I discovered a lot of short, actionable GTD tips in the book of David Allen, as well as in a good number of blogs that are writing about this methodology. Starting to write about these tips, and even make a series of posts out of them, seemed like a good idea. And starting with my favourite one-liner: never have the same thought twice, unless you like that thought, seemed like a wonderful idea.
The thoughts are the roots of your reality. Unless you are working in an extremely hierarchically formal system – like the army, or George Orwell’s 1984 utopia, where you don’t have to think, you only have to do stuff – you are doing only what you think of. Everything that comes to reality, every situation, circumstance, object, you name it, everything was first in your mind. We often underestimate the power of our thoughts.
And the main cause for that is procrastination: the art of thinking about reality without actually doing something. Because of this very expensive habit – procrastination, in which we think a lot and do almost nothing – we are drawn to think that our thoughts are harmless. They are just thoughts, we’re thinking. Well, it’s not like that. They are consuming our energy. By having a thought we already move some energy around, and, more or less conscioulssly, we align some of our future actions in order to fulfill that thought. Even when we are procrastinating, we are using that energy – of having thoughts – in order to procrastinate, to prevent ourselves from actually doing things.
David Allen calls those endless thoughts in our minds “open loops”. I like this because it depicts in a very suggestive way the nature of thoughts: they must have a beginning and an end. They are born, they live, and they come to fruition, usually in the form of an action. If this process is somehow stopped along the way, something is wrong. If you are giving birth to the same thought over and over again, and you are not allowing that thought to become reality, your energy is very badly used. You are making an “open loop”.
That’s the part that deals with: “never have the same thought twice”. This is about energy conservation and good uses of your inner power. And that’s one of the major benefits of your “empty your RAM” sessions: by taking out those thoughts and putting them in a trustable system, you are making a precious present to yourself: you get back the energy you used for cranking out those thoughts. Make yourself that present, and embrace that energy, it’s easy and it’s rewarding.
But there’s also a more subtle part of this GTD tip. It’s that part that deals with: “unless you like it”. That’s the true meaning. If you agree that your reality is rooted in your thoughts, you’ll see that having a thought that you don’t like it – a part from hijacking your precious energy – it will eventually evolve into a reality that you don’t want. If you are having a negative thought, like fear of poverty, or fear of human contacts, that will eventually come to reality. You may have it as an “open loop” for some time, sitting inside your head. But being drawn of energy by the process itself, you’ll lose control sooner or later. And will unleash that thought into its real form.
But if you like that thought, if that is something related to your personal goals, like becoming financially independent, or just being happy, it will eventually have the same destinity as any other thought: it will become reality. This is part of our human nature. This is how things are going.
And by taking those thoughts out of your head, and in a trustable system, you finally take control. Not over yourself, or over the world. But over your energies. You have all your thoughts, all your intentions, all your ideas lined up. In a trustable system (can’t stress enough on that part). And when you are doing your daily and weekly review, you are making the energy allocation. Or, if we compare ourselves with a computer, you are making the memory allocation. You are giving to each thought, in a more conscious manner, the energy that you think it deserves.
And you are doing this with a lot more clarity, because now it’s outside. It’s not fogged ar cluttered by any other chaotic thoughts that are fighting over your internal attention. It’s outside. You can look at it, analyse it, and make a balanced decision: is it worth it (is it actionable?). If no, that’s ok, you just lost an open loop, and probably a bad thought, that otherwise would become reality. If it’s worth (it’s actionable) you are simply doing it, or delegate it, or defer it until you want to… If you don’t know yet if it’s worth it or not (it’s not really actionable), you are putting it aside in your tickler file, if you still want to keep it, or you simply delete it.
It’s not easy to do it. You are so used to “think about stuff”, that your subconscious will constantly block all your efforts for a “mind like water”. But once you resist to the temptations of cranking thoughts, you’ll stop thinking and just be.