In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about “a paradox that has emerged in this new millennium.” That paradox being that people have an “enhanced” quality of life, in general, but in order to maintain that quality of life they’ve also got less free time and higher levels of stress. Almost like the more you do, the more you have to do.

Makes you wonder if this “enhanced” quality of life is actually better…rather than simply “enhanced.”

This is one of the very reasons I’m working at trying to simplify and organize my own life. I love my work. I’ve got a passion for it, and because of that I’m always thinking, learning, reading, striving to get things accomplished. This creates stress and I’m learning that because I work so much, and try so hard, that I may actually be doing the opposite of what will make me the most happy and help me get the most out of my life.

I’ve taken to reminding myself that everything doesn’t need to be done yesterday and that it’s ok to take things one-at-a-time. As a self-proclaimed master multi-tasker, this is a bit hard to swallow, but I’m working on it. I think the goal of methodologies like GTD should be to free up your time, to help you relax and to get the most (not necessarily more) out of your time and life.

If you’re “Getting Things Done” just to add a bunch more things to do, it kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

h3. Drawing A Fuzzy Grey Line

Another thing David talks about in GTD is the blurry line between work and life. In fact he goes as far to say that there is no real line there, but that we’ve got a problem separating “work” work (as in what you get paid to do) from work (as in tasks to get things done, regardless of their nature). I know this is amazingly hard for me, and has been for awhile now. Pretty much ever since I began writing. You see, I love to write and while it is work, in a way it doesn’t always feel like “work” work.

Meaning it’s hard for me to know when to stop or put something on hold.

It’s almost like I’m addicted to it. I enjoy it quite a bit, and sometimes I just can’t stop…but I’m coming to realize that the more I do doesn’t really mean the better it’s going to be. In fact, I think my best writing is when I’ve taken some time off. Quite often I write things with all sorts of other thoughts rolling around my head, and that leads to somewhat unfocused writing. I used to just deal with it and move on. Now if I feel unfocused, and it’s something important I want to write about, I simply stop and come back to it when I’ve got more time and a clearer mind.

That line between “work” and work will always be grey and fuzzy to me, but I’m learning how to step away from it. My hope is by trying less, and taking time to focus more, my writing will be clearer and my stress level will go down.

h3. The Moral

Sometimes the best way to get something good done is to not do anything at all.

3 Comments on Knowing When To Pause

  1. This relates to the conversation going on about what it takes to be successful in business that Paul wrote about, and Darren’s article about time management.

    We manage our time in order to do what exactly? More work? More play? Maybe less is the new more.

  2. Keith says:

    Peter — Talk about timely. Here is a post I wrote last night, and published today, dealing with our motivations for managing our time.

    My hope is by sharing those motivations we can all be inspired and well, more motivated.

  3. Vickie says:

    I agree with everything that you have said.

    I was writing in my journal the other night about how I wish for more simplicity in my life and more quality time. I was thinking about the farmers of yesteryear and how they worked from sun up to sun down. When it was time to quit work, they quit work and their focus shifted to family, friends or whatever other interest they had. They had simple (more rounded) lives and quality time.

    For so long, we have focused on getting things done. The more the better. Time management has been about cramming. Our focus should shift towards using time management to have simpler, more quality-filled lives.

Leave a Reply