Everything looks great with GTD until it is time to engage.
Sometimes you forget to look at your next actions list. Sometimes you simply cannot start. Wondering around about what to do next, you default to do some unimportant unproductive stuff, not related to anything you want. You end up stressed, depressed, and tired.
1. Build a routine of engaging!
Force yourself into engaging, at least once a day, at least with one item.
Block 15 minutes a day in your calendar, simply to engage on one item from your next actions list. It could be more than 15 minutes a day, it can be more than 1 task. But, keep that to a minimum. And do it for several weeks.
You forget to look at the calendar? Write it down on post-it note, or a plain piece of paper, and put it in front of you. Make it bother you everywhere you go. Make it bother you all the way until you complete that one item.
Write on it: "Take that one next step! Now! Only one!"
Remember, you do not need to take all of the steps, and all of the projects, and all of the actions. Just that one single step.
You are just developing a new habit to go to the place where you keep your next actions and actually work on them. Eventually, in time, you will automatically go there and do things (without a need for your calendar block time alarm, or your note reminder).
You should teach yourself to look at your next actions list every time you are idle/boring/doing nothing. Just look at the list and choose the appropriate task from the list. Yes, even "relax/recharge for 15 minutes" can be a valid task!
To start with engaging, force yourself to engage with GTD for at least 15 minutes a day. No more. Build routine. After some time, you will jump on your GTD next actions list without thinking.
The whole point of GTD is that when you get a few minutes, even unexpectedly, you can get something done. You will simply jump to the next actions list, and do some.
Once you are there, it would be easier to avoid defaulting to none. But, if your list is huge...
2. Split your huge list into smaller lists, more manageable.
If there are too many tasks on your list, and you cannot decide which one to take on (all of them are too important), the best way you can do is to split them into smaller, more manageable, sublists.
Find out if can you group them into similar subtasks, or split them into sub contexts.
E.g. if you have a list of tasks related to the computer, you can group them into subtasks:
- email related list of tasks
- spreadsheet related list of tasks
- computer management list of tasks (disk cleaning, files organizing, ...)
But, do remember to look at them!
For this, it would be great to have a general (top-level) list of lists to look at. Having a list of your next action contexts is good to go. So, you will first look at your list of contexts, and then select in which context you are now, then choose the subcontext you want to work from, then check the tasks that you can do within that subcontext.
3. Clarify tasks you are avoiding.
Even then, you can avoid doing some tasks. Why? You should clarify exactly what it means.
Do you want to call someone, email someone, or write to someone? That is great indecision that can give you some hard mental headache.
You should get down to an exact physical next action you should do, without a need for any additional thinking.
This post is influenced by: Youtube / GTD Engage - Productivity Tips and Tricks by Janet Riley / GTD Focus