Avoiding Overwhelm

A Capture habit is a great first step. It can help with productivity, creativity, and relaxation. But it can also hinder those same things.

To-do lists. Brainstormed ideas. Bookmarked articles.

Sometimes the things we capture can fuel us. Other times they can leave us feeling overwhelmed.

This is related to The Paradox of Choice. Seeing all our options can leave us in a state of analysis paralysis.

The key is to filter our options.

For example, in Getting Things Done, David Allen provides some guidance for filtering our choices. He suggests we choose our next actions based on the following criteria, in this order:

  1. Context
  2. Time available
  3. Energy available
  4. Priority

I do this in OmniFocus using tags and perspectives. When I’m at home, I only look at the tasks available to me then. I don’t let myself see the tasks that require me to be elsewhere such as the office or the grocery store.

Another example is Tiago Forte’s Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives (PARA). By organizing our notes in order of immediate actionability, we can focus on the notes that are most relevant to our immediate goal. When I’m working on a blog post about food, I’m able to read through my notes about diets, recipes, and flavours. I don’t need to read through my archived notes from past projects, journals from thirteen years ago, or my phone bills.

Filtering allows us to keep our minds clear while focusing on those things that are most useful.

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