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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

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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