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  • What's your way of getting inspired when you're not?

    Since last January, I was so depressed because my business was almost screeching to a halt. As a result, my GTD system slowly started to slip, until I finally lost it last weekend and stopped GTD altogether. I couldn't get myself to do GTD even if I wanted to. My "Getting back to the GTD wagon" checklist didn't help either. I totally stopped doing GTD.

    But today I got a phone call from a client saying I'll be getting a huge repeat order. What I huge difference it made! I was so elated I resumed GTD immediately!

    Now, I'm thinking if only I continued faithfully doing GTD the past 3 months, I could have gotten A LOT of things done. But being depressed so much, I couldn't do GTD properly and even started to doubt whether I wanted to continue this business or not. My review started to shift from defining business improvement projects to exploring possibilities of closing down.

    My question is, how do you prevent yourself from getting depressed and stopping GTD when business is down? I mean GTD isn't the reason business is down, it's just a system for clearing your head and getting things done. I know that, but somehow I just can't ingrain that into my skull and still get depressed so much it affects my GTD system, so much that I even stopped doing it! So if any of you have some tips on how to get inspired and stay inspired despite difficult circumstances, I'd highly appreciate it, because I don't want any of this to happen again.

  • #2
    DA has said that your GTD system must work even if you are sick. If you only "do GTD" when you are inspired, then your system may be requiring too much overhead. That's a problem, because GTD is just a means to an end, not a destination in itself.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by kewms View Post
      DA has said that your GTD system must work even if you are sick. If you only "do GTD" when you are inspired, then your system may be requiring too much overhead. That's a problem, because GTD is just a means to an end, not a destination in itself.

      Katherine
      I use filofax.. simple lists on different tabs. It's easy to implement. Not as much overhead as you might presume.

      It's just that different emotional states affect my GTD.

      So I'm trying to make GTD a habit. But before I could do that, I always plummet back to an uninspired state. How do you prevent that? I'd really like to get to the level where as DA said doing GTD's like brushing your teeth. Inspired or not you brush you teeth. You just can't stand not doing it. Any tips?

      Comment


      • #4
        http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/200...ys-to-success/

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by corrallingyourstuff View Post
          It's just that different emotional states affect my GTD.
          As someone who's suffered from chronic depression all my life, and is in the middle of a very bad patch now, I know exactly what you mean. It's not that the depression simply depresses your ability to do GTD, it's that it depresses your ability to do anything. It's like battling through grief: objectively, you know that you should get up and do things, but subjectively, it's like being at the bottom of a well.

          If you're badly depressed, you need to make sure you keep the small habits going. Like brushing your teeth. Like showering. Like eating. If you've got that under control, you're doing well enough.

          And don't ever let anyone tell you to 'just do it', or 'cheer up'. Depression is a physiological problem, not an attitude one, and you can't get out of it just by singing Kumbaya. It's frightening that such a tiny change in the amount of neurochemicals can have such a dire effect, but that's exactly what's happening (okay, yours may not be totally dire, but the principle is the same).

          To lessen the physiological effects of depression, go for a walk: exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, which will temporarily reduce the effects of the depression. Then strike while the neurochemical iron is hot, and do some stuff.

          Originally posted by corrallingyourstuff View Post
          But before I could do that, I always plummet back to an uninspired state. How do you prevent that? I'd really like to get to the level where as DA said doing GTD's like brushing your teeth. Inspired or not you brush you teeth. You just can't stand not doing it. Any tips?
          For starters, don't necessarily expect to be inspired. You'll be doing well if you're able to work at all, in the midst of a serious depression. And as procrastination counsellors point out, we can't reasonably expect to enjoy everything we do: some of it is just naturally boring or tedious or irritating.

          That said, it is possible to keep things moving. The trick is to ruthlessly pare down your system to the bones, and reduce the number of balls you have to keep in the air. I do this by paring down the number of things on my weekly project list, and cutting my inbox processing questions down to one: "Can I ignore this for the rest of the week?"

          The single binary question means that I'm far more likely to clear the In Tray every day. It's easy, easy enough for someone in the pit of depression to be able to manage. Which means at least that nothing's slipping by without me noticing.

          Cutting down the projects on my list gives me a very short-range, limited focus, as well as some quick goals to achieve. Having too many things on the list will set up a sort of static in your mind that quickly rings the "Overwhelmed now" alarm, and being depressed, you're less able to do the fancy footwork of clicking out of one project mindset into another.

