Feeling Good About What You're Not Doing

03/28/2008 02:48 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

From my experience, a majority of the stress most people feel comes from not too much to do, but from broken agreements with themselves. You can fool all the people all the time, but you can't fool yourself for one second. When you tell yourself you ought to do something, and you don't do it, you suffer the slings and arrows of self-doubt, frustration, depression, and the fatigue of overwhelm.

If that's true, how do you get rid of the stress?

There are three options:

(1) Don't ever make any agreements with yourself. You'd lighten up a ton if you'd just lower your standards!

(2) Complete your agreements. Wow, think how you'd feel if you totally finished your list of to-do items! Of course, within three days you'd have a bigger list, from all the enthusiasm and energy you'd generate from finishing the current one.

(3) Re-negotiate your agreements. I think this is one of the master keys for personal sanity into the future. When you think about all the things you might/should do this afternoon, and decide that you want to spend time with your daughter or take a swim instead, you can then do it with a clear head.

Here's the big problem: It's impossible to renegotiate agreements with yourself that you can't remember you made!

Here's the solution: Keep lists, folks. The key lists are Projects, Calendar, Next Actions, and Waiting For. Look at them as often as you need to. Not so that you have to do everything. On the contrary, so you don't have to do everything. You can only do one thing at a time. You can either feel good about what you're doing, or awful about all the things you're not doing. Your choice.

You'd just better know everything you're not doing, and be fine with that, before you're really free to be fully anywhere at all.


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The David Allen Company is a professional training, coaching, and management consulting organization, based in Ojai, California. Its purpose is to enhance performance and improve the quality of life by providing the world's best information, education, and products in the fields of personal productivity and work/life balance.