"I don't have time."
"I will get to that when I finish what I am doing."
We have heard or used these or similar excuses. Self-introspection led me to think about how to be more productive and take control of my day; thereby getting in control of my life. Keeping mind thinking about things to do will force it to repeat stuff in open loop and it sucked my energy.
We are creatures of habit and what we did yesterday is what we're going to do today habitually unless we make an effort to change. Some negative habits arise unintentionally and we have to make an effort to notice them, and substitute them with positive ones.
Getting the stuff out of head and on paper (or digital) is important. We all daydream. That is counterproductive. It keeps us from doing task at hand well. A habit of putting things in right place, consistent system of organization, with a bit of flexibility, can help in reducing the mental interruptions. The key is not just to collect stuff in a list but to deal with it everyday. Focus on the very next action you can take to move things forward. Simply getting the stuff out of your head and for tackling it in advance will reinforce the habit of pro-activity.
Here's how I define "stuff:" anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn't belong where it is, but for which you haven't yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step.by David Allen in Getting Things Done
What is a "Brain Dump"?
I learned about it from David Allen's work and it has been very powerful tool for making me feel more in control and help me focus rather than feeling stressed out.
In the past, I had a tendency of letting little tasks build up. Usually they would fall under "important but not urgent" category. They were important but they didn't come with a strict deadline so it was easy to postpone them.
These things get stuck in one's mind over time, distracting one regularly from the things they need to do. You are doing a task and a thought pops up about some undone task….now your train of thought is derailed.
Brain dump is the solution to it. Here is how it works:
List it all
Get a notebook or pad and a pen. You may prefer to do this electronically. Then start listing all of the undone stuff that is floating in your head. You can look around your desk to remind you of things that aren't popping in your head. You can then leave this list on your desk for some time and then keep coming back to it to add stuff as it pops in your head. Doing this, you will find that it is lot easier to focus on your day and finish the task on hand. Your mind will not wander around those undone tasks and if it does, you can write it down if you have not done then already.
I make two lists, one on Thursday for professional items and one on Friday for personal.
Choosing the layout
Selecting the template
Processing the Brain Dump
Once you have your big list ready, organize it a bit. Group interrelated tasks and identify standalone activities. If you need to break down the bigger task into smaller tasks, do so. If the tasks are complex, break them into steps if that helps bring clarity. As you go through the list, decide if there are some tasks that you purposely put off, then move them over to another "someday list".
This leaves you with the prioritized list of activities that you can start knocking off.
Without exception, striking off the done tasks makes me feel good. I feel like I can handle anything during the next work week.
Doing one thing at a time
A lot of people think that they can multitask but the truth is we cannot think two thoughts at the same time. We can shift our focus between thoughts of two types very quickly but we cannot have two thoughts at the same time. Thoughts lead to action so I have realized instead of trying do more than one thought intensive task at the same time, focus on one and do it well. Knock it out and then move down the task list. This prevents the mind from having open loop thoughts and conserves metal energy.
In conclusion, I think there's a problem with making a decision based on how you're feeling at any given moment. Psychologically we have two different selves. One is primitive and reactive. The other is more evolved and reflective. We need to recognize when the primitive, reactive self is taking over and influencing us to avoid things that are uncomfortable. You can't wait to do important things until you feel like it.
That is why having a list of things to do is important. Besides, our brain is not good at keeping lists. Keeping mind thinking about things to do will force it to repeat stuff in open loop and suck one's energy.
Organization and execution are key components to getting things done.