Recognizing when and what to drop everything for and just do it is a valuable skill
In my blog post on “Getting Things Done: Three key takeaways that will change your performance,” I mentioned that one of the biggest takeaways that I had from the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen were his thoughts on getting anything you can get done in under two minutes done now. Months later, I think this may be the single biggest takeaway from the book. One of the things it has done over time is help me realize just how much waste there is in delaying most things. You almost never have the same sense of a matter hours later that you have when the thought struck and if your memory is starting to get dicey like mine, you may never get a second shot at what you thought of in the moment. I realize that you can’t do everything in a stream of conscious fashion and being structured yields real and tangible results. In fact, most people don’t realize just how much of their success is tied up in the slow grind of working on something a little bit at a time with fierce regularity. As Americans, we live a lot of our lives at a sprint, but it is incredibly difficult to really build a skill in a sprint. So I’m not advocating that you simply throw out your calendar or chuck your to-do list and live in the moment, however I do think it is important to recognize when you have something that might be best accomplished by doing it right now—in the moment.
For me, there are three things I’ve found it’s useful to drop everything for and do right now:
- Big Ideas: I’m the type of person that gets big ideas in weird places and strange times. It is almost a given that if I’ve been trying to figure something out all day, I’ll get my great idea right after I’ve laid down to go to sleep at night. I’ve taken to keeping a notepad next to my bed so that I can write the idea down now. Too often if I sleep on it, the idea just isn’t there in the morning. If I’m in the car, I’ll dictate a voice memo and on the rare occasions when an idea comes and I’m at the office, I go sit down and write it down right way. Big ideas are important; don’t let them slip away.
- Stuff I don’t want to do: As a reformed procrastinator (with the exception of doing dishes), I have really pushed to do the things I don’t want to do as quickly as I can. Making a painful phone call, having a difficult meeting, or doing whatever horrible thing it is that you are avoiding on your to-do list won’t get better—but it may get worse.
- Anything I keep thinking about: This one is a little more difficult, but I know that there are certain things that just nag at me. Even if I’ve followed GTD best practice and written them down they still keep following me. I’ve decided to take this as a sign and just get them done.
Basically if I can do it and I’m thinking of it I try to do it now, even if it breaks my regularly scheduled routine a little bit. I’ve found that I’m usually more excited about doing something I’m thinking about now and who knows, maybe my sub-conscious is better at prioritizing activities than my conscious self.