The past few months have been a time of immense change in my life, with many new responsibilities and projects that I’m taking on both personally and professionally. I like to live my life in sort of ‘controlled-chaos’ mode as I’m not the type of person to plan out every moment of every day. However, things have become a little scattered, and I need to figure out a way to get some things under control.
Usually when I have a dilemma, I turn to people around me and books. One book I picked up is Getting Things Done by David Allen. This is a book that has sat on my shelf for years, but I have found it too prescriptive and overwhelming in the past. I don’t subscribe to systems very easily unless they are:
- easy to start
- I see immediate results
- I can see myself realistically doing this for 30 days straight (Apparently, if you can do something for 30 days in a row it’s officially a habit.)
Getting Things Done has a very systematic approach for dealing with all the inputs in your life such as emails, requests, even take-out menus – but it was a bit of overkill for me. However one thing I took away from the book is to break everything down into Next Actions. In other words, think about the work you have to do BEFORE you actually do it. It really does help! It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes as well: “Don’t just do something, sit there”
I think I used Next Actions intuitively whenever I felt overwhelmed, or there was too much stuff swirling around in my brain, but now I’m trying to do it all the time, for every little thing. Anytime I have a thought like – ‘ya, I really should organize my photos’ I write down what my actual next step is going to be – i.e. is it start tagging them, upload from my camera, get some blank DVDs – what is it? Even for little things like this, writing down my actual next step and not having it niggling at the back of my mind really helps.
My goal is to achieve that state of mind David describes in his book: achieve a zen like outlook on everything you have to do. When the time is right, you do it. When you can’t do something because your computer, phone, desk, home is not around – you just drop it. You don’t worry about it.
We’ll see how this more disciplined approach of thinking of Next Actions works for me, but so far, it seems to be helping! I feel calmer already.