Less Stress, More Productivity? How You Can Do It

Photo by Sir Mervs>

Is there a magic answer to stress? Is there a way we can achieve more AND be less stressed? In his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen outlines ways to do just that.

For a long time I thought that productivity is a killer of creativity. So I never investigated how to be more productive. But I have changed my mind since reading Getting Things Done. We are much more creative if we’re not stressed. Since focusing on GDT, I’ve doubled my writing output whilst halving my stress levels.

I also started to use a software scheduling program called OmniFocus (for Mac users) which is based on GTD.

I immediately noticed that my stress level went down dramatically, although I had just taken up more writing work as Chief Editor of WritetoDone and guest writer for Lifehack.

What makes me feel stressed is when I hold a lot of different thoughts and plans in my head. I’m always worried that I’ll forget some of the important tasks I’m trying to remember. Sometimes, it gets so bad that I suffer from overload and try denial instead of productivity! I then turn my mind away from some unwelcome tasks. But they niggle in the background and stress gets worse because people start complaining.

What I do now is something quite simple, I immediately write down any idea I have. Because I’m often on my laptop, I use OmniFocus for jotting down those ideas.

These ideas can be anything:

  • What bills need paying
  • An idea for an article
  • An email I need to write
  • People I need to ring
  • What I’m going to cook tonight
  • What groceries I need.

In fact: anything!

When I put down all my ideas and tasks in a central ‘basket’, my stress level decreases immediately. It’s as if someone else has taken on the task of holding the things in my mind.

The first thing I do is then to conveniently forget the thought I just had. I can afford to do that because the thought has been recorded. Forgetting frees up my mind to dream up new thoughts.

After a while I go back to my ‘basket’ and sort though the tasks. According to David Allen, we need to sort the ‘stuff’. The following questions help us to sort the ‘stuff’.

  • Is it actionable? If no, put it in an archive for future reference, or delete it.
  • If If it’s actionable, ask yourself: “What’s the next action?”
  • If it’s a multistep project, highlight it as a project and put it aside for further planning of action steps.
  • If it’s a onestep task, ask “Will it take less than 2 minutes?”
  • If yes, do it now
  • If no, delegate it, or defer it (make a definite time to complete it).

The question remains, what to do with pesky task that we’re reluctant to attack?

A simple way that David Allen suggests, is to break the task down into easy steps. For example, I recently had to write a reference for someone. I started by determining the steps I had to complete and wrote them into my planning scheduler:

  1. Study the reference requirements
  2. Write the reference
  3. Find an envelope and address it.
  4. Take the letter to a postoffice and post it.

Then I simply followed my own instructions, step by step. And got it all done within an hour, instead of having this task hanging around me for days.

The questions remains, why does using a scheduling software work better than using a notebook?

For one thing, it helps me to have all my tasks and ideas assembled in one place. In my notebook, my notes are scattered and it’s easy to lose track of them. Now I can refer to my central ‘basket’ of ideas and tick them off as I complete them – and then kick back in the sun!

Let’s have a conversation: What are your thoughts about getting things done? What works for you?

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind WritetoDone.com, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.


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