          But I still ensure that my weekly project list contains at least one marketing kind of thing, because that's what will bring in new business. I also make sure that I've got some subprojects of longer-term projects in there, so that I'm not just taking care of the easy, quick stuff only to be faced with lots of walls later.

          I also try not to stay in the extremely pared-down state for more than a few weeks. That's usually possible, to at least some extent, because I've relieved some of the pressure associated with the full GTD (and full life) but still kept things moving. And by having a short project list, I've been able to focus properly and get some runs on the board, rather than flailing around and feeling worse.

          Basically, that's about it: batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. If anyone's found something better, I'd love to know about it.

          Hope that helps.

          Comment


          • #6
            Try to avoid the depressed feelings in the first place

            I'm certainly familiar with the down feelings that can come from business being off. What I do...ALL the time...Is to practice avoiding the feelings in the first place. I recommend the following:
            1. Exercise every day - beyond the physical benefits of this, I find it insulates me from feeling down as well.
            2. Don't watch too much TV, especially news programs. Keeping up with headlines on the internet won't affect most people as much as seeing sad and depressing images on TV.
            3. ALWAYS have a book or two around that is inspirational - read some every day, just as if you are taking a pill to avoid illness.
            4. Plan something fun every week - give yourself little things to look forward to. If you involve other people and put it on your calendar, you are less likely to decide to skip it in favor or staying in your jammies all day.
            5. Have a bigger project, trip or anything you consider fun on your project list at all times. I'm planning a cruise with my family for NY 2008. Although I've already made the reservations, I still have lots to do to get ready to go (shopping, researching the ports we are going to, etc.)
            6. Watch "The Secret" DVD - it's not very well done, it's quite hokey...but the basic principle is that your thoughts, negative or positive, tend to draw to you whatever you focus on. In other words, if you mostly think about how bad things are, you are almost putting in an order for things to continue to be bad. There is something to the underlying message of this DVD.
            7. Do all these things--and more--even when you are up and feeling good. Practice makes you perfect.
            8. Don't hesitate to discuss your feelings with a physician. There is no shame in taking medication for depression if you need it!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Barb View Post
              3. ALWAYS have a book or two around that is inspirational - read some every day, just as if you are taking a pill to avoid illness.
              Or funny. Or romantic. Or exciting. Or adventurous. "Calgon take me away," isn't just for bubble bath. Reading a really good (and by that I mean entertaining) book or viewing a good movie can alter my mood, and I suffer from depression, too. It's not a cure, but it can be a temporary pick-me-up that energizes me for a short time, which sometimes is all it takes.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by corrallingyourstuff View Post
                My question is, how do you prevent yourself from getting depressed and stopping GTD when business is down?
                No longer do I strive to prevent getting depressed; that alone paradoxically keeps depression on its toes -- and me!

                Several quick thoughts come to mind, esp. since I've had to deal with this repeatedly. (Moreover, I've had the mixed blessing that while on the outside I typically have a sunny disposition, others think I have no problems, that I've never had bad things happen given my laugh. Hence that has angered me because it fuels the feeling of being the only one to ever go through this. And some who happen to be male tell me it's exponentially worse for them again because of that false exterior demanded of masculinity, highly detailed in the paperback Quiet Desperation.)

                So here are some quickies, with explanations:

                1. Appreciate and engage in forms of ritual.
                Yes, I've fallen off the GTD wagon. At the same time, I've noticed (especially during recovery) that GTD has some repetitive aspects to it that can be done in the worst of times and the best of times. Getting ideas down into "In" to handle at least once a week, creating project folders, reaching for the labeler, these are pretty ritualistic now. Doing those in times of adversity helps to see progress even in the quietest moments.

                2. Appreciate and note forms of cycles.
                There are up's, there are down's in just about anything in life. Sometimes you can do GTD intensely, other times it'll be at a lighter pace.

                There are even cycles during each day. Note for you what specific hours you are really high, and which you just need to slow down.

                3. Embrace the depression when it happens.
                Some great artists as well as business mavens look back at a particular time in their life where it seemed everything was going to end. It was that kind of rock bottom that inspired them to greater things; some period call it "the dark night of the soul."

