One of my key take-aways from the David Allen Getting Things Done materials (which are the main source my foundational understanding of productivity and self-management) is that it is a waste of Psychic RAM when I have the same thoughts over and over because I have not captured them in a trusted system that I review regularly.
A major source of stress is the fear that we are missing something critical. For the most part the fear is subconscious which makes it even more insidious. Here is another paradox. We keep making new lists because we don’t trust our lists. We don’t trust our lists because they are incomplete. Our lists are incomplete because we do things like over manage them; getting caught up in prioritizing, color coding, whatever; or under managing them; not updating, not capturing everything, not capturing actions with verbs like ‘call’, ‘write’, ‘set a meeting’, ‘look-up’, ‘talk to’, ‘ask’, ‘find’. We have to keep having the same thought over and over again because our lists are incomplete and we are not capturing our open items and our Psychic RAM is overloaded. It keeps trying to push things in front of our noses so we will deal with them, but then we are always chasing fires and never planning, or pruning, or processing, or project managing. Then we have a micro list of items that are all priority A1. We are doing crisis management not self management.
Self management requires
- A complete inventory of the outcomes to which I have committed myself (project list)
- A complete inventory of the actions I have determined I need to take (action list)
- A trusted system to capture the items above as well as contacts, appointments and reference data (digital, analog or more likely hybrid)
- A process whereby every new input of data is collected and process
- A regular (preferably weekly) review of all the above to ensure I am never more than six days away from clean and complete.
The payoff, in addition to a good practice of self management, will be clarity, energy and effectiveness. This is what happens when you clear your RAM and free up your energy and put it to use consciously in service of your goals and purpose.