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Published on October 16, 2017

Think Less and Get More Done By Using The “Getting Things Done” Model

Think Less and Get More Done By Using The “Getting Things Done” Model

Trying to be productive while you’re worrying about other things that need your attention can be stressful. Even though you can’t be in two places at once, and you’re doing the best you can, the fear of not doing everything can still be overwhelming.

Every time your focus shifts from your current task to one that you are feeling pressure to complete, you interrupt yourself. Interruptions cost workers 3-5 hours of productivity every day.[1]

You lose touch with the current task by worrying about the what you need to finish next

Imagine that you are in the middle of a task, and you think to yourself, “I have to complete that project this afternoon.” In that moment, you’ve lost touch with the present, and now your attention is focused on that thing you have to do later.

Fearing failure and wanting to meet all expectations, you run through everything you need to do to pull of the project this afternoon. At some point, you remember that you have to finish the task in front of you, but by now, you’ve lost track of what you were doing in the first place. You have to refocus yourself, which is extremely time-consuming and tiring.

If you’re always worrying about the things you’re not doing and the things that you ought to do later in the day, it can take a toll on your productivity. As long as your brain is chasing every task on your to-do list as though they’re all equally important, you’ll never be able to focus on what’s in front of you.

Trying to keep everything in your head at once takes up mental energy that you need to do your best work.

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You need a no-nonsense approach to manage your day

In 2001, David Allen wrote Getting Things Done, a productivity framework that helps people focus on their work. If you adhere to Getting Things Done, you’ll spend less time thinking about what you need to do, and you’ll be able to clarify and organize your duties.

If everything seems important in your mind, then nothing gets the attention it deserves. Allen’s method helps you prioritize and find the balance in your workday so that you can give appropriate attention to current and future endeavors.

This method works because it requires you tout aside anything that doesn’t need to be addressed immediately. You can put anything that doesn’t need to be done now out of your head instead of interrupting yourself with items that aren’t high-priority.

How the system makes you easier to maintain focus

Getting Things Done doesn’t tell you what you should think is important. Instead, it teaches you how to identify the most important things on your to-do list, and then organize and prioritize them.

Capture everything

If you’re constantly telling yourself, “I need to remember to do x,” you may not have a good system for capturing things that need to be done. When you have a good capture system, you will feel less stressed because you won’t have small tasks vying for your attention.

Allen asserts that capturing involves figuring out whether or not an item is actionable. If it’s not, then it may not be worth thinking about at all, or it might be something to delegate or save for future reference. If you can do the task, you can either complete it immediately, delegate it to someone else, or defer it for another time.

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Break your project into actionable items

When your objectives are too broad, they can make you feel overwhelmed. Breaking things into actionable items and defining how taking action will look gives you a sense of control and offers you a clear vision for an outcome.

Allen recommends that if a task can be done in two minutes or less, you just do it right away so that it won’t clog your mental space. If the task will take longer, think about whether you are the most qualified to do the job. If not, you can delegate this work and get it off your desk. For jobs that you ought to do yourself, you’ll need to define when you can complete the work.

Organize and prioritize your work

After you’ve determined which projects need your attention, you can prioritize them so that they have a designated place on your calendar. Allen categorizes actionable items to be done as those which are date or time sensitive, and those which need to be done as soon as possible.

By assigning priority and establishing a schedule for completing these tasks, you’ll always know where to spend your energy.

Set concrete due dates

Deadlines are great motivators. If your project doesn’t have one, assign benchmark deadlines and a final due date. Write these down on your calendar so that you will be reminded at regular intervals of things that you need to do, but you don’t have to recall these tasks by yourself in the middle of whatever you’re currently working on.

4 Benefits of adopting the Getting Things Done method

1. Because no one can EVER multi-task. By solely focusing on one single task makes you more efficient and contribute the greatest value

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By only focusing on the task at hand, you can be more productive. Research has proven that human beings are not good multi-taskers.[2] Switching between tasks leaves you open to making mistakes. By committing to doing one thing at a time, you complete the task eight times faster than if you try to do two things at once.

2. You will become the most promising person EVER because you won’t miss any deadlines from now on 

When you define action items and plan out when you’re going to do them, you don’t have to waste energy panicking about whether or not you are going to finish your work. If you’ve set reminders and smaller actionable steps, the project should fall into place on time with minimal fuss.

3. You can stay focused at the present task without worrying about what you have to do next

When you give yourself a pile of things to remember, you’ll spend lots of time juggling your priorities in your mind. That’s valuable mental power that you could be using to get the current task done before you move onto the next one. You can stop juggling and focus your full attention on the project in front of you.

