Today, I completed chapter one of David Allen’s Getting Things Done to kick off my current project of getting my life organized so I can be productive and relieve stress.
As I was reading, I couldn’t help but take a mental inventory of everything I need to get done:
-Write this blog post
-Write that email to my Praxis advisor with 20 possible business names
-Get moving on my business development project
-Re-do my pitch deck video
-Set up a time to meet with that potential business partner
-Memorize liturgy for my temple assignment
-Meet with Marianne to prepare our church activity this Sunday
-Do everything else for my church job
It goes on and on, and it gets really stressful. This is why I decided to do this project- to learn how to get a handle on things and document it here.
This first chapter got me a little wound-up just thinking about all of this- which I think is intended. Allen makes a LOT of promises that I hope he can deliver by the end of the book.
My biggest takeaway, which gives me a lot of hope, is that I shouldn’t expect myself to have a handle on all of this- that’s not how our brains are designed. We can really only think about- and therefore act on- one thing at a time, so it makes sense that we would be stressed when we look at so many commitments. What Allen promises is an external system that I can put my trust in so I can get in the zone and focus on one thing at a time.
In this chapter, he says that the real challenge is not managing our time, like we tend to think, but in managing our actions:
“What you do with your time, what you do with information, and what you do with your body and your focus relative to your priorities– those are the real options to which you must allocate your limited resources. The real issue is how to make appropriate choices about what to do at any point in time. The real issue is how we manage actions.
“… the common complaint that “I don’t have time to ____” (fill in the blank) is understandable because many projects seem overwhelming– and are overwhelming because you can’t do a project at all! You can only do an action related to it.” (pp. 18-19)
This really stuck out to me because a) it follows the conventional wisdom of breaking down projects into smaller, manageable tasks; and b) reflects insights I’ve gained from studying economics and makes them applicable.
While there were no action steps shared in this chapter, it already has me thinking differently about everything pressing for my attention. On the first page of the chapter, Allen claimed that his system requires nothing less than a paradigm shift.
I think I’m ready for one.