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June 19, 2013 / glennlim thots

Getting Things Done!

ImageEver wonder why we are able to remember assignments or tasks when they are uncompleted, interrupted, or aborted halfway? This is the “Zeigarnik effect” at work in our minds. Our brains have an inbuilt reminder system that alerts us of uncompleted tasks and unmet goals.

Think of a time when a song got ‘stuck’ in our heads? If we abruptly change or stop the music halfway along our ‘listening journey’, our minds will continue inserting bits and pieces of the song into our stream of thoughts reminding us that it is not ‘done’ listening.We end up humming the song in our heads (as a means to complete the song), or we get a nagging ‘feeling’ thru-out the day!

For a while, it was thought that the ‘Zeigarnik effect’ continued until you actually finished a task, but recent experiments have shown that the act of making a concrete plan alone calms the mind. Which is great news! Because while we cannot possibly complete a physical task in a given time, we can certainly make plans and set goals on paper first. This itself tells the brain that the task has been thought through and we experience peace of mind. We can then tackle other issues or tasks at hand.
This is the basis for David Allen’s ‘Get Things Done’ (GTD) system. The concept is simple:

If your task can be done in 2 minutes – DO IT.

If your task cannot be done in 2 minutes – FILE IT (do-to list, planning folder, KIV shelf etc,..or my personal favourite – Post-it notes!).

This applies to all sorts of tasks, like reading, event planning, grocery shopping, phone-calling, travel itinerary, speech-crafting etc etc…It is especially useful for students who want to study or revise efficiently. That’s why I always advise students to take lots of intermittent breaks in-between study time. Eg) Take a short 5-10min break doing totally unrelated activities after every 25min study-block.

Here’s a good reference GTD processing map here:


So, to increase productive use of our time, let’s learn to apply the 2 minute GTD system, or else make-a-plan rule in our work!

I will be covering more of this in my next Power Mastery seminar, which will include ready-to-use strategies & tools. Do stay tuned for it!…Glenn Lim


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