Zia Hassan

Emotional Gtd

I came up with this idea years ago, and others have also written about it.

In the Getting Things Done methodology, the way that we work is by collecting all the junk in our lives into a list called “Inbox.” Once we collect everything, from the tasks that require a few minutes of time, to larger and more gargantuan tasks like buying a house or writing a thesis, we can then do the step of GTD known as processing.

In the processing step, we decide where all of these items will go, and they how they might break down. The buy a house task might break down into 30 different steps (we call this breakability factor a project), each with their own sub-steps. But the key is that the very next action then becomes the thing you target.

Buy a house as a project might spur the next action of “visit 3 open houses.” Which is much easier than the task of buying a house.

But an interesting thing that you start finding as you “process” your inbox is that some of the things you write don’t have a next action. Maybe you can’t do it right now, or it’s not relevant for your life, or you just want to defer it until later. The items that aren’t relevant, or that don’t make much sense when you think about them for a bit, you can just cross off your list. Then they’re out of mind, and you don’t have to worry about them anymore.

Wouldn’t it be nice to do this for emotions and feelings as well? With Emotional GTD, you’d keep a running list of all your feelings, worries, anxieties, emotions. Then, you’d go through the list and create a “next action” for each item.

“I’m worried about being on time for my meeting tomorrow since it’s far away” might translate into “I’ll get my stuff ready the night before so I can leave a bit earlier without compromising sleep.”

“I’m worried my kid hates me” might translate into “set up a meeting to discuss feelings with kid” as a task.

For anything that can’t be translated into an action, you would cross it off your list. It’s like a physical action that tells your brain, this worry doesn’t have a next action, and therefore it’s not worth your mind-space.

With the physical act of crossing out or deleting the worry/anxiety/emotion, you can free yourself from it. And now you’ve got a task list to do, which will alleviate the rest of the worries and anxieties.

It’s harder in practice to just strike something off a list and move on. But do it enough times, and it can be a valuable superpower.