I have the great pleasure of sharing my life with my wife who teaches college Biology. We have a number of friends who are preparing their final plans for the fall semester. I have to admit the process of planning and executing a quality class can become overwhelming. As a designer of software, I have profound respect for all educators. I believe that we need to celebrate and support our teachers in much more profound ways.
Ok. Back to feeling overwhelmed by work.
During a brief period in my life, I worked in music ministry, IT, and church communications. I will always treasure the community our church staff built together. We, however, were VERY busy at this time. I struggled to balance all of the needs and demands: organizing binders, planning choir practice, making edits to the church website, meetings, four worship services, planning for retreats, etc. I was also taking graduate school classes in computer science at UCF.
During this time of life, I discovered “getting things done” (GTD). For a great summary of “Getting things done” by David Allen, please visit http://www.wikisummaries.org/Getting_Things_Done:_The_Art_of_Stress-Free_Productivity .
I have to admit that I still do not execute this system perfectly. I, however, find myself using ideas from this system every day. Here are five reasons why I value GTD:
- “Mind like water” – David Allen stresses that your mind will induce stress when it’s forced to remember all the stuff that you need to get done. This stress can become a roadblock to moving your work forward. Without putting your work into a central system that you can trust, you will feel negative stress. Consider creating one and only one “todo” system that you trust.
- It gives me a place to see all my work and find the top 20% – In terms of execution of tasks, I check my GTD system every day. I am currently using a Google document that I share with my wife. In a work context, I review and prioritize my major work items every week. If I have 10 things to do, I am searching for the top 2 items that have the maximum impact. With my task items collected into a central system, I have more information to decide if I can do more work. This system helps me say “no” to projects that are not important.
- The process enables me to revisit old ideas – I am human just like everyone else. I often bookmark cool blog articles and ideas in my system. It often delights me to find these old ideas or nuggets of wisdom.
- It turns my day into a game – I like scoring points in my day. Do I finish everything on my goal list every day? No. At the end of my day, I can feel good about my productivity since I have a green “done” icon next to tasks that died that day. Wahoo!
- The process pushes me to break work down – It’s in my nature to tackle big problems. You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. GTD provides a formal rule for taking big projects and breaking them down into smaller items. If the item is quick, I try to do it now. ( I need to be better at this rule. )
In future blog posts, I will try to comment upon the tools I have used. For now, please check out Scott Hanselman’s great resources and podcast on the topic:
For now, I strongly encourage you to check out GTD by David Allen. I can honestly say that I use these ideas every day. Am I stress free? No. I know that my mental stress level is lower because of David Allen’s work.
How do you keep yourself organized to reduce stress in your family or work?