How to feel Okay when You're Not Doing Something

Date: Friday, August 22, 2008 by GTD Times Staff

When you start climbing up the GTD implementation ladder you begin collecting, processing and organizing every cool idea that you come across.   Pretty soon you have a huge list of projects together with an even more colossal list of next actions. It’s tempting to try and accomplish all of them; but what if you are @computer, @office and @call all at the same time?  Do you feel like you should be doing many of the tasks in each of your multiple lists simultaneously?   Suddenly you realize that you’re overwhelmed. Instead of eliminating this feeling from your life which is what GTD is supposed to do, it seems to have multiplied it instead!

So what do you do about it?
In one of the Teleseminars hosted on GTD Connect, a caller asked David this  same question, i.e. “David my lists just keep getting longer and longer, what do I do about it?” David, admitted that, this is a difficult issue to handle.

David Says:  “the trick is to keep getting better at being Okay when Not Doing something.”

Here are some tips that can help you do that:

– Learn the Limiting Criteria, and implement it ruthlessly. Be clear on which context you are in and how much time and energy you have and make decisions accordingly. If you have only 30 minutes and are feeling like burnt toast, you’re not likely to be in the mood to do some highly engaging task and would probably be okay with doing some fun, relaxing item from your Next Action list.

Identify your goals and passions in life. Revisit the higher horizons frequently and see which of your projects and next actions are more aligned to it.

– We all have the same amount of time in a day, it’s maturing to the fact that there will always be some things that you can handle and some things that you can’t.

Here’s a lovely passage from Page after Page by Heather Sellers, that also beautifully addresses how to feel okay not being so busy.

“Are you swamped?” My colleague Nat likes to ask me.
I always force myself to say no. No, I’m Not Busy, I’m Not Swamped. Why would I get Swamped? That is not my life.

For me, its too passive, too fake, too braggy to be always saying how busy I am. “I wish I had two more weeks before the semester starts, ” my boss says every summer in late August. I feel like we’re feeling really insecure and unimportant when we talk like this. “I’m so important. I have been entrusted with so much work that there aren’t enough hours in the day for me. Look at me! So much work!”

Get real, I want to say to my “busy” friends. Be accurate and tell the truth. You do have two weeks before school starts. You do have time . Get a grip. Time is not all that surprising. If you can’t do a whole lot more stuff, it’s okay to just know that, and to stop orienting yourself in kinky ways to time.

Notice time.
Notice your passion.
Follow where these two intersect.

I am used to people saying to me they want to “write” (edit-insert your passion here) if only they had time. I always look up to the sky, and check in with the gods when I hear this. “We all get the same amount of time, right? “Yup,” say the gods. “You mortals all get the same allotment. It’s the single fair thing in life.” “Thanks, “ I say. “Just checking.”

4 Responses to “How to feel Okay when You're Not Doing Something”

  1. I like the ‘notice your time, notice your passion’. Planning requires that. As of now i use Deskaway to plan my day and regularly keep a 15 minute break everyday just to reflect, think, do ‘nothing’, and observe my passion. Just makes everyday better!

  2. Arif says:

    Hi Aditya,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, “notice your time, notice your passion, follow where these two intersect”, a quote from “page after page” by Heather Sellers is one that made me reflect deeply for a moment.

    Thanks for the tip to schedule 15 minutes break everyday to observe one’s passion. Will see if I can schedule that in. However do try listing out your Horizons of Focus, as David Allen Suggests too. That works immensely in ensuring that time is adequately spread against all our Areas of Focus namely:
    – Work
    – Family
    – Health and Vitality
    – Finance
    – Spiritual growth & Community Service
    – Fun, recreation & expanding creativity

    Warm wishes,

  3. Sahil Parikh says:

    Hi Aditya & Arif,
    Aditya, firstly thank you for mentioning DeskAway. This is something that our company here in Mumbai, India has created when we were in the service business – precisely to eliminate these kind of issues.

    Arif, great read (I am a official subscriber to your RSS now :-))! I think GTD is all about self-realization and knowing what you want and don’t want in life/business etc. Its only then you can make an informed decision, prioritize and get things done everyday.
    Personally, as an entrepreneur I prefer to make a monthly plan, then break it up into weeks. Then take 1 or 2 things everyday and tackle them rather than trying to do everything in one shot. Leaving some free time for emergencies or other non-sense stuff is also a good idea.

    Adiyta, I like the idea of nothing time – where you just think and reflect. I use yoga and a 15 min. meditation to achieve this balance before getting to work.

  4. Arif Vakil says:

    Hello Sahil!

    Great to see another fellow Indian’s comment. Where in Mumbai are you based?

    Glad you like the posts on GTDTimes. It’s the official blog that endorsed by the David Allen Company so you’ll always find quality content posted here.

    I agree that GTD is indeed about self-realization and to know what you want in life. But that’s just one leg of GTD – ie to gain Perspective. But how can you do that when you’ve got hundreds of emails in your inbox, your desk has paper all over from reports/tasks that are due and your boss/customer/wife is calling you on your cell phone demanding your attention, right now. In other words how do you get Control of your everyday situation so then you can see clearly where you currently are and where you want to be. To get Control of your situation, is the other great part of GTD.

    I’ve listed a 5 step process to begin learning about GTD here. Hope this helps!

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