This is not an appeal re. Apple’s Mac – although I admit that I am an unabashed Apple man. It is a simple observation about our lives. We are overwhelmed with too much stuff.
You’ve seen the new Mac commercials. In one, a woman has her box of stuff, and she is taking the launch of the new Windows version as her opportunity to switch to Mac. So – she is making the switch, and moving all of her stuff to Mac.
It’s the stuff that grabbed me. My life is filled with stuff. There’s stuff in the trunk of my car. There’s stuff all over my office. There’s stuff in my closet. And in my bedroom. And in my storage space. And even more stuff in my garage. Some of this stuff I have not looked at in years. Some of this stuff I definitely do not need. And sometimes, there is stuff I do need – but I can’t find it.
At the Take Your Brain to Lunch gathering this week, the second book I presented was David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I know that I mention his GTD approach frequently on this blog. (Check out this post: The Getting Things Done President, and the need to just sit and think…). And with good reason — this is one of my great challenges. I have spent a lifetime battling the attack of the killer stuff. Allen has created quite a following because he points to genuine solutions to the time management/life management challenges of our era.
We don’t get enough done. We don’t get enough done because we don’t remember, we don’t retrieve our notes to ourselves in a timely manner, we try to remember too much, and we simply let too much fall though the cracks. His premise is simple – work on only one thing at a time, with great and unflinching focus, and have the next “next action” immediately retrievable in your reminder/to do/next action prompt system.
But it all goes back to “stuff.” And the real stuff problem is not all that stuff stacked and hidden in the nooks and crannies of our physical world. It is the stuff cluttering our minds, uncategorized, forgotten, and we are unable at key times to remember or retrieve the stuff in our minds, the stuff we need to get done.
Here is Allen’s definition of stuff:
Stuff: anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven‘t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step. As long as it is still “stuff,” it’s not controllable. It is “an amorphous blob of undoability!”
The vast majority of people have been trying to get organized by rearranging incomplete lists of unclear things; they haven’t yet realized how much and what they need to organize in order to get the real payoff.
Getting Things Done challenges us to really get our stuff off of our mind, and put it in a spot that enables us to know exactly how to retrieve it.
Here’s his two step process:
Step one: Capture everything that you need to get done, now later, someday, big, little, in-between – into a logical and trusted system outside of your head and off your mind!
Step two: Discipline yourself to make front-end decisions about all the “inputs” you let into your life so that you will always have a plan for “next actions” that you can implement or renegotiate at any moment.
In fact, Allen says that until we implement such a system to handle our stuff, we really won’t get things done as we could and should.