When I travel to another country, the first thing I always want to do is to check in to my hotel, or get to the place I will be staying for the duration of my trip. I am sure you are the same. There is something comforting about getting to your room, putting your bags down, taking a shower and having a few moments to yourself before you embark on your sightseeing, sunbathing or work if you are on a business trip.
Having a base from which to begin your trip is something that is essential if your trip is going to be enjoyable. Going round seeing beautiful landmarks with your luggage in tow and still wearing the same clothes you were dressed in when you came off the airplane is not going be a recipe for a successful trip. It would be very inconvenient and uncomfortable and I am sure it would spoil the whole experience for you.
Imagine arriving at a beautiful place with a gorgeous golden beach and a tranquil sea lapping the rocks. The sky is clear and the sun is shining and you arrive dressed in your jeans and sweat shirt carrying your hand and hold luggage. Just the thought of carrying all that stuff around with you all the time would probably spoil the moment.
This is like it is when you rely solely on your brain to remember all the things you have to do. All those things like remember to buy some milk and bread on the way home, call your brother to wish him a happy birthday and remember to pay the gas bill are luggage you really should not be carrying around in your head. They should be in a trusted system — your base. When you adopt the principles of Getting Things Done, or any other productivity system that focuses on getting your day to day commitments and tasks out in to an external place, your todo list and calendar become your hotel room. It is your base from which all activities begin. Once you have a system in place that you truly trust contains all your commitments and tells you when you need to do something and where you need to be, then you have a base from which great things can be accomplished. It allows you to prepare the day with confidence and to start the day with the appropriate resources.
Just like when you are on holiday and you are planning to go to the beach for a spot of sunbathing. You wake up in the morning, look out the window and check the weather (we Brits do that — the weather is so unpredictable!). You then get your beach clothes ready, your towel and suncream and head out to the beach. You don’t need to carry your whole suitcase with you. Its just you, the sun, the beach and a sun lounger. Your hotel room has everything you need and you select the things you are going to need and then head out.
Your calendar and todo list serve the same purpose. Whether you look at your lists and calendar the night before or first thing in the morning. When you know they are up to date and contain everything you need to know and remember, you can prepare all the right things and when you leave your home in the morning you confidently know you have all the right things with you. That’s what a trusted productivity system does for you. It removes the stress, it removes the uncertainty and it allows you to confidently start the day.
I always think of my calendar and todo list as my base. From there I can make decisions about what time I need to wake up, what I need to prepare for the next day and what needs to get done. It is a base from which all my decisions are made and it allows me to see both the details and the big picture of what is going on in my life right now and what is going to happen in the future. Without this system, it would be like arriving in Ibiza for my summer holiday and having to carry all my luggage around to the clubs and parties. Not a nice thought at all.
When you have a trusted system you can let you mind go. You are not always trying to remember everything in your head, you can leave all the things you don’t need in your system and only keep in your head the things you need right now. The reduction in stress and worry this gives you is worth all the effort it takes to build a system you can trust. Carrying around all those unprocessed thoughts and ideas prevents you from enjoying the moment. You are worrying and you are stressing about all the things you have or may have forgotten to do.
So now we are in the final month of the year, take some time to begin building your system. If you already have a system in place, figure out how you can make it better. Think of it as a base from which great things can happen. It is there to help you make the right decisions at the right time. There is no need for you to carry all your ideas and commitments in your head. This only leads to stress and overwhelm. Trust your system, keep it up to date and process regularly. Build the strongest base you can so you can go out and enjoy 2017.
Carl Pullein is the author of Your Digital Life: Everything you need to know to get your life organised and put technology to work for you, a book about how to get yourself organised in the twenty-first century