This 31 Days to GTD for Homemakers series has been all about focusing on reducing stress and creating effective solutions to better manage realities of life at home. Mothers are the shapers of home atmosphere and home culture; keeping the mundane details under control allows us to direct our attention to what matters. I hope it has been helpful!
The Power of the Key Principles: Freedom Through Discipline
The last few chapters of Getting Things Done focus on the “stress-free” promise of the subtitle.
Anxiety, David Allen claims, is caused by lack of control, organization, preparation, or action. The last three are things that are within our control. Trying to control circumstances leads to anxiety because we cannot control them.
Anything that causes us to overreact or under-react can and often does control us, when what we need is to exercise self-control. The path to freedom, liberty, power, is in self-discipline, self-governance, self-control.
The good news – though, of course, David Allen doesn’t develop this – is that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, it is ours for the asking, for the taking. Of course that doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it possible.
We must remember that it is our actions that we control, not time, not circumstances, not others. If we try to control what we cannot, we will be frustrated and stressed. If we control what is ours to control – our own selves – we gain peace, confidence, and growing capabilities.
Right now you have the ability to focus on successful results, brainstorm, organize your thinking, and get moving on your next steps. […But you need to practice diligently until] your new operational style is elegantly embedded.
So, this whole organization thing is really a discipline thing. It is a set of habits that we must work to train ourselves in so that it becomes easier and easier to Do the Next Thing, to Do the Right Thing. To that end, Allen lays out three fundamental habits to cultivate.
Principle One: Collect & Consciously Control Your Agreements
Allen claims that the source of internal pressure and anxiety is not from having too much to do (which there always is and will be), but from having broken agreements with others and with yourself, for broken agreements break trust:
Not being aware of all you have to do is much like having a credit card for which you don’t know the balance or the limit – it’s a lot easier to be irresponsible.
Principle Two: Decide (and Collect) Your Next Action
If something like “need tires on the van” or “decide curriculum for next year” or “organize office” are on your to-do list, then it’s likely those are areas you are stuck in. You know you need to do them, but you don’t really want to think about it, and you keep postponing the job. The problem with “tasks” such as these is that they are not discrete tasks, they are projects. You can’t do them. When you come across something that needs to be done (a project), then before you move on to something else, decide what the very next action to move that forward will be and put that on your to-do list: “Call X Tire Company (xxx-xxxx) to make appointment for tires,” “Read Sonlight’s catalog,” or “Find homes for the piles of stuff on my desk.”
If you see a project on your to-do list, then you have to sit there and think about it and figure out what action you actually need to take. Instead, your list should be of actions so that when you are in “doing” mode, you don’t have to stop and think through things. The thinking through things is best done on the front end, with notes taken so you don’t have to think it through again.
Often our projects are stuck because when we think about them we envision so many potentials — potential possibilities that we can’t choose from, potential setbacks and drawbacks that we want to avoid — that we’d rather procrastinate than deal with it all as it crowds into our heads. If that happens a lot, the lists will probably be more repellent than attractive: “You are either positively drawn toward completing the action or reluctant to think about what it is and resistant to getting involved in it.” If that is the case, the third habit we’ll talk about should help keep the focus narrowed.
Shifting your focus to something that your mind perceives as doable, completable task will create a real increase in positive energy, direction, and motivation. If you truly captured all the things that have your attention during the mind-sweep, go through the list again now and decide on the single very next action to take on every one of them. Notice what happens to your energy.
Principle Three: Identify (and Collect) the Real Results You Want
For each and every “incomplete” on your list, picture what “complete” is to you. Then what will you do? Write it down, of course. Identify the real results you want, so you can work toward them and not just move projects and life further on and on, toward who-knows-what, wherever the wind leads. We have the creative (image of God) ability to envision change and possibilities and to shape our lives through our creative impulses. Harness that in all that you do. Envision, imagine, the outcome you are striving for and keep that in mind as you work.
Then when renegotiation must happen, you will more clearly see the direction to take that renegotiation.
I like Allen’s motto for this habit: “You make things up, and then you make it happen.” I always feel like I’m just making stuff up. I felt validated by his pep talk. Go ahead, make up your own vision of “first grade,” make up your own definition of “clean kitchen,” of “decluttered,” make up your own hobbies and interests and make up your own schedule that works out how you have made up you want to spend your time. You’re being creative and you’re working with what God has given you to
GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.be creative with. Go ahead and be in charge of your own vision. However, this only does work if you are in charge of yourself, under God.