Working from the Ground Up

Clearing Up and Gaining Control

Getting Things Done by David Allen recommends working from the ground up for practical reasons. When our minds are cluttered and overwhelmed, the only way to attend to higher level thinking and planning is by first clearing up the more immediate levels. This is why we start with organizing, clearing up, and clarifying the urgent and the day-to-day.

As we work our way up from our current tasks and ongoing projects, to our areas of responsibility, and finally our long-term goals and aspirations, we regain control of each level and free up our mental power so we can take on the bigger questions like: “is this really where I want to be in life right now?” and “what makes me feel fulfilled?” and “what needs to change in my life?”.

Along the way, we also build our confidence and trust in ourselves to be able to handle our work and our lives.

Learning and Gaining Experience

According to the KonMari Method, tidying up categories of stuff in the right order is important because throughout the process we gradually hone our ability to recognize the items that bring us joy. The method relies on an intuitive reaction, but practice makes us more sensitive to that feeling of joy and makes it easier for us to evaluate the items that are more difficult to judge. Aspects of our belongings such as cost, rarity, and sentimentality can make them difficult to discard, so improving our ability to recognize their true value to us is important so we can make it through the entire process smoothly. This is why the method begins with items that are the most replacable, and end with the items that have the highest sentimental value.

Even after the process is over, we will be better equipped for making decisions in our everyday life because we have honed this ability. We will have gained a better understanding of our own values, and will be able to identify more easily the things that bring us joy.

The Holistic Approach

When looking at Getting Things Done and The KonMari Method side by side, it becomes obvious that even before tackling your tasks and responsibilities it’s necessary to handle your space and your belongings and create the ideal environment to get things done.

Marie Kondo talks about this in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, where she says that by tidying up our spaces and belongings, we will make it easier to take care of matters of life. In fact, the act of tidying up helps highlight to ourselves what we find important. After all, our space is a refleciton of our values, choices, and interests.

So before overthrowing your task management system or pile of sticky notes, start with your space. Collect everything by category, give it your full attention, decide what to keep, and organize your things in a way that honors their significance to you and keeps them visible and accessible. Then, move on to your tasks: capture everything that demands your attention and make it explicit, decide what to keep, and organize them in a way that honors their place in your life and sets you up for success. After that, move on to the large areas of your life such as the roles you play and the responsibilities you hold, your career path, your lifelong goals, etc.

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