GTD: Stress-free ProductivityAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax." ~ David Allen
GTD is a personal management method, very different from any other. Known as the art of stress-free productivity, instead of focusing on time management — like calendar-based systems — or on managing urgent tasks — like “priority-based systems” — it focuses on helping us manage our engagements effectively.
It is based on the premise that our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax.
Although speed and precision are the keys to move effectively, it’s being relaxed what allows you to achieve maximum control. David Allen, creator of GTD, argues that this philosophy, which serves as the basis for martial arts, is applicable to many other fields, especially personal productivity. Isn’t it more efficient to lead a team when there’s no tension? Or isn’t there a better negotiation when both parties face it calmly? Or don’t you have better conversations with your partner when you’re relaxed?
Knowing how to be relaxed and able to concentrate on what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and reacting correctly to each thing (an excess of reaction can be as counterproductive as a lack of reaction), is the skill that makes the difference. But how does GTD help you achieve this?
- Surely, like everyone else, you have a lot of things about your job and your life going on in your head. The fact that you are always thinking about what you have to do is totally unproductive, it just distracts you and produces stress. One of GTD’s maxims is to capture all those things out of your head, in a place of trust. The freer your mind gets, the less stress it will endure and the more creative you are.
- GTD encourages you to do everything at the right moment, without mixing stages. There’s an ideal time to clarify your things, another to organize your actions and support material, and another to review your system. Each stage requires a different mental disposition. You have the control to negotiate your internal commitments and decide what things you should finish and what things you can stop doing. Focusing on doing one thing at a time and knowing how to accept when it’s okay not to do other things can be very liberating.
- It is a structured system in which changes are accepted. Plans can be changed, interrupted or cancelled. When you assume that this is part of your reality, you eliminate a good deal of frustration. This adaptive ability allows you to regain balance when things change, lose the fear of the unknown, and gain stability.
- By taking into account not only your day-to-day tasks, but also your areas of responsibility, your medium-term goals and your vision on life, you can easily distinguish the important from the urgent, and make better decisions. By avoiding emergencies, you eliminate a major source of stress and focus your attention on what is really worthwhile.
- The Weekly Review is another fundamental feature of GTD to fight stress. By reviewing every week everything you haven’t finished, updating the information and establishing next actions for each project, you face the week with the peace of mind of having everything under control and knowing that there is always room for whatever may arise.
- You have a framework to choose which will be the next action to perform, and although your decision may not be the best, in a stress-free environment, following your informed intuition will almost always allow you to get it right. And when you’re not right, you’ll be ready to change and adapt to the new situation. In any case, making these decisions gives you clarity and eliminates confusion.
- As you use GTD, there is feedback that causes your control to increase and your stress to decrease. It’s something similar to when you learn to drive. At first you do it with a lot of tension and you’re worried about everything. When you’ve been driving for a few years, you’re totally relaxed and that, in turn, allows you to drive better.
As with any other methodology, learning GTD and successfully implementing it requires a significant initial investment of time and a good dose of discipline. But the benefit you get, having your job and your life under control in a relaxed way, is worth the pain.