Emptying Your Head

I’ve been on a GTD frenzy these few days. (Oh, GTD is Getting Things Done, btw). I always thought I had my time and task management down to an okay – I get things done, I consider myself one of those odd creatures who have lists upon lists of things to do and I find undeniable pleasure in marking tasks OFF in red pen as they are completed and out of my sight.
It’s just like mindmapping you know. Way before I got to know Tony Buzan and his mindmapping techniques, I was already engaged in a low key version of it. Throughout my school days (and because I was a Type A in school), I used mindmapping in its crudest way to enable me to understand my Physics, Biology and Chemistry lessons.
Those notes made last-minute mugging less agonising! And then when I read Tony Buzan, I went “So…there’s a name and technique for this random thing I’ve been doing!” It was validation (true) but it also showed me that I was basically going about it in the most plebeian way!
But back to my original topic. I got into this getting things done mode after I spent the whole of last Sunday immersed in David Allen’s book, simply titled “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity”.
It wasn’t technically MY book.
It was Nic’s.
I have a (bad) habit of swiping books off people so I can read a few books at one time. Based on the fact that I can never read all the books in the world and that I want to at least have some choices during my reading time, I do read a few books at one time! Last Sunday, I was a bit tired and didn’t feel like reading David Davidar’s “The House of Blue Mangoes” (which is really amazing fiction borrowed from the Georgetown Library), I dip into other reading materials and other people’s reading materials!
Getting Things Done (GTD hereafter) proved to be an enticing read although it was non-fiction. I was so keen on finishing it that I spent the whole Sunday just reading and reading.
GTD is a system of helping people gain control over their lives. It’s simple and clear which is probably a key reason why many people all over the world are truly fans of GTD (the book, the system and of course, David Allen, THE man). There’s also many GTD software out there to help you implement Allen’s system easily.
The main premise is that people get stressed because they have all these thoughts, ideas, to-do tasks etc, living right in their brains. That’s why people cannot relax. How can you relax if you have 10,000 thoughts flying about in that cranium? Imagine you’re in the middle of a good movie and suddenly think, oh dear, I forgot to call Anne to cancel our lunch appointment. Or something to that effect.
Or imagine you’re in class and you’re not concentrating because you are thinking of the dozen or so things you have to do, or forgot to do or want to do but don’t know how to start! Probably this is another scene familiar to most people: you have 3,241 emails in your Gmail inbox but you get numb, unable to reduce the influx of emails because you don’t know if you should read and delete, or just keep! That’s when stress and anxiety become your fast friends.
Allen says, unload that RAM (your brain lah). Get all those flying to-do’s or must-do’s onto some paper, or if you’re the canggih type, into your PDA. Everything, every single thing from “I must get new tyres for the car” to “Write that proposal for Mr Tan”.
Once you get things down on paper or what he calls your ‘in-basket’, you can start relaxing. The things you must do are downloaded from your brain and no longer driving you nuts. Then you process your in-basket, one item at a time. Allen has a simple workflow chart too where he teaches you how you can decide WHAT to do instead of putting things off and then coming back to the same pile of to-dos (which is bad!).
You can read Allen’s book or if you want the fast forward way, you can read what others have summarised about his life-changing system. Or you can also watch videos if reading is not your thing. And finally, try out the huge number of free GTD tools to start practising what you’ve learnt. You can also get buzzed when you read the countless GTD blogs out there, like this one. (A word of warning: There’s lots of stuff on the Net about GTD. If you’re not careful, you can really spend days reading blog after blog and website after website!)
Putting his system to practice and living a stress-free life is what I am most interested in.
It’s a work-in-progress and I’ve just started this week but there is much wisdom and commonsense in Allen’s system – once you ‘download’ all your stuff into an in-basket or collection device (I just use pen and notepad so more reasons to tote both around), you are freer to live your life, unencumbered by 1001 things. You know the stuff is still there but you will manage them in good time and not carry them around in your head.
Do you have a system like GTD? How do you manage your day’s tasks and chores? I’d love to know!

5 thoughts on “Emptying Your Head”

  1. I have my to-do list on Excel file and color them off bright yellow after they’re done! This is also part of my GTD routine as a freelancer and mother. Sometimes cannot sleep because so many things running through my head all at the same time. I am sure you know how that can stress people out! ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I must get that book and read too. I’ve posted a Google Video on David Allen’s presentation earlier too…..he’s one funny man too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi Marsha
    Thanks for sharing your GTD routine. I used to use Excel files too until I started using simple GTD tools. Try simplegtd.com or vitalist.com. Both have their advantages. Yeah, I saw that video on your blog. As they say, great minds….. ๐Ÿ˜‰


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