If you’ve known me personally for any length of time, you probably know that I’m an avid reader who crushes through book after book on a regular basis. While working with The Southwestern Company in college I became a fanatic about reading business books and one of the most enriching parts of my life is to meet and often share the stage with people who are my heroes. One of those people is David Allen.
David and I spoke together a few months ago at the Nashville chapter of the American Marketing Association. It was a fabulous event and I think David and I complement each other well because much of his content relates to the pragmatic side of defeating procrastination while mine is more about the psychology or emotional side of defeating procrastination. Not to mention that we both are black belts, we both have amazing content, and we’re both really funny! Normally I would’ve blogged about our time earlier but I needed to galvanize my thoughts about all the insights I gained from hearing him speak in person for the first time. None more powerful than his concept of Psychic Bandwidth.
In his speech based on his mega best-selling book, Getting Things Done, he talks about how the human mind is similar to a computer in the way that we have bandwidth. Just like how if you have a bunch of things open on your computer it slows it down so does having a bunch of tasks in your head that you need to do or a laundry list of decisions that need to be made that you’ve been putting off.
One simple solution that David proposes is so profound that I think people underestimate it’s power. He said to write down everything you have to do. Not like many productivity experts who say “write down the 3-5 things you’ll get done today” he says write down EVERYTHING you are possibly thinking of that you need to do.
193 items on my to-do list later, I can honestly say that this is one of the most amazing and immediately impactful things I’ve ever learned from a book or a speaker. Dumping everything in my head onto a simple piece of paper (double-sided folded into 16ths for me) gave me an overwhelming and immediate sense of peace that I haven’t had in a long time. I’ve slept so much deeper because my mind isn’t constantly running (just like a computer left on all night) with all of the things I need to do.
It’s given me more control because once everything is on a piece of paper it now seems to have less emotional hold on me (freeing up my bandwidth) and I can appropriately process it by putting it into a system that accomplishes things just like all my other minutiae. Best of all I’ve had drastically less stress because just having captured everything on one page means I don’t have to ever think about something I might be forgetting while I’m actually working on something else.
Having the freed-up bandwidth has enabled me to focus more intensely on whatever the task is at hand whether it be writing, working, or talking to a family member. It makes total sense because just like a computer all of my operating power is being used in one direction. So it is one of my resolutions to now and forevermore write down every single little thing that I am possibly thinking I have “to-do.” Per his advice it’s best to create separate lists to better manage it but regardless of what system you use it’s so much easier to manage when all of it is out of your head.
Surely having freed-up bandwidth is critical in our ability to be more self-disciplined because it allows us to conserve our emotional energy to fight the really tough battles that we need to fight.
Has anyone ever tried this before for any length of time? What has been your experience?
See you in the stairwell,
Take the Stairs - Success means doing things you don’t want to do