In this post from two days ago I spoke of how I cried when I didn’t do the weekly review like I said I would. While I feel a little silly admitting that, I think that it was a good way to explain the negative emotions that I feel when I don’t follow through with schedules I create for myself. In all reality the tears weren’t just about one weekly review that I failed to do. It was simply one more example of myself saying that I would do one thing, and then actually doing something else – and I felt bad about myself as a result.
In his book, David Allen speaks of these negative emotions. He tells that when people initially go through his process of collecting and processing their “stuff,” that they tend to feel some negative things. Here are some of the words he uses to describe these feelings – “overwhelm, panic, frustration, fatigue, and disgust.” I would say these describe very well my own feelings concerning my work, and that these are the feelings that led me to set thetime management goal in the first place.
David Allen does a great job of explaining the source of these negative emotions. On page 226-227 of his book, he says this:
“Where do the not-so-good feelings come from? Too much to do? No, there’s always too much to do. If you felt bad simply because there was more to do than you could do, you’d never get rid of that feeling. Having too much to do is not the source of the negative feeling. It comes from a different place.
“How have you felt when someone broke an agreement with you? Told you they would meet you Thursday at 4:00pm and never showed or called? How did that feel? Frustrating, I imagine. The price people pay when they break agreements in the world is the disintegration of trust in the relationship – a negative consequence.
“But what are all those things in your in-basket? Agreements you’ve made with yourself. Your negative feelings are simply the result of breaking those agreements – they’re the symptoms of disintegrated self-trust. If you tell yourself to draft a strategic plan, when you don’t do it, you’ll feel bad. Tell yourself to get organized, and if you fail to, welcome to guilt and frustration. Resolve to spend more time with your kids and don’t – voila! anxious and overwhelmed.
“If the negative feelings come from broken agreements, you have three options for dealing with them and eliminating the negative consequences.
- Don’t make the agreement
- Complete the agreement
- Renegotiate the agreement
“All of these can work to get rid of the unpleasant feelings.”
When I was praying about what to do in my situation, I really wasn’t thinking of these three choices. But some time after I received the prompting that “I needed to stop trying to put my life in a box” I remembered them. I could see what a simple and amazing solution this really could be – to stop making agreements with myself to complete routines and schedules that I clearly do not want to keep. I have to say that, even though it has been just a little while since I let go of trying to be so structured, that already I feel so much more relaxed in my work!
Another concept to think about is the proper use of the calendar. In the “Getting Things Done” system, the calendar is only to be used for “time specific tasks” and “day-specific tasks” (i.e. appointments). Lots of people write stuff on their calendars that don’t absolutely have to be done on that day or at that time. According to Mr. Allen, doing this causes internal confusion. Our brains know that we don’t really have to do it that day, so we start skipping stuff that we see written there, potentially causing us to miss something that really does have to be done at a specific time.
Even though I do not actually write my routines or schedules that I create on the calendar, I do tend to treat them the same way – requiring in my own mind that something be done on a specific day or time, when in reality it doesn’t have to be done then. My brain knows this, and responds by putting up resistance. So that’s another point in favor of letting go of the self-created schedules.
But you may be asking, what about the “Weekly Review?” I’ve been giving this some thought; I really do like the system Mr. Allen describes. He recommends using a calendar and action lists instead of schedules, which provide structure and flexibility simultaneously. His “weekly review” really is the only thing he suggests that falls outside of this. So, for now I’m still trying to do it on Mondays (but not at any specified time). I still don’t love it, and I’m working out some of the kinks; but I haven’t decided (at least at this point) to completely abandon it.