Today we are living in a time when each of us has access to far more information than we could ever reasonably use in a lifetime. We convince ourselves that we must be aware of everything, that it’s part of our responsibility. We don’t want to miss out on anything, not even the latest nonsense. So we spend precious time following the news, social media, meetings, reports… obtaining any kind of feedback.
That explains, at least to some extent, why there are practically no people today who don’t feel like they’re always busy. The current reality is that there are too many inputs and we don’t have enough time to worry about each and every one of them. And even if we do, most of them turn out to be mere distractions, they don’t help us at all.
Not only do we not get anything out of it. Spending a part of our time (of our lifetime) on them means spending less time on other things that are certainly the ones that should concern us. And that means an emotional cost and unnecessary stress.
There’s too much information. And the media takes charge of magnifying every detail, every piece of information, to make it attractive. Social media and apps send us some kind of alert as soon as we’ve been offline for a few hours, to get our attention. This avalanche of inputs pushes us to act reactively.
In order to think clearly it’s fundamental that we are able to separate the unimportant from the essential. We must also clearly distinguish between what’s urgent and what’s important.
You probably think that you’re the kind of person who always tends to put important issues first, but that’s not enough. You have to create the time, space and system that allows you to focus on what’s important. Otherwise, it’s inevitable that a lot of those inputs, many of them banal and worthless, will take over your time.
I know it’s easier said than done, but you don’t need to constantly be on top of the news, you don’t need to be on top of the latest fashions and you don’t need to respond to every email the moment it arrives. You can go a little behind your inputs. You can capture them and leave them there for a while. You can be the one who leads your life.
What is important will stay important until you decide to spend your time on it. What is insignificant will be shown as such and many times will disappear by itself, or you will simply eliminate it before processing it.
Changing this requires proactivity and discipline. It means blocking certain inputs, having fewer alerts and notifications, un-following up, canceling a few subscriptions, moving certain emails to folders you’ll only look at once in a while. It means saying no to certain demands and to certain people who, selfishly, only bring you unnecessary worries. It means not stopping what you are doing every time something new appears, a sound is produced on your phone, or an alert is activated in an app.
If you think an input might have value, capture it in a trusted system, where you can review it later. If not, simply ignore it. Then use a time of day to process and clarify all those inputs you have collected. Some will be actionable and others will be of interest, and they should be organized in a way to be consumed conveniently. Others will simply go into the trash.
Capturing and Clarifying are the first two steps of the GTD methodology workflow to manage your life effectively. Today they can also be considered a very valid life philosophy.
To manage your life effectively and eliminate the anxiety of dealing with so much unimportant information, you must create barriers and have a management system in place.
With peace of mind instead of unnecessary urgency or exhaustion, you will be able to stop and give your full attention to whatever’s worth it. Only then will you be able to give the best of yourself.