’t remember, but you know is important.

For those of you using Todoist, I highly recommend you watch this little tutorial video by the great Steve Dotto. In this video Steve goes through how you can set up your Gmail account to capture in Todoist.  For those of you using IOS devises, since Todoist updated for IOS 8 you now have the option of adding the Todoist widget in your share sheet so that you can capture pretty much anything that comes in to your phone.

So, remember, capture, capture, capture. It really does not matter if you think you will not foget. Far better to get in to the habit of capturing now. Because with this single habit, you are going a long way down the road towards a stress free, productive life.