Categories | Best Practices of GTD | Getting Things Done | Implementation | Inspiration | Psychology of GTD
This post is from Chip Joyce, a longtime GTDer who also happens to work for David Allen Company as Director of Business Development in New York.
A principle of Getting Things Done is to habitually write down everything that has your attention. Writing things down can be done with pen on paper, or typing into a computer, or any method that externalizes the thought. The key is to get it out of your head.
Then you need to assess whether you are going to commit to doing something about what you’ve written down. If so, what is the desired outcome? What does done look like? And what is the next action to get to that point? Alternately, you might decide not to do anything about it right now — it is something you will park on a someday/maybe list to reconsider in the future. Sometimes such a decision is difficult. Sometimes it is the first time you’ve really faced the issue with clarity, instead of merely having a nagging feeling about something you dread. There is a tendency, therefore, to not write down everything, to write down everything except those really tough issues.
Writing down everything is fundamentally different than writing down most things. The standing order to yourself to “write down everything” is not at all the same as “write down everything except that which I feel too bad about.” According to GTD, writing down everything is supposed to be an exercise that is free of value judgments. You are not supposed to think about, analyze, measure, assess, assign importance to, weigh against other things, etc. You are supposed to capture everything that has your attention as a discrete phase. If you are being selective in what you capture, you are cheating yourself. No matter how pristine and functional your trusted system appears to be, you will know it is incomplete. Most likely, especially during a review, you will keep remembering everything you did not want to capture. Your lists will become repellent to you as they will remind you, ironically, of what is conspicuously not on them.
If you had written down the things you dread, and made an up-front decision about them, they would be on a list somewhere. Perhaps as a project, a new area of focus, or a someday/maybe. By doing that, you have accepted the situation. By avoiding it, you have avoided acceptance. Putting something on a list in a GTD way, is really about acceptance.
The next time you review your GTD system, strive for acceptance of everything in your life, everything in your head, and write down what you have avoided so far. Be as honest with yourself as you can, and strive for being free.
Perhaps a good exercise is to ask yourself if those who know you best looked at your lists, what would they know was missing from them. It might not be easy to capture everything, and it might take months. It might be emotionally exhausting and you might find you have to pace yourself. Nothing is wrong with that.
Lastly, do not think everything you are holding back from your lists is negative stuff. What hopes and dreams do you have that you are not writing down? What are you avoiding writing down because you feel embarrassed or silly or irresponsible, or childish, or unrealistic, by having those thoughts? Learn to accept those and write them down too, for in them may be the beginning to your life’s fulfillment and greatest joys.