                I remember once hearing how we may have to extend most pity towards those Straight-A high achievers who never failed at anything from elementary school till the Ivy League MBA's, obtained the 6-figure salaries and then at age 46+ had their first setback and were absolutely lost, even suicidal. I only wish we could have more negatives happen earlier so we develop resilience towards them. Trying to avoid depression may only exacerbate it; welcoming it can actually open new worlds. That's what I learned when reading Fredric Flach's The Secret Strength of Depression.

                4. Anticipate problems, and think in groups of 3's.
                When engaging in a task, think about the outcome as recommended in GTD. Then think 3 things about that outcome: what's the best thing that can happen, what's the worst, and what is most probable to happen? I was told to think in 3's, not 2's, because it's otherwise easy to think black-and-white or create Pro/Con lists where you just list the exact opposite and not explore the many other possibilities in between. (I also adapted/combined this from something I once read by Alan Loy McGinnis within The Power Of Optimism.)

                Another tip I remember from him is "Avoid phony pep talks"; there is nothing more aggravating to try to open up to someone and all they say is "Cheer up," "things will only get better", and the like. Some parts of life are absolutely rotten, some things don't turn out as advertised such as the false promise of guaranteed success through hard work. That said, there is a difference between whining and kvetching; the latter gets things out of your system and is simultaneously productive according to Barbara Sher in Wishcraft.

                5. Take a break!
                Someone once told me, "God did invent Rest Areas for a reason." (When it comes to highway funding, that's what we need more of.) There is a page in the GTD book that suggests after doing so much towards priority planning, get away from it all!
                Last edited by QuestorTheElf; 03-14-2007, 09:04 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by corrallingyourstuff View Post

                  So I'm trying to make GTD a habit. But before I could do that, I always plummet back to an uninspired state. How do you prevent that? I'd really like to get to the level where as DA said doing GTD's like brushing your teeth. Inspired or not you brush you teeth. You just can't stand not doing it. Any tips?
                  Congratulations on the repeat order. Like buses in England, they don't come but then they come in threes.

                  I think you're on to the right objective concerning GTD. It is possible. I seem to have got to the stage where it's just a habit. I get depressed and despondent sometimes and GTD allows me to go into a sort of "getting things done enough" mode. Basically it means I'm not firing on all cylinders but I crank the widgets and don't slip into crisis mode.

                  I also agree with the other points about the importance of exercise, finding ways to enjoy life and realising that depression is often something you have to ride out before it passes.

                  Good luck.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Another thought

                    I found myself thinking about this thread long after I had walked away from it. Another thought: So many of us are too "defined" by what we DO for a living...and not who we ARE. I've seen an awful lot of people crash and burn when a job is lost, for instance, because they tied too much of their identity to their job title.

                    9-11 was a bit of a turning point for me on that issue. Just think about it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd like to thank everyone for such well thought out responses. I've certainly extracted a lot of gold nuggets from them.

                      I especially like how QuestorTheElf described GTD as ritualistic, doing it intensely or lightly, varying on cycles. As good as this sounds, it's the initiation ritual for making GTD a habit that's killing me.

                      I've heard about the 30 days to a habit technique. It's just that the closer you get to day 30, the more unpleasantly intense the lure to drop out is. But I've tasted the power of GTD, and I know it's even more powerful once I'm able to make it a habit. So hopefully I could just gird my loins and stop looking back…

                      I also like the points about exercising and always having something to look forward to. I think the underlying principle here is to pummel depression even before it surfaces. And when it inevitably does surface, I should embrace it as part of a cycle, use it as a way to see a new world, and possibly look back at it for lessons and inspiration. This very act of embracing depression makes me focus more on who I am than what I do.

                      In addition, I should continue using GTD to capture the open loops, in good or bad times, but I could opt to not close them, park them on S/M, and pare down my system until I ride out the storm. Although still, I would love to continue doing GTD normally despite the depression just because the disgust factor of not doing it gets too high, sort of like a ritual behavior as QuestorTheElf put it.

                      Guys, if I didn't get any of your ideas on point please holler back!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hope this helps--------
                        For me, I own a good stereo system because music restoreth my soul. I listen to Janos Starker playing Bach on the cello and the sound of that instrument resonates right through me. I go through a mix of my musical collection-classical-blues -jazz-torch songs from Sinatra to contemporary etc. and it's worth a fortune in psychiatrist bills to my way of thinking.
                        I agree with everybody about physical exercise - what about dancing? tennis is great - bashing the ball around - or skiing -down a hill on two sticks and nobody has time for bad thoughts. And I watch the movie Zorba the Greek just to see him dance away his sorrows.

