Better thinking is within your grasp. Find out more in this excerpt from Todd Brown’s blog post for Next Action Associates.
“Thinking hard?” Hardly.
If you can think, can you think harder? I don’t think so.
In my experience “thinking hard” doesn’t work. I can still hear the voice of Mrs Hamm, my third-grade teacher, “c’mon kids, think hard.” We’re given the sense from an early age that thinking can increase in intensity by applying effort, just like walking.
Applying effort to thinking just seems to get in the way. Telling myself to “think harder” generates resistance and frustration, not better or more effective thinking. But that doesn’t mean I can’t think better, or more effectively.
What does seem to work is removing barriers.
I start by reducing distractions, both internal and external. If I’m feeling diverted by my thoughts, I do a quick “mind sweep.” I write down everything that’s on my mind, big or small, personal or professional. I need to call Ed regarding the contract. I want to talk to Debbie about booking the hotel for our holiday. The client needs the proposal by Friday. Just getting these things out of my head goes a long way toward reducing internal distractions.
I also consider external distractions. I check my surroundings. If I’m feeling distracted by my environment, I see first whether I can minimize or eliminate some sources of that distraction. I close my email client (yes, it can be done). I put my phone on silent. If possible, I get out of a distracting environment altogether. If that’s not possible, I recognize that my ability to get work done that requires deep thinking may be limited. In that case it might be better to focus on quick and easy wins that require less mental resource.
Once potential diversions are eliminated, in my experience thinking is really just about focus. I’m not “thinking hard,” I’m focused on something without distraction. The only “effort” is choosing what to focus on, and then maintaining that focus. Once I’m in that state, I find that effective thinking happens very naturally.
So the key here seems to be to get out of my own way, not about applying effort. It’s as if the secret to running faster were just a matter of reducing drag, not about muscle power. Create the environment to eliminate distractions, choose your focus, and watch the ideas flow.
You can read other blog posts and find out more about Next Action Associates, the only Certified International Partner for GTD in the UK, here.
David Allen’s interview with Dose of Leadership is now available as a free podcast.
Learn the keys to mind like water in our next “Keys to Getting Things Done” webinar. It’s coming up this Thursday, March 7th from 10am-11am Pacific Time.
We have about 20 seats still available. Register now.
One-minute video describing life with GTD.
(This video is streaming from YouTube, so it may take a few seconds to load.)
Here’s concise advice from David Allen, on asking yourself two questions that can calm the waters of your mind.
Everything that is outstanding in your world and mind, that hasn’t been somehow put onto “cruise control,” will be holding some part of your psyche hostage.
So, simply ask yourself, “What has my attention now?” And then ask, “What do I need to decide, do, handle, and organize, to be able to have my mind let that go?”
“Small Business Big Marketing” recorded this informative and entertaining podcast with David Allen. It has some great examples of how GTD helps us all to get more of the productive experience more often.
Listen now or download from iTunes.
“Time management is really agreement management. At the end of the day, how good you feel about what you did (and what you didn’t do) is proportional to how well you think you kept agreements with yourself. Did you do what you told yourself to do? Did you accomplish what you think should have been accomplished? Wasting time only means that you think you should have been doing something other than what you were doing. Sleep is not a waste of time if you think you need it. Taking a walk instead of rewriting your strategic plan is not a waste of time as long as you think taking a walk is the thing to do at that moment. It’s when you wind up not having done that which you’ve agreed with yourself should be done that the trouble begins.”
—from David Allen’s article, “Time Management: What’s the Real Issue?”
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of email I have to handle.” Many people are dealing with this situation every day, these days. They’re trying to do more, in less time. Maybe they’re even having to do the work that others were doing before the economy changed, and so many companies downsized.
But it’s not just urbanites who feel the pressure. People who commute from the suburbs, or work at home, or already live in a rural cabin are also looking for ways to get a break from the volume of work and personal input—email, voicemail, calls, meetings, and more. Anyone who lives on the grid needs an up-to-date method for productively managing life’s input, so there’s still time for reflection. Sound familiar?
It’s natural that people who are interested in being more productive look to GTD for solutions. GTD’s systematic approach relieves the stress, and makes the busy-ness of our modern lives sustainable. Like a cabin on a mind-like-water lake.
(Please note that the cabin site may load slowly. It has lots of pictures, and—ironically—lots of traffic.)