Being comfortable with letting things get out of control

Date: Saturday, May 15, 2010 by GTD Times Staff

Question: I listened to your Webinar on Procrastination (you can find this Webinar on GTD Connect, our online learning center) and have found that I have trouble starting to “do” anything when I know there is a lot of unprocessed stuff. I have the type of job whereby e-mails, paper, and other things accumulate rapidly so I am often “stuck” with the inability to start on the action list if my Inbox (both paper and electronic) are filling up with unprocessed items. I would be interested in any comments you may have.

I replied: I would say that I am similar. It’s natural actually to want to get In to zero before feeling free and confident in the Doing. You won’t intuitively trust that the choice you are making is the best one if there are things lurking in the inbox that might be a better choice. However, as you get better and better at GTD and collecting/processing/organizing, a trust factor comes in to know you WILL get back to it when you can. David Allen often says that the more you trust you have a process, you will be more comfortable letting it get out of control.

4 Responses to “Being comfortable with letting things get out of control”

  1. I have a similar situation with my inbox. One thing I have to do once in a while is take my mail client offline, get my inbox to zero, and then go to work. I’ve talked to people who always leave their mail offline, and only manually check it a few times a day.

  2. Omar says:

    I used to think the same way until I realized that highly important items have certain characteristics. If the next action has to be done now, then it came to you in real-time such as a phone call or a person to person interaction. Either way you get to process it then and there. Highly important items that need to be handled now don’t come by email or air mail.

    There are important items that arrive via my inboxes, but they are not important now. Because I process my inboxes (physical and electronic) daily, I trust that I will see them and identify next actions within 24 hours. I actually process twice a day, first thing in the morning and first thing after lunch for maximum productivity.

    This has allowed my to work from my action list knowing and trusting that the most important items are already in it.

  3. Mark says:

    I get 75-100 e-mails/day and 25 calls/day that require actions either the same day or in the next 3-5 days. GTD has allowed me to break through getting stuck at the initial collecting/ processing/ organizing phase. However, I’m now stuck at trying to establish priorities of my existing next actions vs. new next actions because this changes hourly. My anxiety is that I’m not always working on the most mission critical next actions. It difficult because the next actions seem conflicting in terms of priority- everything is urgent help!

  4. Brandy says:

    Thanks Kelly,

    This post really helped me identify an area of my system where I have been stuck. I think I have been a bit caught in a loop of Not wanting to take the time to process fully because I feel I should be ‘doing’ something, but not really ‘doing’ much of anything because of all the unprocessed things piling up. I think if I am more faithful about processing daily, that will help me to get unstuck. Does that sound right?

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