Failing to pay close attention sets you up to miss key ideas and information. These bits of information could be the difference between success and failure. You’ll be less likely overlook critical information when you’re working on one thing at a time.

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By adopting the Getting Things Done framework and organizing your ideas and tasks, you free up so much brain power. Being able to focus on one thing at a time gives you the mental clarity and efficiency to do better quality work in less time.

4. Since you have freed up your mind by putting things down on paper, you are not stress-free for more creative work 

When you aren’t making cognitive leaps from one task to the next, you’ll notice that your stress level goes down. On top of that, disruptions that cause stress are the same type the stifle creativity. [3]

Deep thinking can’t occur when you are in fight or flight mode. You’ll do better work when you have a system for prioritizing and organizing.

Start Getting Things Done today

You won’t want to return to jumping from project to project after you experience what it’s like to give every project your undivided attention in its own time. Check out David Allen’s Getting Things Done to kick start your productivity and reduce stress.

Reference

[1]Fast Company: The Hidden Costs Of Interruptions At Work
[2]Forbes: How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (and Your Effectiveness at Work)
[3]Thirty Fifth International Conference on Information Systems, Auckland 2014: Effects of Interruptions on Creative Thinking

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 19, 2018

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

If you have so many things to do that you often find yourself struggling to finish projects and tasks and move on to other stuff, you’re certainly not alone. Studies show that over 20 percent of the adult population put off or avoid doing certain tasks by allowing themselves to be overtaken by distractions.[1]

What about the rest of the population? What do they do to prevent procrastination?

In this article, I am going to explain to you why procrastination is so difficult to beat and how you can stop procrastinating once and for all by following a step-by-step guide. But first, you need to understand how procrastination happens.

What is procrastination

Piers Steel, the author of the book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, defines procrastination in this way:[2]

“Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

In other words, procrastination is doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones. The end result is that important tasks are put off to a later time.

This comic is one of the typical examples of procrastination:

    Why stopping procrastination is difficult

    Human beings have limited self-control. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida State University, has been studying self-control and he has found that just like any muscles, human’s self-control is a limited resource that can quickly become exhausted.[3] When self-control is close to being depleted, human tend to choose what’s more pleasurable– the immediate procrastinated tasks instead of the actual works.

    At its core, procrastination is an avoidance strategy. Procrastinators choose to do something else instead of doing what they need to do because it’s much easier to choose pleasure over pain.

    In short, procrastination is so difficult to beat because it is a battle against human’s natural enemy, a human weakness that is in-born.

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    A step-by-step guide to stop procrastinating

    Despite the fact that it’s human nature to seek for immediate rewards and procrastinate, here I have a step-by-step guide for you to follow so as to stop procrastinating.

    1. Identify your triggers: the 5 types of procrastinator

    Identifying the type of procrastination you personally experience is an essential step for you to fix the problem at its root.

    Take a look at this flowchart here to find out what type of procrastinator you are:

      Which type of procrastinator are you? Let’s take a look at the triggers for your procrastination type:

      Perfectionist

      Being perfect is the pleasure perfectionists want. But often this leads to them being too scared to show any imperfections. Because of this, they frequently fail to complete things, as they’re forever seeking the perfect timing or approach. Tasks end up never being completed, because in the eyes of the perfectionist, things are never perfect enough.

      Instead of finishing something, perfectionists get caught up in a never-ending cycle of additions, edits, and deletions.

      Ostrich

      An ostrich prefers to stay in the dreaming stage. That way, they don’t have to work for real, or deal with any negativity or stress.

      Dreaming gives this type of people a false sense of achievement, as in their minds, they envision big, ambitious plans. Unfortunately for them, these plans will most likely stay as dreams, and they’ll never accomplish anything truly worthwhile.

      Self-saboteur

      A self-saboteur has bought into the line that ‘by doing nothing, bad things won’t happen.’

      In reality, self-saboteurs have developed a fear of making mistakes or doing anything wrong. Their way to avoid these mishaps, is to do nothing at all. In the end, they may make few mistakes – but they also see few accomplishments.

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      Daredevil

      Daredevils are those who believe that deadlines can push them to do better. Instead of having a schedule to complete their work – they prefer to enjoy time doing their own thing before the deadline comes around.

      It’s most likely an unconscious thing, but daredevils evidently believe that starting early will sacrifice their time for pleasure. This is reinforced in their minds and feelings, by the many times they manage to get away with burning the midnight oil. Often they sacrifice the quality of their work because of rushing it.

