The first reaction I usually get when I mention that I am a GTD’er and I capture every project and next action is ‘Really? Everything? …. Why?’
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It’s simple really.
The reality is that capturing every next action allows me to have a complete inventory of absolutely anything and everything I could be committed to.
It is not about having a super-duper task list.
It is about being able to see all the things I have committed to … whether I made that commitment to someone else or to myself … and at any point in time, being able to feel comfortable that I (a) do not take on any more commitments than I can squeeze onto those lists and (b) work on the commitment that is the highest priority.
But it’s easy to get into a ‘busy trap’. It is easy to look at counts of tasks and get overwhelmed. It is easy to either hunker down to try and get as many of those tasks done as possible, or bolt and get a close to none of them done as possible!
Well before you do that …. hold on.
Stay calm, and realise that putting all these next actions into a system has not changed how much you have committed to. Not one iota. It’s not the system that made you commit to each of those actions – it’s you. You’ve just put it in a format where you can see how much you have committed to.
Infact, if you think about it… how cool is that?
Now, …. you actually have all the data you need to renegotiate those commitments.
To do this I use a Renegotiate Commitments checklist that I walk through whenever I am planning for the next day, or the week. I walk through the four options anyone of us has to pare down these next actions:
It’s important to note that especially step 2 (Delegating) and step 4 (Negotiating) could themselves create next actions and so the pay off for taking those options has to be greater, and hopefully significantly greater, than just doing the next action itself.
The effect of using this checklist is that you are not going to do everything on your lists. You will do less. And you are in control of how much less you will do. Delete, Delegate, Defer and Negotiate as much of that list as you would like. Heck, get rid of all of it if you want.
So there’s no need for overwhelm. You are absolutely in control.
The difference between going through this process and just saying ‘no’ or ignoring what you said or thought you would do, is that this way, you are deliberating making new agreements based on all real data about what’s important.
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This should give you a few advantages – three of which I have listed below:
- Say No More Easily: It should make it easier for you to say ‘no’, because it is not clear what you are saying ‘yes’ to.
- Maintain Trusted Relationships: You can better maintain trusted relationships because you deliberating renegotiate the commitment you’ve made rather than forget or ignore them.
- Plan Ahead and Reduce Stress: You can plan ahead and see how much down time you really have. If it’s not enough… create more!
So, my advice …. don’t give up on capturing all your commitments because it seems like a lot of work.
I promise you that, unless you’ve got a super simple work and personal life without many commitments and/or commitment renegotiations … the payoff is bigger than you think.
And the truth is, you don’t have to capture 100% at the very start… build up to 100% one percent at a time. And once you get to 100%, it’s a lot less to maintain it than you may realise.