Reduce your stress level with keeping a plan of awesome

Mind like water

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:
http://www.hanselman.com/blog/HanselminutesPodcast268PersonalSystemsOfOrganizationReyBangoInterviewsScottHanselman.aspx

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?  

 

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  • Wilson Caba

    Hello, Michael!
    I really liked your post because this is one of the aspects in my life that I’ve been struggling with: organizing my time. I haven’t read GTD, but I’ve heard very good things about it.
    There is another book that is related to GTD and was written by Sally McGhee: “Take back your life!” (TBYL). It seems that she was some sort of disciple of David Allen and she wrote TBYL based on the same principles of GTD, except that she focused on using Outlook to apply these principles.
    I’ve applied myself some of the principles and it really helps, especially one called “clear your mind”, which is just creating a list with all your to-do items, that later get sorted and prioritized.
    Anyway, I enjoyed your post and hope to continue reading more from you on this post.
    -Wilson