      Chicken

      Chickens lack the ability to prioritize their work. They do what they feel like they should do, rather than thinking through what they really need to do.

      Prioritizing tasks is a step that takes extra time, so chicken will feel it’s not worth it. Because of this, they usually end up doing a lot of effortless tasks that don’t contribute much to a project. They’re incessantly busy on low-impact tasks, but seem oblivious to urgent, high-impact tasks.

      2. Face your triggers and get rid of them

      Whether it’s fear of failure, overwhelming feelings, avoidance or convincing yourself you’re just too busy to get something done, you can improve your ability to be productive by eliminating your procrastination triggers.

      For Perfectionists, re-clarify your goals.

      Much of the time procrastination tendencies form simply because we’ve outgrown our goals. We’re ever-changing and so are our wants in life. Try looking over your goals and ask yourself if they’re still what you want.

      Take time out to regroup and ask yourself what you really want to achieve:

      • What steps do you need to take?
      • Is what you’re currently doing reflecting what you want?
      • What do you need to change?

      Write things down, scribble them out and rewrite.

      For Ostriches, do the difficult tasks first.

      Even if you feel you’re not a morning person, the beginning of the day is when your brain is most productive. Use this window of time to get the more difficult stuff done.

      If you leave your difficult tasks to later, you’re much more likely to put it off because you’re tired and lack motivation.

      Finishing lots of simple tasks at the beginning of the day such as reading all the new emails only gives you a false sense of being productive.

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      For Self-saboteurs, write out a to-do (and a not–to-do) list each day.

      Writing things down is powerful and psychologically increases your need to get things done.

      Each day, make a habit of creating a list of the tasks you know you’ll try and avoid. By doing this, it brings these ‘difficult’ tasks to your mind’s attention instead of keeping them locked away somewhere in your avoidance mode.

      Remember, think how satisfying and productive it feels to cross of a completed task.

      For Daredevils, create a timeline with deadlines.

      It’s common to have a deadline for a goal which seems like a good idea. But this is basically an open invitation for procrastination.

      If it’s a self-created deadline with no pressure, we tend to justify pushing it back each time it comes into sight and feel we haven’t yet done ‘enough’ to get there.

      Create a bigger timeline then within that, establish deadlines along the way. The beauty of this comes when each deadline completion is dependent on the next. It keeps you on track and keeps you accountable for being in alignment with the overall timeline.

      For Chickens, break tasks into bite-sized pieces.

      A lot of the time procrastination comes from overwhelming thoughts.

      If something feels too big to tackle and we don’t know where to start, it feels like a struggle. This is also true if our goal is too vague and lacking direction.

      Break down larger tasks into smaller ones and turn them into daily or weekly goals. Smaller steps may seem like the slower approach to achieving a goal, but it often leads you much more quickly to where you want to be due to the powerful momentum you get going.

      3. Take planned breaks

      The human brain isn’t designed to work continuously on the same task and this could be a reason for procrastination.

      Make sure you take regular, structured breaks away from your task so that you can come back refreshed and ready to be more productive.

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      A break as short as 5 minutes is enough to keep your mind sharp and wards off fatigue. I recommend you to use the Pomodoro Time Tracker. It is a great tool to help you take breaks at set intervals. Simply start the 25-minute timer, and follow the prompts.

        4.  Reward yourself

        It’s important to acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving even the small tasks. It creates a sense of motivation and releases those feel-good, productive emotions that spur you on to achieve even more.

        Make your reward proportional to the task you completed so getting a bite-sized task done gets you a cup of your favourite coffee or snack. Then plan a weekend away or fun activity for the bigger stuff.

        Personally I try to make staying focus more fun by using the app Forest. It turns productivity into a game. In the game, you can plant a virtual tree at the beginning of your work time. If you maintain focus for the duration of the timer, you’ll grow a tree to add to your forest. It’s rewarding when you can eventually grow a forest.

          5. Keep track of your time in a smart way

          If you want to prevent the bad habit of procrastination from coming back, keep track of the time you spend every day.

          By having a clear idea of where you spend your time, you can always review your productivity and know which areas to improve.

          It’s not easy to keep track of every minute you spend throughout the day so I recommend you to use the app Rescue Time.

          It gets you a categorized breakdown of how you spend your time and helps you to find out how much time you’re really on-task. You can even label activities as productive and non-productive so as to block your biggest distractions.

            Make procrastination under your control

            Procrastination exists for many reasons and only you know for yourself what these triggers are.

            Understanding what procrastination really is and the source of your avoidance tendencies is important in moving them out of the way and help you start the productivity momentum.

            Reference

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