                        Here I am recommending a book again.
                        This one is "The Happiness Hypothesis" by Jonathan Haidt - Psychologist on par with Martin Seligman who made the cover of Time Magazine.
                        It's superb.
                        Out of context, this will be contentious, but to effect real change (in this case away from depression towards happiness) he has three recommended methods:
                        In his words: "You can change your affective style too-but again, you can't do it by sheer force of will. You have to do something that will change your repertoire of available thoughts.
                        Here, in his opinion, are the three best methods for doing so---

                        Meditation, cognitive therapy, and Prozac.

                        "All three are effective because they work on the elephant" (his analogy for everything about the brain we have little control over – like the subconscious-the book will explain and as disclaimer I'm not recommending taking meds -this read is worth it intellectually)

                        His comments on meditation:
                        "Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is natural an costs nothing. Now would you take it?
                        The pill exists, it is meditation."

                        The goal of meditation is to change automatic thought processes, thereby taming the elephant (referred to above).
                        And the proof of the taming is the breaking of attachments.

                        Uses analogy everyone can relate to-- pets----
                        He writes:
                        "My dog Andy has two main attachments, through which he interprets everything that happens in my house: eating meat and not being left alone. If my wife and I stand near the front door, he becomes anxious. If we pick up our keys, open the door, and say: 'Be a good boy', his tail, head, and hips droop pathetically toward the floor. But if we then say,'Andy-come', he's electrified with joy and shoots past us through the doorway. Andy's fear of being left alone gives him many moments of anxiety throughout the day, a few hours of despair (when he is left alone), and a few minutes of joy (each time his solitude is relieved).
                        Andy's pleasure and pains are determined by the choices my wife and I make.
                        Most people have many more attachments than Andy………….Charles wants money and lives in a constant state of vigilance for chances to make it………………….
                        The only way to win is to step away from the table. And the only way to step away, to make yourself not react to the ups and downs of life, is to meditate and tame the mind……………….Meditation done every day for several months can help you reduce substantially the frequency of fearful , negative, and grasping thoughts, thereby improving your affective style."

                        ( or try cognitive therapy and you won't need anything else.)
                        If anyone loses in-as he calls it- the Cortical Lottery (brain chemicals mixture you were given at birth) then meds like Prozac might be called for.
                        Haidt has a website: happinesshypothesis.org and so does Seligman while we're at it: authentichappiness.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Ahhh, Bach on the cello: sublime. I'm extremely eclectic in my musical tastes, but for music that reaches right through your body and into your soul, there's nothing to match the cello, particularly with Bach.

                          Anyway, musical interludes aside, this is a very interesting thread. Interesting that Questor The Elf mentioned about the laugh: I've been told repeatedly that I've got a laugh that makes people happy (and can be heard for miles or through a foot of concrete ), but I've been subject to bouts of serious depression since I was a child. Perhaps it's something to do with surviving. As Nietzche said, "What does not kill me, makes me stronger." Although I'd add that what does not kill me can still hurt a lot.

                          I think we've mostly covered how to struggle on when things get rough, but you said it was ramping up to having the habits in the first place that you were having trouble with...? In that case, I'd still recommend phasing it in: start with the In Tray, the Projects tray, and the nightly and weekly reviews. Work up over time to the Tickler file and the full orchestra. Build one good habit before you introduce the rest.

                          That part will be a bit tricky, but provided you do it in a sensible order, and get through it in a reasonable time (say, a couple of months to get you to full throttle), you should be okay. Then, you'll not only have the habits and the experience of having full GTD to spur you on when things get rough, you'll know how to scale back if you need to.

                          If it's of any use to anyone, I've broken GTD down into four stages for my clients. If you think it might be useful, I can stick those four stages up on my web site and you can grab 'em and have a look. Just let me know.

                          Finally, there's nothing that clears the mind and enlivens the soul like a bit of nature. I live about 5 minutes walk from a really nice quiet beach, and sometimes when I'm feeling crappy I'll go down and just walk along the beach, listening to the waves. Very calming. I also have the benefit of the large flowering trees of several of my neighbours: most mornings, I can sit out the back and watch the rainbow lorikeets gossiping and playing and just being beautiful (and quite silly).

