I’m not sure if Pressure is really a lifestyle, so much as the solution to the first four. Dislike and Overwhelm are the ones that get to me, and in the past I would always overcome them when the pressure was there.
While I’m still far from perfect, I do have my tricks for solving #3 and 4:
• Overwhelm is solved with GTD combined with my top goal system. GTD means that I am not overwhelmed in the sense that I know the next immediate action for any project. Top goal system I will describe at the end of the post
• Dislike is actually a fascinating one to me. Doing something you dislike drains your energy and can prevent you from doing other more important things at your full capacity. In comparison, doing things that are in your zone of genius which you are most uniquely good at are “easy,” likable, and produce far more. So for dislike I have five options to deal with it.
- Don’t do it at all
- Get somebody else to do it
- Use your zone of genius to solve this forever and ever. This does not always apply, but personally I love automating things and setting up systems that make things easy. Suppose that the task I dislike is searching around the web for the email address of people I’m trying to reach. If I’m not following #2, then I would search out an email finding tool I love, and if there isn’t one that is good enough I will just build my own.
- Become obsessed and aim to be the best ever at the thing you dislike. I’ve realized that often the things I dislike are the things that are in my zone of incompetence. So if I don’t have options #1-3 I will just turn it into a self-development challenge of not just doing the task but learning how to be really good at it and do it really really well, so that in the future it will be easily in my zone of excellence. So for instance, if the task I dislike is writing essays, I will get inspired about the idea of becoming a world class writer and ask my friends who are great writers to read over my work and help me to create something amazing out of this dislike. I generally like to do a focus meditation beforehand where I imagine all the things I’ve been obsessed about in the past and then I imagine that same obsession attaching to this new thing (for example writing).
- Don’t allow yourself to do the task for an entire week. This sounds funny, and I discovered it by accident, but it works for me. Suppose the task I dislike is organizing the house. I will commit to organize it a week later, and I won’t defer it, so it is in my next actions list, but I won’t allow myself to organize it for a whole week. You’re probably thinking this assumes it’s not urgent, but it works especially well if you consider it urgent (and assuming there is no hard line). By the time the week later rolls by, you’ll be dying with anticipation to finally get to get it out of the way, having been forbidden to not do it for a whole week, especially because the rule is that if you don’t get around to doing it on that day you’re not allowed to continue until the day that’s one more week later. I know, it sounds weird, but there is some psychological sense to it because humans often want what we can’t have.
My top goal system
Every week, I pick my top goals. Sometimes it’s for two weeks or a month, but usually for one week. The goals are measurable and they are entirely within my control (not dependent on external forces, so there are no excuses). There are also tentative longer-term goals that these week-by-week goals are supposed to build up to.
The goals go into a google doc as well as into my omnifocus with a deadline.
In Omnifocus, I have a folder called
top in which I put everything related to my top goal- unless the top goal is very clearly an existing folder, like
recruiting which is this month.
Now until the top goal(s) gets done (I try to have one and no more than three), I do not work on other things. Sometimes the top goal is a daily thing, like work 2 hours every day on this specific thing, other times it’s a week long project. I work on the top goal(s) Monday-Friday, and I work on the weekend on other things. Other things then automatically fall into technique #5 for overcoming dislike. I actually love the weekend for this reason because I’m dying to finally work on something else.
My top goal has its own inbox. It’s in
top:inbox. I capture things there and clarify actions within the top goal. I review this daily and I don’t allow myself to review my normal inbox related to other items if the top goal isn’t done yet. Again creating focus as well as anticipation for everything else.
Even in my email inbox, I label related items as
Top, and I filter every other conversation that is not top to go to an
Other folder that only goes into my main inbox once every 24 hours.
If I am in the shopping mall for something related to my top goal, and I get a notification about other things I need to do in that context, I won’t do them. I will go back home and return on the weekend for everything else.
It is much harder to be overwhelmed when your entire focus and being feels like it is only after one (and maximum three) goals.
Obviously this may not work for you, but maybe there’s some pieces to apply to your own systems.
Urgent/Important vs Not Urgent / Important
Within everything else outside of my top goal, I use my review time to consider the four buckets of urgent vs non urgent and important vs non important for my other tasks.
NUNI (Non urgent non important) get either deleted or put into my
NUNI project. Which I keep but don’t do.
Non urgent and important tasks are normal actions
Urgent and important tasks get an Omnifocus flag.