Getting Things Done by David Allen

Book Cover Getting Things DoneGetting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen is written in an extremely linear style and format. That could prove difficult for right-brainers, but I found it easy to understand and apply. The thing is, when I finished the book last month (October 2011) I wasn’t really jived to practice anything Allen teaches until I re-read a few “dog-eared” chapters this weekend.

Here are a few excerpts on procrastination:

It’s really the smartest people who have the highest number of undecided things in their lives and on their lists. Why is that? Think of how our bodies respond to the images we hold in our minds. It appears that the nervous system can’t tell the different between a well-imagined thought and reality (page 240).

Because their sensitivity gives them the capability of producing in their minds lurid nightmare scenarios about what might be involved in doing the project, and all the negative consequences that might occur if it weren’t done perfectly! They just freak out in an instant and quit (page 241)!

There is another solution: intelligently dumbing down your brain by figuring out the next action. You’ll invariably feel a relieving of pressure about anything you have a commitment to change or do, when you decide on the very next physical action required to move it forward. Nothing, essentially, will change in the world. But shifting your focus to something that your mind perceives as a doable, completable task will create a real increase in positive energy, direction, and motivation (page 242).

Bingo! For the past month I made a special effort to listen in on my thoughts before starting a task, during that task and after the task was finished (or put off). It was AMAZING how many times I caught my mind spinning off into what-if and but I’d need to scenarios. The scariest part? 99% of those scenarios were pure fiction.

My brain was telling me things that simply were not true; yet, physically I believed them enough to put off tasks. Mind control is freaky enough without it being your own mind that’s doing the controlling. For example, I’d put off completing a tax enrollment form because my brain told me it would take way too long to finish and that it would be way too difficult. Reality? It took me 15 minutes to complete, sign and mail the form, and on a scale of one to ten, one being the easiest task in the world and ten being the hardest, the form was about a two!

The sense of anxiety and guilt doesn’t come from having too much to do; it’s the automatic result of breaking agreements with yourself. (page 227)

The biggest breakthrough was definitely Allen’s “What’s the next action?” technique. So today, right after I schedule this post, I’m starting my mind-sweep. When my mind-sweep is finished, I will write down the next physical action required to move forward on each task or project. And then I will focus only on that action step until it’s completed.

For more information about Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity you can visit David Allen’s website.

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