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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 March 31, 2020

Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

Procrastination is in a human’s biological makeup. Thanks to our limbic system, the neurological powerhouse that controls our emotions and memory, we are inclined to feel before we think. To avoid experiencing negative feelings, we keep away from tasks that may overwhelm or inconvenience us.

Because we are inclined to seek and enjoy pleasure first, we tend to give in to things that make us happy instantly. It is so instant that we don’t see a point in neglecting ourselves. But it blinds us from viewing the consequences due to procrastination — more than 3 hours go missing every single day, and about 55 days — almost 2 months are lost every year.

It All Comes down to Our Emotions

The essential way to overcome procrastination is by regulating these emotions. When obligations are dreadful, they drag our feet to complete them. Most people tend to confuse work with emotional suffering because the task at hand may appear to be complicated or difficult; which can cause anxiety or despair.

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The more complicated or challenging the work may be, the more challenge-averse we become. All of these negative feelings and reservations add up, making people avoid the tasks altogether to keep from experiencing suffering or negativity.

Adjust the Task and Your Mood Will Change

Difficult or complicated tasks tend to easily overwhelm people, causing them to lose interest in the project and faith in themselves. The key is to make these tasks more manageable.

How do you do this? By breaking them up into smaller, digestible elements that will eventually add up to complete the big picture. This way, a lot of the strain is lifted, and you can find a little more enjoyment in your work.

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Before breaking down the tasks, as a whole they appear to be time consuming and challenging.  Small, manageable parts you can take action on immediately.  The smaller the tasks, the easier you will find them to manage.  So it’s good to break down your tasks into elements that will only take you 45 minutes or less to complete.

Keep the big picture in mind, but keep your workload light and only focus on one small task at a time. When you commit your attention to one element at a time, you are gradually making your way towards the larger goal.

Since we are inclined to seek out things that bring us pleasure, small rewards can go a long way to help to satisfy our need for pleasure and positivity.  Rewards give you small goals to work towards, which will help to keep you motivated. Even if you aren’t able to physically reward yourself, still celebrate the progress you’ve made along the way.

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Celebrate the completion of each small step to encourage morale. Keep up momentum throughout the entire project, and tiny celebrations will help you to do just that. Expecting to see results of the task at hand immediately is unrealistic. Accomplishments are measured by the differences you have made along the way, not the end result.

Imagine holding an event at work.  You must find a venue, caterer, and entertainment.  You also need to come up with a theme, and decorate the venue and table settings.  This is a huge project.  Break it down into smaller parts.  For example, maybe focus on deciding on a theme first.  When you’ve completed that, give yourself a small break as a reward before moving on to the next part.  One thing at a time and reward yourself to stay motivated.  Then the big project will not overwhelm you.

What if no matter how small the task is, it’s still dreadful?  No job is perfect. You will always at some point find yourself faced with tedious and uninteresting tasks that you must complete. Sometimes you just need to suck it up and push through.  To stay motivated, plan to complete positive tasks along with the negative ones.  This will regulate your emotions, and ensure that you don’t only do the things that you “feel like” doing.  Always remember to keep your eye on the big picture, which will give meaning to all of your tasks (even the tedious ones).

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When you alter your attitude towards your obligations, it will make the tasks seem less tedious.  It takes a lot of practice and reinforcement, but eventually it will change your work ethic.  Refer to these tips to help you beat procrastination every time!

Learn more tips about how to stop procrastinating: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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