Small things first

By Francisco Sáez • July 02, 2012

GTD is a personal productivity system that allows us not only to get things done efficiently, but also eliminates the stress coming from the excessive commitments we all acquire too often. David Allen, creator of GTD, does know that this over-commitment, although overwhelming, is not the real culprit of our distress.

Stress arises mainly when we do not take the reins of what happens to us. Of course, we all are at the mercy of external circumstances that we cannot control. But we can learn to coexist and cooperate with them, making the stress disappear. For this to happen we have to take the helm again and stop worrying about the many things we have to do.

The main reason that you feel much better after implementing the methods proposed in GTD — collecting all the things that command your attention, processing, organizing and managing all your work intuitively — is not that you have less to do. It is you have taken the helm and you are spending positively your energy to direct your universe.

Therefore, the way to be in control is taking care of everything that demands your attention, deciding what to do with it and defining what the next action is. We tend to ignore the small things because we believe that, not being so important, they do not worth our time. Rather, these undone small things are constantly, relentlessly, hitting your brain. They do not let you focus on more important projects and undermine your productivity. If you do not face these small actions, they will grow rapidly in number and become a burden that prevents you from achieving any greater goal.

That is why GTD, unlike other systems, proposes a strategic bottom-up approach. That is, instead of starting by defining your major objectives and then breaking them down into projects and actions, you ought to start by making a whole inventory of all your current actions. These actions define what your current projects are. And your projects stand out your areas of responsibility and higher goals.

The reason that this approach is more effective, is that most people are so busy at a mundane day-to-day level that their ability to focus on a higher horizon is quite impaired. If you catch up with your stuff and learn techniques that help you maintain that state, you will have the energy and creativity needed to address greater businesses.

Take control. Doing the small things has a major impact on your productivity, letting you progress. Small things, done consistently, set you in motion and eliminate distractions so you can concentrate on more interesting experiences. Small things are the key if you do not want to be a victim of the details of your life. The real game is played at higher levels.

About the author

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Francisco Sáez (@franciscojsaez) is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a web developer specializing in Ruby on Rails who is passionate about personal productivity and GTD as a means to a better life.

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