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Dear people interested in getting the most out of life,

How are you!? I’m doing great; still working on developing a writing habit. Besides that I’m continuing life as usual as a CPA in a public accounting firm. Calculators, financial projections, excel humor, and awkward social interactions come with the package. It is a very challenging, rewarding, and surprisingly fun career that requires a number of skill sets.  In public accounting firms along with most professions, time and workflow management are extremely important. The act of juggling all your different responsibilities at work along with the many responsibilities at home can be daunting. I have noticed that professionals usually respond to these responsibilities in one of two ways.

Person one appears very organized, usually doesn’t forget appointments or responsibilities, has a neat filing cabinet with documents, and handles stressful situations well.  Conversely, person two  usually appears overwhelmed, has a pile of papers all over his/her desk,  is reactive to responsibilities, and sustains many “o yea I have to..” moments throughout the day.  Can you relate to either persons? Personally I started off my career much like person two.  I found myself constantly “putting out fires” at work after I was reminded of a particular project or responsibility that has fallen down my priority list.  I would constantly rely on my brain to remind me what to do throughout the day.  It was common for me to be working on a project and in the middle think, ‘I have to send an email relating to this other thing, I should send this now’, and interrupt the project I was working on.  I knew deep down that it wasn’t the most efficient way but I had a ton of responsibilities.  There came a point when I identified my process as a problem and sought out a book to help me out.  I came across a book named Getting Things Done by David Allen, which has changed my whole view of getting organized.

In Getting Things Done, David talks about the obvious benefits of getting organized. What I didn’t realize is the profound effects getting organized can have on your personal and professional life by clearing your mind.  David describes your brain as being very similar to RAM (random access memory) in computers. For those who are unlike me and actually hung out with people growing up, when a program runs on your computer it uses RAM to carry out the program.  You only have a finite amount of RAM and if you run too many programs at once, all the RAM will be used, and your computer will crash.  David Allen conjectures that our minds are very similar and can only run so many “programs” at once until we are overwhelmed/get a headache/smash a dinner plate.  So what are the things that take up our mind’s RAM?  Much like a computer there is the main program you are running (aka the task at hand) but there are also programs that are running in the background.

These background programs consist of all the things that help you remember, prioritize on the fly, and complete your typical day.  If you are choosing what to do throughout the day based off of your memory, you are running background programs that are storing this information.  If you find yourself randomly remembering to email so-and-so, or call your mom, or schedule that trip, your RAM is being taken up by all of these little programs.  Why do we care?  At any point in time we only have 100% of RAM in our minds to carry out tasks.  If we could clear our minds of all the background noise and focus 100% of our RAM on one specific task we will be extremely efficient.  Unfortunately, most of us function much less than 100% because we use our minds to help us remember all things we have to do throughout the day.  This leads to the common feeling of “what did I even accomplish today” which I’m guessing many are familiar with.

David Allen has a solution for this.  David asks readers to move completely to a “paper” system.  The idea is to place all your to-dos and projects on paper (or in Microsoft word) each day and I mean ALL your to-dos.  You should write down everything that you need to do at work, at home, at the gym, etc.  You should get extremely granular such as: call mom, take out garbage, finish work project, send email to Jim, get haircut, etc.  In theory, if you completed all these tasks you would just lay around because there would be nothing else to do.  This list should be filled out and completed daily.  The goal is to know exactly what needs to be accomplished each day and to never have to rely on memory to remind you.

After a few weeks of doing this daily, you will begin to rely on the process of writing down your to-dos which frees your mind to focus on the task at hand.  Your tasks will not be interrupted because you will already know all the things you need to accomplish.  Your mind will be running at 100%. Also by going through this process you will be much more organized and on top of your responsibilities, aka person one.  If you are someone that is overwhelmed with work, this process is for you!

I’d love to hear your feedback and stay awesome,

Eric