I completely underestimated this whole zero inbox thing. I was promised great things but I admit I was a bit skeptical. I’d been slowly chipping away at my inbox for months. You know you have a number of emails pending that you get comfortable with, that you feel like you are in reasonable control of it all. It used to be 100 for me. And then I managed to get it down to 50. Lately it’s been between 20 and 40. But this last week, I’d been hovering at around 8. I was listening to one of the David Allen CDs yesterday and he said something about coaching an exec who had got theirs down to 5 and was getting ready to leave for the day. David encouraged him to go all the way to “see what it would feel like”. And as I stared at my final 5 emails late yesterday, I thought, “hey, let’s just see what it feels like.”
And what did it feel like? I’d been feeling bad all day that I hadn’t really done “enough” work for the day. I’d been doing small tasks and more backlog type things. And then at about 6pm, after I reached zero inbox, I suddenly found myself at my desk, typing solidly for a full hour, working on my PhD Candidacy application (it’s the first step you need to do as a phd student and basically outlines in 10 pages your thesis), I wrote 2700 words into what had previously been a blank, named document. I outlined the basic methodology and objectives, some of the background, some issues that I think need investigating to nail other bits down, even referred to material I’d been reading as part of my lit review. I wrote 7 pages. They aren’t great. But it’s a 10 page document. It’s too big a project for a PhD. Which is a great start – I have a lot of material to pare down. Lots of opened loops to go off and investigate to nail this down. I have a way forward. In one hour. I haven’t felt so clear headed in a very long time. Didn’t even know I could still think that clearly.
It was amazing.
That’s the promise of this whole management system – that by setting it up and maintaining it properly, you free your head from the day to day minutia, from thinking the same thoughts more than once, from being stressed about things you need to remember or need to do and you can move on to being creative. This was the first glimpse of this for me. And I’m addicted!
Tags: gtd, phd, phd life