-a lesson from David Allen, author of the book Getting Things Done

That lightbulb needs to be changed. The car interior needs to be cleaned. The screw in the gate needs tightened. Things like this can run like apps in the background of the mind keeping us from enjoying the moment when we are trying to relax.

Do you have such things running in the background of your mind right now? I know I do! I make to-do lists but some things never seem to make the cut.  Yet there they are hanging over me.

At Launch Leadership Development, we know that people are more productive when they have systems in place and follow those systems. The book Getting Things Done by David Allen has been helpful in setting systems in place, so I turned to his YouTube videos to see what I had missed.

I would like to share what I learned from David Allen about how to deal with those things we keep putting off:

  • Examine your to do list
  • Fix or finish something simple
  • Use a Daily Completion List and keep your back log small

Examine your to-do list

Allen says your to do list in your head is comprised of all your agreements you have made with yourself.

  • Until you engage with them somehow, they keep spinning in your head as incomplete
  • Get them out of your head- your mind is a crappy office and has no sense of past or future – it thinks it all must be done NOW and creates stress.
  • The solution is to capture the lists on paper or whatever capturing system you choose to use and renegotiate what you need to do and when.

You can only feel good about what you aren’t doing when you KNOW what you aren’t doing.  When you have a plan to deal with it and it is captured somewhere, you can relax.

Fix or Finish something simple

This is the one that helped me immediately.

  • Look around and find an easy win. Choose one little thing to do. Replace the lightbulb, tighten the screw, dust, make that call, whatever is the easiest to tackle.
  • Tell yourself that is ALL you need to do.

It will allow your brain to clear that task, you will immediately feel better, and you just might get the motivation to do more!

Use a Daily Completion List and include one thing each day to keep the back log list short

You have made these agreements in your head and until you engage with them somehow, they keep spinning in your head as incomplete.

To keep relaxed focus and feel in control:

  • Keep a daily to-do list or Completion List of the things you need to accomplish that day. Put a star beside the highest priority task.
  • Add to the list one item that you can do that will get something current. Keeping the backlog small helps you better deal with things coming at you.
  • Allen says he tracks daily all his communications, commitments, and creative ideas so they are captured on his calendar, filed, or put on future to do lists.

These videos helped me find a solution to end the nagging thoughts in my head and get control of my back log. Telling myself that I only had to do the one little thing (in my case it was organizing and putting away a huge stack of books that have lived beside the couch for a month) made the task more doable as I did not feel pressure to tackle the whole back log. Instead, I added one thing each day to the rest of the week’s to-do lists and freed my mind.

Thank you, David Allen!

-Jan Jones

Check out Allen’s videos that were the basis for this article: