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GTD and constant anxiety about missing something

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  • GTD and constant anxiety about missing something

    Hi folks,

    I've been doing GTD for about 3-4 years now, read the book several times and did my best to implement the system. I consider myself a successful person relative to my peers, thanks, in a large part, to GTD. It is wonderful to be able to set high-level, year-long goals and then actually creating a workable plan and seeing it through until the very end, while keeping balance across all areas of life.

    However I am rarely in the "mind like water" state. Instead, I'm constantly anxious that I have not collected something. I'm constantly trying to picture my whole life and trying to see how my activities in a given moment fit into this picture. Sometimes I consciously know that something (such as an Outlook appointment reminder) is completely insignificant, yet my brain continues to nag me about it until I have thought it through completely to validate that it is, indeed, insignificant. I get painful stabs of fear about missing something that should be in my system. It feels like the perfectionism inherent in GTD has triggered a mild case of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

    All this angst wastes a tremendous amount of mental capacity and is very disconcerting. I know that I _should_ be feeling organized, clear about life goals and harmonic, instead I'm happy but tormented by anxiety.

    What gives? Anyone having similar feelings?

  • #2
    Originally posted by ShunterAlhena View Post
    What gives? Anyone having similar feelings?
    Are you doing regular GTD Weekly Reviews? What you describe can be a symptom of not feeling good about what you're not doing, if you're not doing thorough reviews regularly.

    Comment


    • #3
      Insignificant reminders in Outlook?

      Originally posted by ShunterAlhena View Post
      Sometimes I consciously know that something (such as an Outlook appointment reminder) is completely insignificant, yet my brain continues to nag me about it until I have thought it through completely to validate that it is, indeed, insignificant.
      Why do you have completely insignificant reminders in Outlook?

      Comment


      • #4
        Yep, been there, done that. A few things that helped:

        1. Weekly review. Top priority. If you're doing your weekly review, you'll have already thought those insignificant tasks through to confirm that it's insignificant.

        2. Regular brain dumps. That might even be every night to start with. As you then process those brain dumps, you'll gradually reassure yourself that everything really IS in the system (or they will be by the time become sick of brain dumps!)

        3. Daily review - just a quick skim of action lists to remind yourself that everything's under control.

        4. Make yourself a quick note about why you decided something was insignificant. That way you don't have to repeatedly think it through.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for the replies.

          @kelstarrising: You are right - I rigorously Collect, Process and Organize stuff, but I skip the Weekly more often than I'd like. This indeed might be a weak link.

          @TesTeq: I have insignificant Outlook reminders thanks to our wonderful company mailing lists. Sometimes they send a bulk e-mail that contains a meeting request, which then gets copied into my calendar automatically. This usually happens during the evening/night (while it's day in the USA), so sometimes I have random new appointments on my calendar when I wake up.

          @vbampton: Glad that I'm not alone with the experience and that it's solvable.
          What do you mean by brain dumps - do you have scheduled time periods when you go through your brain and empty it? My understanding was that one should jot down everything right when it pops up, so brain dumps seem redundant, since I should already have everything written down. Or did I get this part of GTD wrong?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ShunterAlhena View Post
            @vbampton: Glad that I'm not alone with the experience and that it's solvable.
            What do you mean by brain dumps - do you have scheduled time periods when you go through your brain and empty it? My understanding was that one should jot down everything right when it pops up, so brain dumps seem redundant, since I should already have everything written down. Or did I get this part of GTD wrong?
            Writing it down when it pops up is great GTD practice. But also, whenever you're feeling anxious, try writing down - stream of conciousness - everything that's on your mind. You'll probably find you write down a lot of stuff that's already on your lists, and that's fine. That'll decrease over time, and if it doesn't, it might mean there's more to think about on those particular topics in order to get them off your mind. You might also discover a few other things that aren't currently on your lists. I think David usually calls it a mindsweep.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by ShunterAlhena View Post
              @kelstarrising: You are right - I rigorously Collect, Process and Organize stuff, but I skip the Weekly more often than I'd like. This indeed might be a weak link.
              Is it possible that you're also Organizing what you should perhaps be discarding? If your lists are long, and have unimportant things as well as important things, then it can be easy to lose something important in the sea of trivia. Maybe you could dump more things into Someday/Maybe, and also delete more things?

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              • #8
                Fight the "meeting spam"!

                Originally posted by ShunterAlhena View Post
                @TesTeq: I have insignificant Outlook reminders thanks to our wonderful company mailing lists. Sometimes they send a bulk e-mail that contains a meeting request, which then gets copied into my calendar automatically. This usually happens during the evening/night (while it's day in the USA), so sometimes I have random new appointments on my calendar when I wake up.
                I think you can configure Outlook not to "Automatically accept meeting requests and process cancellations".

                It is not a good practice to allow your hard landscape (calendar) to be automatically captured by the "meeting spam".

