I need an honest answer to this one!
When was the last time you had a completely relaxing vacation?
One where you played ball with your child, went on a long walk with your spouse and genuinely felt like you were doing the right thing?
If the answer is kind of “never”, you aren’t alone.
For the longest time – I was guilty of this habit.
I would be with my loved ones and surreptitiously be checking the email to ensure no updates were missed.
I would be taking a much-deserved break to catch up on my favorite book and someone in my head would say, “Really? You are going to sit here and waste precious hours while the world of your to-dos is growing by the minute?”
Trust me when I say, “I get it”.
And do one better. Trust me when I say, there is a solution to this problem.
Why Is Your Brain So Uptight?
Sometimes your mind seems like your worst enemy.
It just can’t see you winding down and having a good time.
The thing is we live in tumultuous times. There is a firehose of information coming our way.
Everything from an Instant message to a direct mail can add tasks to our crowded plates.
We have been conditioned into believing that to get more, we must do more – more than everyone else.
We are perpetually anxious that we might miss a deadline, turn in a sub-par report or take an inferior decision in our business.
Under the circumstances, “rest” is no longer an option.
Even small breaks feel like excuses to not further your priorities.
Meditation Is Hard
What have you tried till date?
Meditation, I am sure.
Maybe someone told you to follow Eckhart Tolle and be “mindful” of the present moment.
But nothing seems to work does it?
There is a reason behind this. And it is known as the “Zeignarik Effect”
In short, your brain is hardwired to remember open loops or incomplete tasks. You can’t get them off your radar.
No amount of stopping and smelling the roses or stilling the chatter in your head is going to allow you to relax in peace – without feeling guilty.
Because just like your to-do list is keeping track of stuff that is piling up, your brain is also going over and over the open loops – making your life miserable and pushing you to sacrifice all your vacations.
Introducing Getting Things Done: Your Ticket to Guilt-Free Relaxation
In my opinion, the Getting Things Done framework is the best way to beat the guilt trips you send yourself on for taking breaks or relaxing.
And don’t kid yourself – if you keep working non-stop, you will undermine your cognitive abilities. Significantly.
Time out is not just a luxury. It is a necessity.
GTD gives you the same result as years of meditation and is much more effective for professionals.
- It is hard science. It is a practical step-by-step framework. We can’t really believe in the potency of something unless we understand it fully. Well GTD is easy to grasp and appears more substantial and real than the advice to meditate. We can actually trust its strategies.
- GTD not only tells you what you have to do through its practice of “collecting open loops” with a Mind Sweep, it also helps set up a reliable system that will remind you of completing tasks (Next Actions) that can actually move the needle on these priorities.
- When you are a GTD practitioner you can stop being anxious about relying on your mind because you know you have an external brain that will not let you down or jeopardise your commitments.
Like David Allen – the creator of GTD says, “You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what it is.”
GTD isn’t magic. If you take a break, you won’t be furthering your work. But you will be perfectly okay with the state of things because:
- You will know what you aren’t doing, eliminating doubt and uncertainty.
- You will have the safety net of being reminded of all the tasks well ahead of when they’re due.
You Don’t Need an Empty To-Do List to Relax
As long as we are alive and functional, we will keep generating new tasks to replace the ones we complete.
So if you wait till you have exhausted all tasks to relax – you will be running the hamster wheel for the rest of your life.
Instead, start exploring Getting Things Done.
And build a reliable, foolproof system that your stubborn mind will learn to trust.
This way you will fulfil your high aspirations by juggling the multiple projects that make you feel accomplished. And at the same time you will also rejuvenate yourself with guilt free relaxation.
Isn’t that great?
Recorded for Calm Achiever by John Parrott
I believe our work should be an expression of our most creative selves. I work with business owners and their teams to achieve stress-free productivity.