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 .

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?  


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