Dealing with Free-Floating Anxiety

Written by James Elliott
on January 30, 2019

One of the Greatest Challenges

One of the greatest challenges to keeping an empty head is maintaining the drill of processing our interactions to closure. In the course of our day, we often generate much more value-added thinking and agreements with ourselves and others than we realize, especially in the context of conversations and communications.

Whom have you talked with in the last 24 hours—personally and professionally? What did you tell yourself (or any of them) that you or they would/could/should/ought to do, in any of that? Any ideas, information or perspectives show up that could be important downstream?


Sources of Free-Floating Anxiety

I still have to work with myself to ensure I’ve captured, decided, and tracked all the commitments and creativity that happen with phone calls, meetings, social interactions, and even random communications in passing. I do know that this is one of the sources of much of the free-floating anxiety many professionals experience relative to the gnawing sense of overwhelm that is so pervasive. It seems that there is an unconscious part of us that hangs onto all of those incomplete creations. It is a part that will not let go until it can trust those agreements have been kept or re-negotiated with ourselves.

At this moment I notice in my in-tray two pages of random notes I took on a conference call yesterday, regarding our upcoming GTD Summit in June. There’s a little part of me that resists engaging with them, because I know it’s going to require thinking (which is hard!). But because I’ve got the habit of getting “in” to empty, those notes will trigger the things I need to do, to get that sucker empty! I hate it, and I love it.


Take Time to Process

And, the number of interactions we handle in a day is more than ever. This is why it is critical that we all take time every day to process this stuff. What did I tell Luca I was going to do? What did Kathryn say I should bring back from the store? Who’s got the next action on the project we decided needed doing at the last marketing meeting? Review the day, capture what needs tracking, and then get some sleep.


He who hesitates is not only lost, but miles from the next exit.

 For more information on the GTD Summit, check out

25 %

only 20% of managers believe that their systems for managing commitments across silos, work well all or most of the time

Why Strategy Execution Unravels, HBR - 2015
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