How Do You Approach “Getting Things Done”?

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I’ve been re-reading ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen (often referred to as GTD). Well, I’ve been listening to it as an audiobook this time around.

As someone who has worked extensively in health and health behaviour change, several concepts in the book resonate with me.

One of the most common complaints I hear is about being perpetually ‘busy.’ This can be actively busy in running around – maybe from school drop off, to work, to a meeting, an event, a school sports pickup, grocery shopping… all the things we do. Or, it could be a busy mind – feeling that there are demands, pressures, beeps and buzzes from devices and reminders, and not then having a clear mind to be able to focus on a task. I think that it is this ‘busy’ which causes the most distress.

In the GTD model, this state is referred to as ‘overwhelm,’ which results from having too many ‘open loops’—tasks, projects, and to-dos that demand our attention without a proper system to manage them.

Allen suggests that this overwhelm can be mitigated by capturing every task and commitment in a reliable external system (for example, diary, to-do list, journal) freeing our minds to focus on the present moment. By doing so, stress is reduced and productivity increases, as we are not constantly distracted by those things that we are trying to remember.

Some of you may have heard me talk of the weaknesses of trying to ‘remember’ things. Generally, if we are relying on remembering, we are bound to be often forgetting things.

We all carry tech’s amazing organisation device (a phone) in the palm of our hands, and in doing so we can save for our miraculous brain the space and attention for the moment we are in. Personally, I use electronic diaries synced across my devices, but if you prefer pen and paper, that can be just as effective. The goal is to find a system that works for you and stick with it.

In my work, I often help people establish regular eating habits, and a major barrier they report facing is lack of time and organisation. Many have told me they eat better when they plan their meals. This aligns with the idea that improving overall organisation can positively impact all aspects of our lives, including eating, movement, hydration, and sleep.

In my experience, staying on top of things, even just maintaining an accurate diary, can be incredibly beneficial. ‘Getting Things Done’ is often implemented as a business productivity resource, but is equally applicable across personal life.

– Chris Thompson
Psychologist

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