The Secret to Staying Organized (and Sane): Only Think About Things Once!

The Secret to Staying Organized (and Sane): Only Think About Things Once!

Difficulty with focus and organization is a frequent topic during my monthly one-to-one sessions with my members.  As leaders of their businesses, they often feel overwhelmed, by the sheer volume of their outstanding action items. Some of these get captured in various places while many just float in their heads. Because our brains have limited storage capacity, many important things are naturally forgotten.

I was suffering from the same problem. Last year, I felt distracted by trying to remember personal “to-do’s” as well as smaller, but important business items. I discovered a solution that worked well for me: the “Getting Things Done (GTD)” personal productivity system.

At the core of the system is a philosophy based upon the Zeigarnik Effect which explains how our minds naturally fixate on unfinished tasks while forgetting those that we’ve completed. The net effect is that we often waste our precious mental energy churning over what is unwritten and incomplete, resulting in an ineffective allocation of our attention and effort. The antidote to this tendency is the Golden Rule of “Getting Things Done” which simply boils down to:

ThoughtBubble

To capture my ideas and action items, when they occur, I grab my nearest MAC device and enter it into my Omnifocus software.  Everything that I want to do or remember goes into the Omnifocus Inbox; I can even forward emails to it.  By doing this, I am able to keep my email Inbox empty (or nearly so!).  (Later, I can go back to Omnifocus and add details like due dates, notes, etc. and create new daily and weekly priorities.) Over time, my mind has learned to trust the system. Once I have captured a thought, my mind treats it as completed and releases it. This allows me to concentrate on accomplishing my daily plan. This organization system is simple and has saved me so many times!

If you are struggling with organizing your life, whether work or personal, start writing down your thoughts as they occur, and keep them in a central place. You can use your own manual system or a technology-enabled one. The important thing is to consistently use it! You will quickly be surprised how much of that valuable mental space that you will free up, and, as a consequence, how much more productive you will become.

Further reading:

From BBC.com: The Psychology of the To Do List

Free articles from David Allen, creator of “Getting Things Done”

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