best expressed by my computer assistant who, upon entering my office, uttered a stunned, “Wow! Maribeth, what happened?! I’ve never seen your office look this organized. There’s no paper anywhere!!!” Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done is what happened.
If you struggle with:
feeling overwhelmed by stacks, piles, and myriad things to do;
waking up dreading the day related to too much to do;
sleep loss because you’re wound up about things left undone;
Eeyore’ish procrastinating rather than creative initiating;
and feeling helpless and hopeless—a task-specific depression or despair—
rather than energized by the work that you face…
you may love the book, Getting Things Done! Dave Allen addresses our overwhelm with wise structure and tips which help in highly practical ways. I heartily recommend his book, but here are three tips that got me started.
1. Make a Project List, listing every project—home, work, kids, pets, gardening--every looming project that comes to mind. (As will be seen, this is different from a to-do list.)Every time a project comes to mind, “capture” it—write it down immediately, relieving your mind from carrying around mental to-do lists. Juggling things to-do in our minds is draining. We then worry about remembering them (and usually don’t) in addition to worrying about getting them done. Stress and anxiety mount! The things-to-be-done rattle around in our minds--cluttering, distracting and exhausting us. With all projects out of your head and onto a hard copy, the hard copy can do the taxing work of remembering for you. You’re mind is freed up to think, plan, and problem-solve.
2. Make a First Action List. It was an epiphany to me to realize that we can’t do whole projects—that’s why we feel overwhelmed at times facing these projects. We can only do the first action of the project, which is, by definition, manageable and doable. So the First-Action List is akin to our traditional “to-do list”—but more intentional, inviting and energizing. For example, say becoming a better cook is a project you’ve had. But the project overwhelms you; you never get started. A First Action might be looking on Pinterest to find a tasty recipe. You find a recipe that looks yummy and not too hard, after all. You’re actually energized for the next First Action: buying ingredients. Then maybe you’re actually excited about the final First Action: cooking the dish.
3. Finally, Allen’s 2-minute rule: When you’re getting ready to put a task on a list, if the task requires less than 2 minutes, just do it right then and there. (I hadn’t realized how much procrastinating I was doing until implementing this rule!)
Happy Organizing: May Mastery Replace Overwhelm!