Hi, my name is Robbie, and I'm a former workaholic. I used to work every time I got the chance to work. I missed every family function imaginable because I was always "working." Even when I didn't have work, I made up things to work on. I was addicted to being busy.
When my friends invited me a week in advance to something, I would always tell them "I'll let you know." I'll give you a hint on what happened next: I never let them know. I didn't have time to tell them I couldn't come.
The problem is that I didn't necessarily see the results of my work. The only result I could see was that how many hours I worked in addition to increased fatigue. I was the exact opposite of productive. I was getting nothing done even though I was working 60+ hours a week.
I knew something had to change, but I didn't know what to do. I started to look to see how other successful people did it, and it was a real eye opening experience.
Here's what I learned from David Allen:
1. Follow a system.
GTD is a productivity system that has been used by millions and can be used for every part of your life, not just your career. Good habits allow you to focus on the things that matter and most importantly, allow you to forget about the things that don't.
There's a reason that Tony Robbins jumps into cold water every morning to start off his day. He knows it works, and he makes time to do it.
The most important first step is to pick a system that you like and follow through on it. Execution is important.
2. You need space, not time.
If you ever find yourself thinking that there needs to be more time in the day, then that's a good sign you're not as productive as you think you can be.
I noticed when I was busy at work, I rarely had the chance to make space for myself. Especially in a smaller office, it was next to impossible to get uninterrupted time away from my colleagues. If you're in a chaotic workplace, you should try to figure out ways to get more space instead of more time.
If you can arrange a work from home day or block off 4 hours on your calendar and have the luxury of an office, then you should try to do this. Often times, I would pick up my laptop and head to my local coffee shop and work from there.
3. Stop blaming yourself as a victim.
"What's sitting at your desk or in your home office? What's yelling at you?" says David. "When you recognize those noises, it takes up our mental real estate. This is where the stress comes from."
Take a look around you right now. What are the noises around you? Amazing things can happen once you remove the noises around you.
4. Address the fear of being out of control.
"Control is the master addiction. Letting go of it is extremely important," remarks David. "The reason most people procrastinate is that people don't know where to start. You don't need to know what you're going to paint exactly to start, but you do need a basic coat to get started."
This quote is probably one of the most powerful for me, and also the hardest to do. If you find yourself procrastinating, try to understand where it stems from and make the first step towards action.
5. Write ten things that are on your mind and write it down.
"Write it down, then go through each one of them and figure out what is the next action you need to take. Write down the decision and execute those action steps," says David.
Writing is therapy for me. This allows me to get thoughts out of my head and on to paper.
6. Live in the physical world.
David organizes his foreign money in a binder. He's a total minimalist but still believes in owning physical things like digital. Even though he uses Evernote, the digital world is out of sight for him.
I've also noticed myself switching to physical books instead of eBooks. I read longer and I find myself more focused on what I'm reading.
7. You need four hours of uninterrupted time to do creative work.
You need fresh energy.
When David was writing his book, he thought he could do multiple things and still write the book in between meetings and conferences, but quickly realized he needed four hours.
To write, you have to think. Writing is tough work. Four hours is the maximum time you should set for yourself.
In summary, if you're looking to get things done, make a space for yourself physically and mentally to make it happen.