Until recently, every year, I set myself a goal to get better organised with my work and my life. Each year I would re-read books like “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferris. I implemented all the structures and models mentioned in the books and felt good about myself.
Now I had my life back. I was ready for anything that came my way. It felt good!
After about four to six weeks, I started to forget some of the things that I should do, and I could watch myself slowly going back to my old habits, ending up back where I started.
I didn’t get it. It started so well. Why did I always end up in the chaos I tried to escape from?
In one of the many interviews you can find on YouTube with David Allen he was asked what tools he would recommend getting a better hold of one’s life. His response was a simple notebook with some rip-out pages and a pencil. He pointed at it and said, “That’s it”. He followed with an explanation like this:
The best tool is the one you actually use and that fits best into your life without adding further complexity. It isn’t about changing your life or life-style, it is about being more effective in doing what you do. The problem is rarely your system or your life, but more often your inability to actually live it. We tend to live in our mind instead of the present and that happens because our mind is so full with all our stuff that we can’t get anymore in.
The latest research has shown that our brain can only hold four to five things at the time. If everything we do is happening in our head, we have to make a decision which one is important enough at the time to be kept and which one we need to let go. This is what causes our stress. Stress has nothing to do with the amount we have to do, but with the way we deal with it. Not having to make these decisions all the time is the best way to reduce that stress. That means we need a way to get those things out of our head into a system we can refer to at any given time and which fits best into the way we work and live our life.
For him, this was his trusted little notebook.
After watching this interview, it dawned on me that my biggest mistake was to change the way I do things to “get things done”. By doing so, I just added more complexity and more stress to my life. Instead of changing the way I do things, I just needed to do precisely what David Allen said: find a way to keep my head clear for the things that need to come in. It has to be simple, and I have to be able to review it at any given time.
Finding stress relief
Since January 2017, I have done exactly this. I use Evernote and Siri for my note-taking and to get my ideas and thoughts out of my head. I’d already been using these systems for a long time, and it didn’t require any change in my daily habits. The only thing I had to change was to take some time during the day to go through the notes.
The real lesson for me was not to change my style or my habits. To be as disorganised as I want to be – but just in an organised way. Taking note of my thoughts do not change them, but it allows me to hold on to them and review them when I am ready for it. Instead of implementing a completely new system which required many changes to my current way of living, I just added the process of getting things out of my head into a trusted system.
For me, it was the Apps I use anyway. For you, it might be your notebook or anything else you can trust to be available when you’re ready to review it.
Not having to remember something is the best stress relief I’ve found so far.
My life is still disorganised. I am still the same person, doing the same things, but with much less stress attached to it. Simplicity is king!
How do you deal with your disorganisation?