My last post, on effectiveness and efficiency via the technology of Transformers, was sufficiently well received that I thought I should offer up a sequel, in way of warning. The flipside of continuously striving for maximum effectiveness at work is that its hard to leave it in work and not bring it home with you.
For example, I am writing this on a Saturday from an isolated retreat and health spa – the kind of place that doesn’t permit cell phone use in any common areas. Hence, I am typing this from my rather luxurious room, which doesn’t have a TV. What else am I to do? When I sit still, my mind roams through unfinished tasks and projects, picking out those that I can easily get done in my current environment. Suitable candidates hover before my eyes, enticing me to get up and complete one, to collect my bonus of happy accomplishment. All else being equal, I go for the ironic choice – write up that blog post on how professional effectiveness is hard to not inappropriately misapply in your personal life.
Upon waking up every morning, I plan out my morning’s tasks, and set goals to meet for the day. Simple things like going to the bank, completing a document, or finishing some product feature. When I receive a phone call, an email, a letter or a text I handle it with in same GTD mindset that I use for all work correspondence. Every piece of inbound communication is filtered thoroughly though this system to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. When a friend texts, I immediately categorize and decide: discard it, do it, delegate it or defer it, not before identifying and communicating the next steps. It may sound crazy, but its exactly what Getting Things Done advocates – for the system to work, everything must be handled through it. The point is to externalize everything and process it all through one system – your life as well as your work. Anyway, the workflow becomes automatic after a while, you don’t really get a choice about where to apply it. Before you know it, you’re finding new ways to externalize and track all communications, tasks and projects, both personal and professional, with frequent review and goal setting. Then you literally get hooked on getting things done.
The problem is that this really messes with planned downtime, such as relaxing on weekends, or taking vacations. It has the unintentional effect of causing stress when there is nothing to do, but you’ve got a GTD monkey on your back. Your mind is constantly searching for actionable tasks that can give you your completion high. I think it takes me about 3 days to recondition my approach to the world during a holiday, but that means that my ability to relax on short breaks is probably pretty shot.
Does anyone have a similar experience? Let me know in the comments.