                It is the organizing without processing example.

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                • #9
                  I've also been wondering whether GTD has given me a mind like a martial arts expert
                  constantly looking around to check whether there are any dangers, rather than a mind
                  like water. Some people said that having everything captured feels very different from having almost everything captured, and that touched off a perfectionistic or competitive streak in me.

                  Things I do to reduce anxiety include: using the book "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" by David Burns; taking a calcium supplement; doing a ritual which is essentially
                  a declaration of rejection of perfectionism and an acceptance of good, imperfect
                  actions; affirmations.

                  You could do something like this: imagine that you could visit a professional who
                  would help you overcome your anxiety and get to the proper mind-like-water state.
                  Then take the amount of time and money you would have spent on this
                  professional and set it aside. Then, for the rest of the year, tell yourself that
                  you can relax, because if you miss an appointment or something you can use
                  the saved-up time and money to compensate. Also tell yourself that the amount
                  of time you spend in a relaxed state will probably far exceed in value the
                  time lost due to missed appointments. In other words: try to relax and not worry, to such an extent that you miss at least one appointment this year. There will be
                  a small number of particularly important appointments such as job interviews
                  that you won't include in the plan. This is just an idea I thought up.

                  You can set aside times when you're trying to think up things to add to your
                  system, and other times when you're engaging in a relaxing activity and
                  don't expect to think up any action items during that time.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Once our music teacher asked us all to drop our bows (e.g. violin bows) on the floor. That was to overcome the fear of dropping them, so that we could hold them with relaxed hands. The equivalent for you might be to purposely relax for a while until you miss something (relatively minor) or purposely refrain from capturing something, in order to demonstrate to yourself that it isn't a big deal.

                    Lucy Palladino's book "Find Your Focus Zone" has some tips for overcoming anxiety
                    among a lot of other tips for getting into the right frame of mind for optimal
                    performance.

                    I use a wristwatch which I can set, for example, to beep 2 hours before a dentist appointment and display "dentist". I have a reminder in my system 3 times a week to look over the next few days in my calendar. Etc. I tell myself "So I don't need to worry about anything else for the next few days."

                    You can try to get a sense of perspective. Suppose someone is dying and you're at their deathbed. Which would be more impressive to hear? "Ah, I've had a satisfying life. I've managed to get through the last 10 years without missing any appointments." or "Ah, I've had a satisfying life. I've had fun, had adventures, made mistakes and laughed about them afterwards with the people I care about."

                    You can list a small number of things that are really important, and tell yourself that
                    everything else is minor. For example: my children are alive. Anything else I don't really need to worry about.

                    You could make reducing anxiety a project, sign up for yoga classes, read books like "Kitchen Table Wisdom" or those "Chicken Soup" books etc. (I haven't read these). The most useful might be to separate out times when you're supposed to be thinking up things to capture and times when you're not, e.g. while swimming. You could spend 5 minutes of every hour doing a mind dump, then spend the other 55 minutes focussing on particular things without worrying about capturing.

                    If you miss an appointment, you waste someone's time; but if you spend all week worrying about whether you're going to miss an appointment, you waste a lot more of your own time.

                    "A ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are for."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                      If you miss an appointment, you waste someone's time; but if you spend all week worrying about whether you're going to miss an appointment, you waste a lot more of your own time.
                      Love that!

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                      • #12
                        It might be that your mind is convinced that it can trust you system but your instinct is not to. To truly trust your system is a habit change - and how hard it is to change your previous habits depends on how deep they have been engrained.

                        So in addition to looking at your present GTD implementation for any gaps in the actual system, it might also help to observe and try to work out where your feelings of anxiety come from. Is there anything in your past? Can you pinpoint what specific contexts or events that trigger your insecurity? (no need to answer, just rhetorical questions...)

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                        • #13
                          I like what Mike said...

                          Originally posted by mthar1 View Post
                          It might be that your mind is convinced that it can trust you system but your instinct is not to.
                          It does really sound like the challenge you're having is that you don't trust your system yet. I went through a phase like this. It was really tough to give up using my mind as the ultimate controller and transfer it instead to my GTD system. Sure I could collect and process and organise... but I had to keep doing that so I could be sure I wasn't missing anything. I wasn't trusting that my brain really did not have to get involved again once I'd captured something.

                          So I would suggest you focus on building trust in your system. Test it. Next time you capture something a second time... check... did my system really have it. If it did, remind yourself that you don't need to think of things a second time ... your system's go it. If it doesn't, ask yourself what your system needs to have to give you more confidence it's got it and it'll be there when you need it.

                          I think all the suggestions you've received are great. For me, building a regular weekly review + having a project around tweaking my system, is what really helped me build the trust. I think if you start with the weekly review and add a question to ask yourself each week "What can I do to rely on my system more?", you'll eventually get there.


                          Regards, Enyo
                          www.enyonam.com

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