Getting comfortable with your lists

On a recent Mac Power User podcast (MPU 219), David and Katie had David Allen, creator of Getting Things Done (GTD), as their guest. I've always enjoyed listening to David Allen and his insights on using GTD. What I've always enjoyed was how his explanations come off less liturgical and more philosphical. David gave an overview of the GTD's 5 phases of work:1

  1. Capture—collect what has your attention
  2. Clarify—process what it means
  3. Organize—put it where it belongs
  4. Reflect—review frequently
  5. Engage—simply do.

The stage that I've struggled with is Reflect because when I start to look at my list I felt overwhelmed. I didn't feel overwhelmed of how big or how many things I had on my list, but how much I felt I wasn't getting done. David Sparks started to describe similar feelings to his lists in the podcast. David Allen diagnosed part of the problem of probably not doing a weekly review on a regular basis. In my case that's probably true, but it was David Allen's follow up on reviewing your lists is what was amazing:

David Sparks: Frankly it's paralyzing when you look at a list that long.

David Allen: It's only paralyzingly if you think you need to do all of that all the time. That's because people just aren't used to feeling comfortable about all the stuff they're not doing.2

In all my time reading and leaning, I've never heard the Reflect stage broken down in such simple terms.

You need to get comfortable of what you're not doing.

Now THAT'S what I was having a problem with.

I looked back and saw that I had gone through all the effort to Capture, Clarify, and Organize my tasks, but because I got overwhelmed with all the stuff I wasn't doing, I stumbled with my Weekly Reviews. This caused a domino effect on my work since I didn't Reflect on my lists I would typically fail to Engage with my lists, which led to me to not getting things done. While David Allen's statement seems obvious, in fact he seems to have a knack at doing that, incorporating the advice has been a challenge. The choice I've made is to do reviews more frequently, so I can get used to seeing everything on all my lists more often.

I'll update everyone on how this is going in a couple of months.

  1. GTD 5 steps from Getting Things Done

  2. MPU 219 @ 41:30.