Stop Stressing: Just Write It Down

By Corey Reynolds

April 12, 2013

Like all of us, I’ve been crazy busy lately. I’m in graduate school, working part time as a management consultant and recently moved halfway across the country. Since I’m not sitting at a desk all day anymore, my Post-It-Note-Everywhere system of task management isn’t going to cut it. As such, I’ve been searching for some all-encompassing management system to keep track of the deadlines, phone calls, reading assignments and general life-management tasks (that laundry’s gotta get done somehow).

Some of my grad school colleagues are passionate—almost cult-ish, in fact—about David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Allen’s system is based on task context, priority levels and areas of focus for major projects. That seemed too overwhelming for me, but I was sure there was some “golden nugget” of the GTD system that holds everything together, that turns these otherwise normal grad students into GTD gospel-preachers.

I think it’s the notion that writing down all the tasks in your mind frees up brainpower to actually get things done. Instead of worrying about forgetting all the things on your plate, purge them from your brain and just start doing them.

When we turn to psychology, this makes sense. Psychologists call our natural tendency to fixate on all the stuff we have to do the Zeigarnik Effect. And in 2011, two Florida State University psychologists published an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that showed we don’t necessarily have to complete the task to free our mind of it, we just need a decent plan of how we’re going to complete it. Allen’s system helps us identify this plan.

So here’s the down and dirty of how I’ve adapted Allen’s system to my needs:

No one system works well for everyone. I’ve tried quite a few myself. Take what works, and modify or toss out what doesn't. What strategies or tools work best for you?

Image via Lasse Kristensen/Shutterstock.com


By Corey Reynolds

April 12, 2013

http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2013/04/stop-stressing-just-write-it-down/62265/