The fact that you can’t remember an agreement you made with yourself doesn’t mean that you’re not holding yourself liable for it. Ask any psychologist how much of a sense of past and future that part of your psyche has, the part that was storing the list you dumped: zero. It’s all present tense in there. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you should do something, if you file it only in your short-term memory, that part of you thinks you should be doing it all the time. And that means that as soon as you’ve given yourself two things to do, and filed them only in your head, you’ve created instant and automatic stress and failure, because you can’t do them both at once, and that (apparently significant) part of you psyche will continue to hold you accountable.~ David Allen, from Getting Things Done
I talk often about David Allen’s, Getting Things Done. It’s one of a few books which I keep extra copies of on hand to give to people. There’s a Wikipedia article, Getting Things Done, but it talks more about it rather than describing what/how to do it.
I recently found a talk given by Allen which has been repurposed as a short podcast; Getting Things Done: 55 – Removing System Drag is well worth the few minutes it takes to listen.
Aside: Learning when and how to “go deep” is an important part of what you gain when you understand GTD. If the thought of spending five minutes listening to someone teach you something abhors you, you may need GTD more than you think. /preaching
If, however, what Allen said interests you, a fellow podcaster named Jey Jeyendran, (of Productivity Heaven,) is working on a mini series of podcasts on Allen’s GTD. They’re bite-sized, inspiring and you should check them out. https://productivity-heaven.simplecast.com.
You can’t fool your mind. It’s an expert on your current personal management system, and it knows whether you can be trusted to look at what you need to at the appropriate time. It knows if you’ve decided what the next action should be. And it knows if there is a reminder of that action placed somewhere you will actually look, when you could possibly take that action. If you have not done any of that, your mind won’t let it go. It can’t. It will endlessly keep trying to remind you of what to remember. The mind is a loyal and dedicated servant, but it needs to be given the jobs it does well–not the ones that it mismanages.~ David Allen, from Ready for Anything
…and yet I try all the time. Fortunately I’ve gotten much better at capturing my thoughts.
The important part, the hard part—one might even say, “the trick”—is to have regular and sufficient time to review all the things I’ve captured. Do I really want to read that book that piqued my interest? Do I really want to try that new recipe I found? Do I really want to go to the trouble of adding that new electric outlet in the dining room?
I see too many people with no way of capturing their thoughts, and I see very few people who have a habit of regularly assessing what they want to be doing.
The fact that you can’t remember an agreement you made with yourself doesn’t mean that you’re not holding yourself liable for it. Ask any psychologist how much of a sense of past and future that part of your psyche has, the part that was storing the list you dumped: zero. It’s all present tense in there. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you should do something, if you file it only in your short-term memory, that part of you thinks you should be doing it all the time. And that means that as soon as you’ve given yourself two things to do, and filed them only in your head, you’ve created instant and automatic stress and failure, because you can’t do them both at once, and that (apparently significant) part of you psyche will continue to hold you accountable.
~ David Allen
…yes another quote from the GTD book.
In the first half of my life — say to age 40 — I made a HUGE MISTAKE: I presumed that I had a reasonable understanding of how my brain worked. I don’t mean at a physiology level; I still don’t really understand that. I mean at a day-to-day-doing-stuff, when-I-do-this-then-this-happens, this-is-how-one-lives sort of level. Like how I thought I knew how to use my brain to decide what to eat, what to work on, what to read, what to do with my time . . .
Now why on earth did i think I had any idea?
Seriously: You think of “me” as this “self-thing” located behind your eyes, but that “you” is just “running” in/on your brain. So have you ever tried different ways of running your life? How do you know reading some such book will or won’t change your life? Maybe you should experiment with everything. Try something radical: Pay attention to the results. You’re ALREADY following lots of advice — my advice, your mother’s advice, the TV ads’ advice, your doctor’s advice — but have you ever bothered to figure out what the results are? Then make a deliberate change intended to move you toward a specific goal. Observe results. Then make another change. Then another. And another.
I mean, it’s not like your entire life depends on the choices you … oh wait. *lightbulb*
Most people have been in some version of this mental stress state so consistently, for so long, that they don’t even know they’re in it. Like gravity, it’s ever present — so much so that those who experience it usually aren’t even aware of the pressure. The only time most of them will realize how much tension they’ve been under is when they get rid of it and notice how different they feel. It’s like the constant buzzing noise in a room you didn’t know was there until it stops.
~ David Allen
The key insight for me was once I realized there are two “directions” to thinking: I was always good at vertical thinking, going down thru a project (big or small), planning, organizing and doing. This was simply “thinking”, and how could there be more than one “direction” in which to think?
Unfortunately, I often got stuck when my brain started doing this other direction of thinking for which I had no name; no concept to attach: The horizontal thinking. The hopping from project to project — and I use “project” in the most broad sense of ANY thing involving a goal (“remodel house”, “send holiday cards”), any size (“seven years of projet management and contractors”, “buy stamps, buy cards, stuff, mail” ), and any number of steps. My mind hopped uncontrollably from thing to thing, around and around, across all the open loops, as the same things came up over and over and over.
These days, having a solid capture and review system enables me to close those mental loops. I can often read for a half an hour without my mind once interrupting me with some random, “I need to do this,” or “I need to remember that,” thought. (And if it does interupt me, I simple capture that thought once. Done. Freedom.) In the beginning I used paper notecards, then notebooks, software, and on and on. The exact system does not matter. It only matters that you trust your system. Only when you truly trust your system will your subconscious close all those open loops.