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

The Habit Of Finishing Things

One of the greatest challenges to keeping an empty head is maintaining the drill of processing our interactions to closure. In the course of our day, we often generate much more value-added thinking and many more agreements with ourselves and others than we realize, especially in the context of conversations and communications.

Whom have you talked with in the last 24 hours--personally and professionally? What did you tell yourself (or any of them) that you or they would/could/should/ought to do, in any of that? Any ideas, information or perspectives show up that could be important downstream?

I still have to work with myself to ensure I've captured, decided, and tracked all the commitments and creativity that happen with phone calls, meetings, social interactions, and even random communications in the hallways. I do know that this is one of the sources of the free-floating anxiety many people experience relative to the gnawing sense of overwhelm that is so pervasive. It seems that there is an unconscious part of us that hangs onto all of those incomplete creations. It is a part that will not let go until it can trust those agreements have been kept or re-negotiated with ourselves.

And we have so many interactions! Studies quoted in the Wall Street Journal indicate that the typical professional handles over 170 in a typical work day. Wow.

This is why it is critical that we all take time every day to process this stuff. What did I tell Bob I was going to do? What did Kathryn say I should pick up next time I'm at the hardware store? Who's got the next action on the project we decided needed doing at the staff meeting?

You already have handy trigger lists to help with this review:

* the Sent folder in your email program
* the Call Log on your cell phone
* the Calendar with your appointments
* and likely others that are unique to your personal and professional environment

Scanning those may remind you of something you forgot to capture, whether it's a creative idea, an agreement you made, or an action you'll want to take in the future.

Review the day, capture what needs tracking, and then get some sleep.


You can find out more about David Allen and GTD at

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.