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Why Are You Getting Things Done?

Why Are You Getting Things Done?

    Why are you collecting potential actions day-in and day-out in your collection tool of choice? Why are you processing the things you have collected and identifying potential outcomes of the stuff that has just come into your life? Why are you reviewing these things as much as you need to keep them active in your life? Why are you getting things done?

    Sounds like a funny question, especially for a topic on Lifehack, whose sole purpose is to show you how to get things done faster and better. But, the question remains.

    What is the point of these systems and getting all this stuff done?

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    The End Game

    GTD prides itself with using a bottom up approach to productivity rather than the “traditional” top down approach like Covey and other life-coach type of gurus have tried to teach us. The idea is that by using this bottom-up approach, that is, capturing all of the potentially meaningful stuff in your life, identifying what it is, and either doing it or not, you will be using the best way to clear the decks and eventually find your life purpose. Your end game.

    Being productive isn’t the end game. Being productive is the way to reach the end game. David Allen talks about the various Areas of Focus in our lives; the things that drive us as a human being. These can be:

    • Family
    • Spirituality
    • Career
    • Mental health
    • Vitality
    • Hobbies

    These areas are the “why” behind getting things done and the reason that you need to be productive. We shouldn’t be getting things done for getting things done sake.

    The paradox

    So, how do you find your why? How do you get up close and personal with your end game. By getting things done.

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    OK, now we are drifting down to “na-na-nu-nu” land. You may be thinking, “you just told me that we need some sort of purpose to get things done. Thanks for nothing.”

    The only way to find your purpose in life (your end game) is to clear your deck. There is no way (at least not one I have found) that you can experience the awakening of your goals and dreams when you are stressing about over 500 unprocessed emails in 3 different accounts (sounds familiar), have overdue tax bills, and have family members that need your attention because of your lack of attention. We must be able to give ourselves some breathing room.

    We do this by collecting and processing these not done stuffs and put them into a trusted system. Once there, we can either commit or “uncommmit” to these tasks and outcomes. That alone is a totally freeing process: taking all of the junk in our lives, answering the question “what is this junk?”, and then purging or doing it now or a little later.

    With this process under our belts, we slowly clear our mind and our workload allowing us to finally find our “why”.

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    Why you can’t find “why” right now

    If you have an insane life of too much to do, and not enough time to do it in, then you will have a very hard time finding your end game and what’s important to you. You have to unbury yourself from crap work and tasks to get some breathing room to find your purpose.

    The process is the thing

    So, why are you getting things done?

    Maybe you have identified that you have a family that needs taken care of. That family needs money to buy stuff. The job that you have (maybe even one you don’t necessarily like) is the way that you make money so they can buy that stuff. So, when you are doing the mundane “readying the TPS reports”, you can link this small task or project on your list to the “why” of being an awesome family man/woman.

    Your end game is easier to reach when you get the mundane in a system and the mundane is easier to do when you link it to your end game. You only got here because of the process of collecting and processing into a trusted system.

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    Elevating the process of GTD

    It’s time to get away from too many process and tools and tweaks. The process of GTD was made to be done with paper or digital tools. It’s tool agnostic for good reason.

    There isn’t too much wrong with tweaking and fiddling with your tools as long as that tweaking and fiddling is to help you accomplish your end game with less resistance, not for the sake of fiddling.

    So, when agreeing to a project or taking time out of your day to do one of those little tasks on your lists, remember and be conscious of why you are getting things done. This is the only way to make sure that you are getting the right things done and that the you have the right things to do to reach your end game.

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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