Best GTD advice—stop being smart

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

You are an educated, well-read and thoughtful human being.

You have goals, big ones, yuuuge ones.

But for some reason, it seems impossible for you to do anything consistently over a long period of time.

That book you wanted to finish reading is collecting dust. That blog you wanted to build an audience for is a ghost town. That diet you wanted to keep to get that beach body is only a topic you occasionally mention.

You know that consistency is important: it helps you build good habits, and it’s how you can make real progress towards your goal.

What’s the problem? Why aren’t you doing it? Why was it so easy when you first started it?

Well, it’s because you are too smart, ya dummy.

Tell me these don’t sound familiar:

“It’s day 3 since I started this new routine. I think I can optimize it a little…”

“Hmm, I wonder if there’s an easier way to do this?”

“I think I’m better off doing something else—something more effective than what I’m doing now.”

See? You are too smart. You don’t need better methods, better tools, or better reasons to keep doing something consistently. You will stop yourself from being consistent by being smart about where you put your energy and time.

You think you can optimize something before there is even something there because you want to be efficient—we all have finite amount of time, right?

You think you can find better ways to do something before you even fully tried because the time you spent on finding new methods will be worth it if the new method is a silver bullet.

In the end, all you’ve achieved was wasting time and feeling beat up.

You are too smart! TOO SMAHT!

Here’s the best GTD or productivity tip I’ve ever had: stop being smart.

Don’t optimize.

Don’t try to save time.

Don’t rely on impulse or motivation.

Don’t evaluate your progress before you see change.

Just be stupid. Just do it.

Do it until it clicks. Do it until you see change, positive or not.

Think about it!

What did you end up doing when you are smart?

Oh, I see that Netflix account of yours is super active 😀 So is your Amazon account, and most of your social accounts.

You’d rather mindless browser random Internet memes than using that time to stick to a workout routine that “may not be the most effective method.”

Think about it!

You use your brain too much when you shouldn’t. That’s why you are constantly looking for stimulants to keep it active. That’s why you are always looking to “relax” and “take a break” by binge-watching 5 seasons of Friends.

So, what should you do?

1. Set a clear goal (duh)

This is actually the least important step. And it’s a step you already know pretty well. In fact, you probably don’t need to set new goals. Just pull one out of your pocket full of old and unaccomplished goals.

2. Forget about the goal (wat?)

Yeah, set a goal and forget about it. This is an important step to making sure you actually do what you set out to do. Stop thinking about the goal. If you want to flush out more details about that goal, too bad, you should’ve done it in step 1. There’s no going back now. Stick to what you have now. Literally stop thinking about the goal. Don’t visualize it. You’ve visualized your other goals before. Oh it was vivid, but it didn’t work, did it?

3. Stop yourself when you ask yourself “why”

You know the drill. 3 days in, you are already asking yourself, “why am I doing this again?” The reason for that is your goals used to rely on bursts of motivation and impulses. Now you are holding a figurative defibrillator against your goal that has fallen unconscious—reminding yourself why you wanted to do this in the first place. It’s your desperate attempt to bring back the excitement and motivation that got you to have this goal in the first place. So, next time you try to remind yourself “why”, stop, kill that thought with fire, and move on to Just Doing It.

4. Do it mindlessly and don’t stop doing it

Now that you’ve started taking action, be stupid, stay stupid, please, for your own sake. Refrain from optimizing, cutting, adding or doing anything to what you are currently doing. If it’s inefficient, keep it that way. A great way to stop yourself from thinking too much is to occupy yourself with action. Another great way is to think about your thoughts as if they are clouds in front of your eyes. Now imagine yourself mercilessly flailing your hands into them, breaking them up and making them disappear before you get back into action.

5. Think about things that actually matter

You’ve now accomplished something great: you kept yourself from being smart while taking actions and making progress towards your goal! Now, your brain has one last trick to stop you from taking “stupid” and unoptimized actions: it will generate more thought bubbles (or clouds) when you are doing something else. You can be watching Netflix, and your brain goes “hey, great work on taking actions! But… can you remind me why we are doing that again? I can’t help but think there’s better, more fun and exciting, things to do!” That’s when you go and slap your brain in the face (figuratively) and tell it to shut the hell up. Don’t let your brain slip through the cracks and slip your these thought bubbles when you are not expecting it. Stay stupid.

And that’s it. No clever ending, just a boring stupid “that’s it”.

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