Getting Stuff Done


Captain's Blog: Stardate 120417.2

There’s an interesting, ironic situation in the “personal growth” sector of my life. On a friend’s excellent advice this spring, I purchased the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. 

And I haven’t finished it yet.

However, as I was meditating this morning, so many thoughts came rushing at me like I’m the enemy quarterback at the ten yard line (yup…take note…a sports reference in MY blog). As each one aimed its nasty little message at my serenity, one realization from the book came back to me.

These weren’t thoughts. These were items I had to do that weren’t completed.

Contact your insurance provider. Finish tallying donations at your survival job. Print new business cards. 

The list went on and on. I would swat them away like flies, but a new one would take its place. 

David Allen talks about having methods for getting these items out of our head and into a container (to-do list, action plan, whatever works best for you). In his way of thinking, a lot of our anxiety comes from feeling like we have too much to do, but no organized plan of action.

For creatives, I feel like this can be a major hurdle to overcome. Think about it. Anytime you have to reschedule your life to accommodate an audition, a shoot, a rehearsal period, you invariably have to make concessions at your survival job. And then, in order to make sure you don’t lose your survival job, you end up sacrificing something you need to do for your work. And when you factor in your personal life and responsibilities there…(implosion.)

Oh. I’m sorry…were you waiting for my “A-HA” moment? Yeah, I don’t have one. The A-HA came from the realization that his analysis is spot on. I don’t think I’m alone in this either.

But, I do want to describe a job where I’m realizing this practice. Of the many part-time jobs that keep me eating, I spend twenty hours a week as an office assistant to a single boss. I intake checks, update spreadsheets, make deposits, send letters…typical admin stuff. My expectations were very clearly laid out for me from day one. I come in, I do my job, and then I leave. If we have a special event or a conference call, I make adjustments with the other parts of my life just as I would for an audition, but that job still functions extremely well.

The best part is…not a single “to-do” from that office pops into my meditation.

At Passover, there is the tale of the four sons…the dreaded herald to the youngest at the table that it will be their turn to recite the four questions. The oldest asks for details about the story of Moses, the selfish son asks what it means for me, the next simply asks what it is, while the youngest son is silent. He does not know yet what questions to ask.

“Getting Things Done” has given me a way to structure my approach to organization in all aspects of my life that I didn’t have before. True, I have yet to implement a number of the tangible suggestions. I did buy the label maker. I now know which is white rice and which is brown. However, one thing is clear. Just like you need a place to put your wallet and keys when you come home, every thought needs it’s place. Its thought-bucket, if you will.

If you keep it all in your head, your mental bucket will overflow. Releasing these thoughts to a list, an action plan, or whatever works for you. Hell, you might find out that a few of these tasks are so simple that if you just did them when they occurred, you would never have had to think about doing them later.

Whatever tasks you need to do, give them a place outside of your mind to dwell. That could be the first step to a calmer, quieter mind.

Getting Things Done by David Allen