Here’s the answer to one of the questions, and why I think the GTD perspective on organizing “stuff” is so helpful…because everyone seems to be facing so much of it.
If there’s one thing that all of our readers probably agree on, it’s that they have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Why do so many of us feel that way?
There is always more to do than there is time to do it, especially in an environment of so much possibility. We all want to be acknowledged; we all want our work to be meaningful. And in an attempt to achieve that goal, we all keep letting stuff enter our lives.
The problem, of course, is that we also want to finish what we start. Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started. That’s why a lot of my work has to do with how people deal with their input — email, phone messages, reports, conversations. Everything that isn’t where it should be is an open loop, an incomplete, a distraction that slows you down. Your brain says, “Hey, that doesn’t belong there,” and you have to deal with that impulse.
If you allow too much dross to accumulate in your “10 acres” — in other words, if you allow too many things that represent undecided, untracked, unmanaged agreements with yourself and with others to gather in your personal space — that will start to weigh on you. It will dull your effectiveness. You’ve got to dig into the mess and put those things to rest. Productivity is about completion.
Isn’t it interesting that people feel best about themselves right before they go on vacation? They’ve cleared up all of their to-do piles, closed up transactions, renewed old promises with themselves. My most basic suggestion is that people should do that more than just once a year. In fact, I tell people to take inventory weekly — to sort through all of the stuff that they haven’t yet acted on. If you can get a clear picture of everything that you have to do, you’ll be able to say, “Oh, this is what I have to do right now” — and then take the next step in getting it done.