Most people feel best about their work the week before they go on vacation, but it’s not because of the vacation itself. What do you do the last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify, organize, and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. You do this so you can relax and be present on the beach, on the golf course, or on the slopes, with nothing else on your mind. I suggest you do this weekly instead of yearly, so you can bring this kind of “being present” to your everyday life.

“Getting Things Done” by David Allen

I recently realized I’ve let myself get too busy despite COVID-19. But that’s a story for another time.

I finished re-reading Getting Things Done tonight. I realized there were a bunch of changes I need to make to my system that I had let get stale over the years.

First, I have a lot of things in my next action lists that really should either be removed or moved to my someday/maybe list. There’s too many things just sitting there that I keep putting off or ignoring because they aren’t something that warrant my attention right now.

I’m curious whether this has any role to play in my daily stress levels. I never get through my to-do list every day. Usually when I go to bed, there’s still about 200 items waiting there to be crossed off. (And then even more in the morning when I wake up as the repeating tasks regenerate.)

If I remove some of these items that just haven’t moved in months, perhaps it will reduce some of my stress because my count of outstanding items won’t be so big. At the very least, it will de-clutter my to-do list and make it easier to parse out the things I actually do want to do right now.

Second, I haven’t always been treating projects properly. A project, according to Getting Things Done, is anything that will take 2 or more next actions to complete. I realized in looking through my to-do list that I had a bunch of projects that were hidden as next actions.

The impact of this is that when I look at my to-do list and I see this project disguised as a next action, I have to pause to think about how I can action on it. Part of the goal of the to-do list is to eliminate that processing need so that it should be an efficient grab and go when doing a to-do list item.

For instance, something I’ve had in my to-do list for a while has been “Add key book notes to Anki.” I later realized that this was a project because there are several next actions associated with it:

  1. Decide which books from Kindle website to add notes to Anki
  2. (For each of those books) Review notes and decide which notes to be added to Anki
  3. (For each of those notes) Create an Anki card to review the note

Without breaking that action item down, I have to stop and think “What notes do I want to add to Anki? Where will I find those notes?” This was making my to-do list more of an inbox or dumping ground than a to-do list.

Third, I realized that some things are better stored outside of my to-do list. I had a bad habit of putting everything into my to-do list, but I realized that there were a couple things I could move out of it.

Things that have to happen on specific days or at specific times belong on my calendar, not my to-do list. So some things on my to-do list like “Text Bob to remind them about X” have been cluttering my to-do list and I’m planning on moving them to my calendar instead.

Relatedly, I realized that, especially while my to-do list is still so cluttered, it was hard to keep track of how I was progressing on my annual goals. Today I decided to try something new to make this more visual.

I’m going to try making my weekly progress super easy to visualize. This way I don’t have to stop and think about how much I’ve already completed this week, and how much I have to do to stay on track. Plus the bouncy balls are colourful and easy to see, so I’m hoping it will be a quick reminder for me to see my progress. (Also curious to see if removing the bouncy balls as I complete the tasks will serve as some sort of positive mental feedback for me.)

One thought on “Vacation

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