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After many years of research I believe I have a nice gtd system for my needs. But even If tasks progress, I feel overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. I am in the point of realising that the list won't shrink but will remain the same, even enlarge through time, because of new ones that are added. What do you do to cope with stress when you have 10 active projects, a personal life and another 10 ones waiting ?

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Doing lots of things only matters if you do things which matter. – enderland Mar 31 '13 at 20:27
I am looking forward to work with anyone interested and create the perfect gtd and anti stress formula! :) – Radolino Apr 1 '13 at 7:34
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I deal with the same anxiety, there's just too much I want/need to do, and not enough time to do it. Though I'm far from good at doing this, these are things that may help.

  • Realize that the stress and anxiety is coming from things you are putting into your list. That means you have the control here. You can say "No, I'm not going to do that." Learning to say no is very powerful, especially to yourself. You control your todo list, the todo list should not control you.
  • Before you put new elements into your system, put them in a 'staging' area first. Record whatever it is, and let it sit there for some amount of time (maybe review this once a day, whatever works for you). Go back over it when you have a few minutes of quiet time, and re-evaluate if you really want or need to do that thing. Often, it's easy to get caught up the emotion of the moment and add things in there that maybe you don't really want to do all that much. Once it gets into your system, those type of things are harder to get rid of, something, at least for me, about them feels more like they are required at that point. This is a good time to reflect on if there's a better way to go about achieving that same goal, maybe something you can delegate or something with less time commitments that's good enough.
  • If you don't have it already, work some kind of 'Future Projects' list into your system. Once you are at capacity as far as projects you're working on goes, anything that comes up can go in there. Only take on new work as you eliminate old work.
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It makes me sad to think like this. And it makes me more sad to realise I can't manage my own stress level. And what If you have some kind of major project to accomplish at work and a major personal project at home? I tried to sleep less because, I' m thinking, sleep is waste of time and by sleeping 4 or 5 hours a day I will add +2 or 3 hours to my routine for tasks to complete. Unfortunately I realised that the human body & mind have a "limit" in the job that can be done. I want to do so many things and I am searching for the perfect formula to manage time and tasks. – Radolino Mar 26 '13 at 22:34
You can find great ways to manage time and tasks. However, time is a limited resource. I think working on a major project at work and a major project at home is doable, but perhaps you may need to cut out some minor projects. It's all about deciding what is worth while enough for your precious time. Sometimes that makes for hard decisions, but there's no perfect formula that can make that decision for you. The closest I think you can get is to enjoy what you choose to do, and be fully present in doing it. Spend that precious time well. – huntmaster Mar 27 '13 at 2:04
You do not have always the ability to choose what to do. I mean, there's economic recession and somehow you got to make money to survive and pay your bills. At the same time, If a major event occurs at the same time, for example your wedding or a home renovation (that MUST be done), there is no choice, except If you want to play russian roulette with your life. After all, being someone or doing something precious for yourself, needs fighting and doing much more than just accepting your situation as is. This is where a "magic formula" is needed. – Radolino Mar 27 '13 at 6:17
That is true. Life is often difficult and harsh and you sometimes need to do what you have to do to survive it, which takes away from other things. I'm not advocating mindless acceptance of whatever happens to you. I'm saying to accept and come to peace with the human limitations you have to work within, and use that to make your best choices. Yeah, sometimes your options suck. But if life is a constant crisis and the stress is unbearable, no time management technique is going to be a solution. The problem is likely bigger than that, and you might consider seeing a professional for help. – huntmaster Mar 27 '13 at 13:08

This is where GTD falls short and why I find 7 Habits of Highly Effective People work best for me.

GTD helps you be as productive as possible but you tend to lose track of what tasks really matter to your goals.

The 7 habits make you think about tasks in terms of urgency and importance. You should aim to reduce urgency and focus on what is important.

So to answer your question, try to trim your list down back to the essential.

For each task, ask yourself: what would happen if you did this task? what would happen if I didn't do this task?

I might help you filter out unimportant tasks.

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This is one of the first books I ever purchased but found it hard to keep on reading because it seemed to me mostly "theoretical" than "practical" as gtd. Opening gtd book, you know that someone guides you what buckets to create, how to make a weekly review etc. On the other hand, the 7 habits is a general "opinion" about how to organise your life. Things as "think win-win" and "first things first" do not reveal any special walkthrough than making you think. And that's where it fails for me: I do not want to be a philosopher, but lower my stress levels and get things done. – Radolino Mar 26 '13 at 6:25
I disagree about GTD falling short - the system includes "higher level" areas of focus that cover this area. I agree 7 Habits is very good in this area. Using 7 Habits material to inform my 20, 30, 40, and 50 thousand foot GTD lists has been very useful. – Dennis S. Mar 26 '13 at 14:46
Roberto, "First Things First" is actually very practical, i have developed a web app based on the princicples in the book: – Aymeric Gaurat-Apelli Mar 27 '13 at 0:57

Are you doing reviews at the GTD 20,000 foot (20kft) level and higher? Working at these levels helps you focus on what is important, and can help you remove things from your action lists that are no longer appropriate.

  • 20kft: Areas of Focus (home, work, physical fitness, spiritual, community service, etc)
  • 30kft: short term (up to 1-2 years in the future) goals
  • 40kft: long term (5 year) goals
  • 50kft: life purpose

See for a more complete discussion.

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and what If 9 out of 10 are important ? and they have a deadline? Am I going to die trying to gtd ? – Radolino Mar 26 '13 at 15:45
No organizational system is going to solve the problem of too much to do. If you are really overloaded, you need to find ways to renegotiate your load. 7 Habits does that with the urgent/important matrix, GTD has Areas of Focus and higher levels. All systems are a framework to help you make better decisions - but you still have to make the decisions. – Dennis S. Mar 26 '13 at 17:07
Yes, I agree with Dennis. Ultimately you need to say NO to certain things. 7 Habits explains that by saying that you should show integrity, don't commit to things you can't fulfill. – Aymeric Gaurat-Apelli Mar 27 '13 at 0:56

I know this is going to sound a little hokey - but I was finally talked into doing something every day that helps more with my stress level than anything else. Setting time aside to breathe.

Literally, one minute when I'm feeling stressed - usually that means like 6-7 big breaths in and out. That's it. For years I sort of mocked this sort of thing. I'm pretty organized, always getting things done - but also feeling a lot of stress. I probably do this 6-7 times per day when I find I'm not enjoying things due to being stressed. Amazing what a difference it makes!

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I am using this, it helps a lot. – Radolino Mar 26 '13 at 22:27

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