Use GTD to facilitate Work-Life Integration

Mind Like WaterMost people today have so many demands on their time that there is literally not enough time in a day to get it all done. We all strive for some kind of work-life balance but the reality of todays always-on world is there is no true separation between work and the rest of your life. Everything is integrated together such that what we really strive for is successful work-life integration.

I have found an extremely effective way to balance all of the commitments in my life and it is called Getting Things Done or GTD for short. What’s the essence of Getting Things Done? GTD provides the most systematic and effective way to manage all the commitments you have to yourself and others. GTD’s key benefit is freedom – freedom from the sources of distraction and stress in your life.

David Allen’s first book “Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress Free Productivity” is the basis for my work-life management system that has evolved over the years. I do not literally practice David Allan’s version of GTD but rather use the basic concepts and modify or adapt them to the reality of my life.

What is GTD Exactly?

There are 5 steps to GTD that I’ll go into more detail with upcoming posts, but here’s a quick overview:

1) Capture – When a thought or action comes to mind that you need or want to do something with – “stuff” – then you need to capture it in a place that your mind will trust that it won’t get lost.
2) Clarify – Go through the “stuff” that you collected in step one and give it meaning.
3) Organize – Defined your “stuff” and get it into lists optimized for later use.
4) Reflect – Look over your lists to do any clean up and decide what comes next.
5) Engage – Now that you have everything in place, do something about it.

Reducing Stress – “Mind Like Water”

The main goal behind GTD is to free up your mind. As David Allen likes to say, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” If you get things out of your head and into your trusted system, you can focus your mind on the task at hand or the person in front of you as opposed to remembering what you need to do next. It’s a way of bringing yourself back to the present because you’re not worrying about all the things you have to do and this relieves subconscious stress.

If you throw a rock into a calm pond, you see a splash and then some ripples start to form. The water reacts to forces around it in that moment and then slowly returns to its original state. GTD is a way to give your mind that ability. Getting things out of your mind and into a trusted system allows you to react to the new things coming at you and then return to your original state.

In coming posts I will detail what the 5 phases of GTD are and how you can get started on your journey to achieve “mind like water” to reduce stress and be more productive in everything that you do.

Advertisements

Why GTD is so important to successful Work-Life integration

134086167In today’s world “Work-Life Balance” is an impossible fairy tale. If we are honest with ourselves, all we can strive for is successful “Work-Life Integration.” I say this because work-life balance implies that what you do professionally and what you do personally are somehow at odds – a zero-sum game that requires us to strike a 50-50 balance.

Work-life integration, by contrast, suggests that at the very best, what you do at work and what you do outside of it with family, friends, and community are driven by the same fundamental values and priorities. Ideally, you can bring your talents, strengths and personality to both arenas, making one’s work life and home life parts of a seamless whole. Then you find ways to fulfill and enjoy both your work and life demands at the same time.

The Harvard Business Review has a great article on the subject called “Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life” that states, “Work/life balance is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth, today’s senior executives will tell you. But by making deliberate choices about which opportunities they’ll pursue and which they’ll decline, rather than simply reacting to emergencies, leaders can and do engage meaningfully with work, family, and community.” 

Forbes Insights has a detailed research called “The @Work State of Mind Project” where they state “The barriers between personal and work time have crumbled. Executives have to be prepared to make decisions anywhere and at any time. Just 3% of the survey respondents said that they didn’t send or receive emails while on vacation. Only 2% said that they never worked weekends or nights. More than half the respondents (52%) said they receive information related to business decisions round-the-clock, including weekends.”

Work-life integration isn’t just about finding time at home to do work tasks and handling home tasks at work, even though that’s a popular perception. Instead of thinking “what work can I easily integrate into my home life”, focus on how you can integrate all areas of your life the best way you can. The ultimate goal is to optimize how you use your time so you can fulfill all of your daily needs, both in your work and in your personal life.

This is where GTD is so critical and I see many people make the mistake of setting up separate systems. Don’t attempt to separate your trusted systems into work and personal systems. You just have your life and all the associated commitments and stuff in your life, so you need a single trusted system. However, you should separate your contexts – what you can only do at the office and what you can only do at home when defining your next actions. That way, you only scan your next actions that are appropriate to the context of where you physical are at any given time.

If your trusted system up to date it is easy to leave work every day and feel like you accomplished exactly what you needed to do for that day. This allows you to drive home and decompress by tuning out and watching TV, reading a book, or whatever activity you like to do to relax and refresh. The ability to forget all the things you didn’t do that are still on your plate is essential to relieving stress and feeling like you are doing the appropriate things given your available time and context.

I recommend you do a “Daily Review” at the beginning of each day at the office. First, look at your calendar to see what hard commitments you have and how much discretionary time you have. Then, look at your Office Next Action list and decide what you realistically want to accomplish before you go home.

I stress the realistic part of this. Assign a “Today” tag to the next actions you want to accomplish today. Then filter your next actions on TODAY so you only see those items you decided you want to accomplish today. Once you can check off or delete all those things that you set out to accomplish in the morning at the office, go home. That way, you can feel good about accomplishing what you set out to accomplish at work and go home to be with your loved ones and focus on the priorities in your non-work life.

 

Work/Life Balance is a Myth

Work Life BalanceI just read a great article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life” that highlighted how many of today’s most successful executives attempt to manage the Work/Life Balance. According to the article, “Work/life balance is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth.”

Many people profess to to seek a “balance” between work and life.   What they really mean is they want to strike a balance between work and family. Well I have bad news… There is no such thing as a Work/Life balance. That’s right – there’s no “balance.” If you’re trying to achieve balance, you’re going to fail. Balance isn’t the answer. The best you can hope for is “dynamic tension” between the two. But, there is a way to be at peace about the work and family struggle.

In today’s alway on, always connected world it there is no longer a distinct “work time” and a distinct “personal time.” Just acknowledge it and get over it.  In the era before email, smartphones, tablets, instant messaging, social networks, etc. we all had relatively predictable days. Now we all have unpredictable random work streams that come at us constantly 7×24.

We all feel the need to always be on and connected in order to keep up. This is why people feel compelled to constantly check their email of their FaceBook feeds. FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out psychologically compels us to check just in case. The reality is everyone else is NOT doing it better than you, and you’re NOT the only one feeling stressed and worried about everything, and feeling like you’re almost failing at both. Here is what to do:

Don’t attempt to have separate work and personal systems. You just have your life and all the associated commitments and stuff in your life. Do separate your contexts – what you can only do at the office and what you can only do at home – such that when you are ready to do you have your next actions broken down into the appropriate context to getting things done.

Then at the beginning of each day at the office, look at your calendar to see what hard commitments you have and how much discretionary time you have.  Then, look at your Next Actions lists and decide what you realistically want to accomplish today before you go home.

I stress the realistic part of this. Assign a “Today” tag to the next actions you want to accomplish today.  Then filter your next actions on TODAY so you only see those items you decided you want to accomplish today.  Once you can check off or delete all those things that you set out to accomplish in the morning at the office, GO HOME. Feel good about accomplishing what you set out to accomplish and go home to be with your loved ones.

Once your home be fully engaged with your family.  No multitasking. Sure, maybe a little email after your partner and the kids go to bed, but that’s all.