How to decrease the stress in your life

StressThere is a reason David Allen’s first book is called “Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress Free Productivity.” The reason is because practicing 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.

Not sure you believe me? Well there is scientific proof. Check out Getting Things Done: The Science behind Stress-Free Productivity by Francis Heylighen and Clément Vidal which goes into great detail on the science behind GTD and why it works.

Many people confuse GTD with time management but David argues that what is required is not time management but really self management – what we do with ourselves in any situation or context.  It involves dealing effectively with all of the things we have to do and want to do, both personally and professionally.

GTD is about capturing things we collect and create, deciding what – if anything – we want to do about them, organizing the results of that knowledge work into a trusted system we can review appropriately and making intuitive strategic and tactical choices about what to do at any point in time from our options.

In this way, GTD provides a comprehensive approach for increasing productivity while decreasing stress. GTD is a process that accelerates productivity without requiring more effort. In fact, most people experience a great decrease in stress while increasing the amount they get done.

Why? Simply put, it’s because our brains are optimized for fast decision-making, not for storage. Trying to juggle too many things in your head at the same time is a major reason we get stressed out when there’s a lot going on.

The best way to stop mentally thrashing and start being productive is to get all your “stuff” into your trusted system. Once the information is out of your head, it’s far easier to figure out what to do with it. Once you get all your stuff out of your head and into your trusted system you experience a profound sense of relief.

Use GTD to Reduce Stress in Your Life

StressThis article from the BBC got me thinking about the ultimate benefit of practicing GTD – reduction of stress. There is a reason David Allen’s first book is called “Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress Free Productivity.”

Practicing 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.

Our brain is a poor and unreliable repository of all the things we try to cram into it. David calls all this “stuff” and collectively all these thoughts clutter our headspace. Once you get all your stuff out of your head and into your trusted system you experience a profound sense of relief.

Why? Because our brains are optimized for fast decision-making, not storage. Trying to juggle too many things in your head at the same time is a major reason we get stressed out when there’s a lot going on. The best way to stop mentally thrashing and start being productive is to get all your “stuff” into your trusted system. Once the information is out of your head, it’s far easier to figure out what to do with it.

 

Why you should get stuff out of your head

Get stuff out of your headOne of the key tenants of GTD is getting stuff out of your head.

Many people do not understand why this is so important.

The reason is our minds are not built to remember all of the little “commitments” we make every day. Our subconscious knows we have some kind of commitment and it “worries” in the background or subconsciously that we will forget something important. This leads to stress.

So, the way out of this is to put the “stuff” (appointments, numbers, tasks, ideas, notes, worries, promises, deadlines, reminders, projects, maybes, etc.) in a Trusted System.

Think about life before electronic “contacts” applications.

You had to memorize things like people’s address and phone numbers. How well did that work out?  Sure, some people could memorize lots of phone numbers and were very proud of this fact. But, most people had no way of memorizing lots of phone numbers and needed a way to “get them out of their head” and into a Trusted System.

Initially, people used pencil and paper to store people’s addresses and phone numbers. Then the trusted system was a physical “Rolodex” or some kind of a journal with all your contact info. Then, as technology advanced, for most people it was “Contacts” in Outlook that served as our trusted system. Finally, the concept of contacts became universal and today our mobile devices make our contacts available to us anytime, anywhere on earth.  What a great trusted system! Calendars followed a similar path.

When we trust a system to store our “stuff” our brain let’s go of that little background task that is worried you will forget about the commitment.  If there is one thing that technology is great at, it’s remembering things. The biggest instant benefit of capturing your “stuff” is that once you capture it, you feel relief instantly. The is because once you have captured your “stuff” you can forget about it. You know where to find it if/when you need it.  And this reduces stress.

Don’t store things in your head. Put them in a trusted system. You will be rewarded with relief and increased mental capacity. You will almost immediately feel better.  By capturing your “stuff”, you will increase your mental capacity. It’s like an upgrade for your brain.

Once you start doing this, you might be shocked how clearly you can think and how efficiently you can function. It’s almost like magic.

Tell me about your trusted system.