GTD as a downshifting tool

Downshifting is a good thing. As one of the bloggers who haven’t blogged for the last few weeks, I can assure you that downshifting is good for your health. I’m not going to explain what downshifting is, I’m sure that a whole library couldn’t give you an exact idea, but I will tell you how you can efficiently use GTD as a downshifting tool. In other words, how can you use GTD in order to become productively free.

First and foremost: you can achieve a state of relaxation and energy by doing more in less time and with less expenses. The 2 minute rule, the one that states “if a thing could take you less than 2 minutes, than do it!”, it’s a life saver. You will be really amazed after several days of consciously exercising this habit. You’ll realize that the space things are taking into your head is usually far bigger than in the reality of doing it. The process of thinking over and over at something without doing it, makes that thing bigger and bigger. If you will just do it, you’ll be on safe side, the energy of your thoughts could be preserved for something else… Another nice consequence of doing more in less time is that you can actually enjoy the time that you save. You can use it in a more conscious manner, if not an enjoyable one.

Cutting up your expenses in doing things is another advantage. Usually, you have to spend something to achieve something: time, money, energy, creativity. Being efficient suppose you will have more of those. You will have more money, more energy and creativity, and not by increasing the actual quantity of those things, but by saving it. It’s a slightly different perspective. You can have huge amounts of money, energy and creativity if you spend a lot of effort in order to grab these things… But if you spend less effort, and just try to preserve what you already have, you’ll soon realize that you have more than enough. It’s like saving electricity, at a very deep level you’ll prevent a more “global” heating of the planet “you” and you’ll just start to feel better.

And with that idea we come to another advantage of using a productivity technique like GTD: feeling better about what you are doing. The result of your activities is a mix of energy, knowledge and feelings. For example, if you write an essay with bad feelings, even if you will have enough energy and knowledge, the result will be somehow bad. But if you write it with a “mind like water” attitude, the emotional field of your being will bring a specific touch, a specific vibration that will improve the results in an almost invisible way. Feeling good about what you do is so important for me, that I often postpone things – even if they are “important” – if I don’t feel right about them. Almost every time I see that the “importance” of that thing was just a mental construct, not a reality constraint…

Because, you know, there is another way of feeling good about things, and that is: feeling good about you don’t do. The bigger obstacle in the way of feeling relaxed is often one of the thoughts: am I missing something? am I supposed to sit here while there are piles of files on my desk that I have to work on? dozens of phone calls I have to make? hundreds of meetings I have to attend to? Well, take them out of your head, put them in a trusted system, and really forget about them until you really have to deal with them. In the GTD terminology, that will be the “processing” stage. Keeping those thoughts in your head will just add to the normal pressure of your goals and influence you in a negative way. Frustration, fear and sadness come from your feeling of guilt. And guilt is about regrets about what you haven’t done. Just let it go. Because you have other things to do…

Like better knowing your goals. Once you started to master the collection – organization – processing habit, you’ll experience a state of clarity and enthusiasm. It’s a refreshing state of mind, when you know what you have to do, and you also know what you have to do in order to make it happen. Being organized gives you a clear perspective of your goals. Changing your goals every week, every month or even every year is an unhealthy way of living your life. Start collecting your aspirations, ideas and intentions, start reviewing them at your own pace (GTD recommends once a week, but I had good results with the processing stage every two or three weeks also) and from the unorganized pile of needs, aspirations and foggy social pressures you will precisely isolate only what you really want to do. And that’s a very relaxing thing in itself for most of us.

Almost as relaxing as letting go of the past. Without even knowing it, or being conscious about it, we are literally our past. All of our beliefs, rules and values are created in the past and perpetuated by our memory. Most of the time, memory is good. It keep us aligned with our system of choice. But it can also be a real pain in the ass if we would just letting it grow beyond its boundaries. Letting the memories invading you is not the best way of using your memory. The past can be suffocating and could give you a sense of blocking roads. If this was possible in the past, why try it again, if we already know the answer? Well, the GTD “emptying the RAM” technique is coming to help in this exact problem. If you constantly take out of your head your thoughts, your disturbing memories and leftovers, you will not only make them less powerful, but you will actually “make room” for the life that you live in this very moment. “Making room” is just a figure of style, of course, your brain have unlimited memorization capacities, what I want to say by that is that you can focus your energy on the actual moment instead of a moment that doesn’t exist anymore.

Of course, not only GTD is a helpful technique, I am not advocating only this way of doing things. But trying it for the last year, I have the results fresh in my experience. You can use simpler and handier things, like keeping a journal, or having a clean agenda at your work. Chose what works best for you.

Either way, being more organized is the best way to start being productively free.

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