                          So get away from the city. Get some wind on your face, and the sounds of nature in your ears. You'll be the better for it.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                            Finally, there's nothing that clears the mind and enlivens the soul like a bit of nature. I live about 5 minutes walk from a really nice quiet beach, and sometimes when I'm feeling crappy I'll go down and just walk along the beach, listening to the waves. Very calming. I also have the benefit of the large flowering trees of several of my neighbours: most mornings, I can sit out the back and watch the rainbow lorikeets gossiping and playing and just being beautiful (and quite silly).

                            So get away from the city. Get some wind on your face, and the sounds of nature in your ears. You'll be the better for it.
                            This thread being a two parter, here's part one----
                            A propos to unstuffed's quote, here's a true story------
                            In school I worked part time as a waiter at the restaurant section of my city's theatre when Richard Kiley was there, starring in the musical version of Man of La Mancha. I once had the honour of serving him after the evening show and he told me that he had been so stressed out from the day to day grind of performing that he had rented a car in the morning and driven 100 miles straight north to just sit under a tree in a forest for less than an hour. Got back in the car and drove the 100 miles straight back to town and said he felt like a new man. (the power of the wilderness).

                            And for part two - if anyone is interested in learning meditation as a stress release project here's the next action - learn this - it's Cardiologist's Herbert Benson's technique based from his book The Relaxation Response. It only takes about a minute to learn so it doesn't even violate the two minute rule
                            Long lasting results take time. Give it a several months at 10-20 minutes once a day and you will learn to elicit the relaxation response. What is the Relaxation Response? To answer by an example, say you are driving on a residential street and a child darts out from cars parked along side of the road. You screech to a halt barely avoiding hitting the child. Your heart is beating out of your chest etc. The strength of your relaxation response is how long it takes for you to get yourself back to resting state. Routine meditation works positively on this and the effect resonates in many other aspects of your life -emotions, how you play sports, how you maintain your cool under an assortment of pressures in business and private life. The only catch is it has to be maintained once a day.
                            But the main catch is it's so easy, no one believes it will work. It does and there is hard science behind it which can be looked up. Try the NIH website for starters. Hope it helps.

                            (The stuff below is taken from the University of California's Human Resources website)

                            The Document starts here-----
                            The Relaxation Response is a simple practice that once learned takes 10 to 20 minutes a day and can relieve the stress and tension that stands between you and a richer and healthier life. The technique was developed by Herbert Benson, M.D. at Harvard Medical School, tested extensively and written up in his book entitled, of all things, "the Relaxation Response".

                            I encourage you to set aside 10 or 20 minutes today and try it. The following is the technique taken word for word from his book.

                            1.
                            Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
                            2.
                            Close your eyes.
                            3.
                            Deeply relax all your muscles,
                            beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face.
                            Keep them relaxed.
                            4.
                            Breathe through your nose.
                            Become aware of your breathing.
                            As you breathe out, say the word, "ONE",
                            silently to yourself. For example,
                            breathe IN ... OUT, "ONE",- IN .. OUT, "ONE", etc.
                            Breathe easily and naturally.
                            5.
                            Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
                            You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
                            When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes,
                            at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.
                            Do not stand up for a few minutes..
                            6.
                            Do not worry about whether you are successful
                            in achieving a deep level of relaxation.
                            Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.
                            When distracting thoughts occur,
                            try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them
                            and return to repeating "ONE."
                            With practice, the response should come with little effort.
                            ractice the technique once or twice daily,
                            but not within two hours after any meal,
                            since the digestive processes seem to interfere with
                            the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.
                            - The Relaxation Response, Herbert Benson, M.D.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Dealing with unsuccessful periods in business

                              I have run my own business for 25 years now and have had my full share of highs and the lows.

                              The best suggestion I can make for dealing with those quiet spells, when it seems like the whole thing is coming to an end, is to keep doing something positive and which directly addresses the problem. When the phone stops ringing, the orders dry up and all your customers seem to have gone away keep doing something positive. You will not just benefit your business but will feel much better knowing that you are actually doing something about it.

                              I tell my sales staff that the quiet periods are a major opportunity to contact all those potential customers or get back to the lapsed customers, and that they won't be able to put in the same effort when they get busy again. It puts the spring back in their step and they find opportunities which they might otherwise miss.

                              Hope this helps.

                              Howard
                              Last edited by Howard; 03-17-2007, 10:17 AM.

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