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GTD Refresh, Part 6: Decisiveness

GTD Refresh, Part 6: Decisiveness

Decisiveness

    For the last several months, I’ve been slowly rebuilding a more-or-less by-the-book GTD system. I’ve done elements of GTD for years, but things over the last year have gotten too complicated and my hope is that implementing the whole GTD system as close to Allen’s vision as possible will help me balance two quite different careers with the rest of my life.

    I had intended my next “GTD Refresh” post to be about reaching”Inbox Zero”. Allen advocates keeping an empty email inbox for the same reason he advocates processing your physical inbox down to empty every day – if your inbox isn’t a place where you trust yourself to get the information you need and is instead simply a place to store things that could very well be important, you’ll never be able to relax and trust your entire system. Everything in your inbox represents a potential task or project that you are not doing – and you don’t even know what it is.

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    Well, by that thinking, I’ve got maybe a thousand things I should be working on, because that’s how many emails were in my inbox last week. After a few hours clearing out unread newsletters, there are still nearly 700 emails in my inbox. Clearly, that’s not good.

    Well, I’m working on it, and I’ll report back when the job is done. In the meantime, though, I’ve realized something else important, and it’s that realization I intend to share with you today: the importance of decisiveness.

    Decisiveness is what “Inbox Zero” is really  about, after all. An empty inbox can be an assurance that you don’t have unrecognized work you should be working on, but more than that, it’s a sign that you’ve defined that work and decided what to do about it. Every message that sits in my inbox, then, is a little piece of undefinition.

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    Defining your work is at the core of the GTD method. Whether the work comes in the form of an email, a project on your someday/maybe list, a conversation with a friend, or a random observation when you walk into your house at night, identifying something as a thing to do, and committing yourself to the doing of it is key.

    NOT the Decider :-(

    Decision-making, as it happens, is really hard. Our brains just aren’t well-suited to the task. For example, while we’re quite good at deciding between a clearly good option and a clearly bad status quo, we’re quite bad at deciding between two clearly good options and a clearly bad status quo – often remaining in the bad status quo in order to avoid having to choose.

    Similarly, when confronted with two things that are both clearly good but difficult to compare, and a third thing that is like one of the first two but clearly inferior, we almost always choose the superior thing that’s like the inferior one. Somehow, the inferior thing makes it’s superior look superior not just to the one like it but to the thing unlike it. (Let me clear that up: consider a new Porsche, a new Lexus, and a somewhat battered used Porsche. We’ll almost always choose the new Porsche, even if the Lexus might serve our needs better.)

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    If it’s hard to decide between clearly defined options, how much harder is it to decide what to do when the options aren’t defined at all? And if we often settle for what we already have to avoid having to choose between two better options, how much easier must it be to settle when there are none?

    That’s why defining the work is important, and that’s why an empty inbox is important – because the only way to get there is to force yourself to define the work and decide what to do about it for every email that crosses your virtual transom. And if you can do that for email, you can do it no matter how the work comes to you. And if you can do that, then you’ll be as productive as a Very Productive Person indeed.

    As for me, my backlog of emails suggests that I’m not much of a decision-maker, and that’s got me worried. Since I doubt I can do the 0-to-60 transformation to Master Decider, I’m going to try to keep one simple resolution: from now on, I make a decision about every email. That should serve me well when I finally get my inbox down to zero, but I’m not going to wait until I get there.

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    Hopefully, this small change will help make me more decisive in other areas, which should make a big difference as I refresh my GTD system and further commit to a more productive, stress-free life.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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