Saturday, May 26, 2007 at 2:48PM
Repeat after me: I will not brain dump onto others, I will not brain dump onto others, ...I was talking recently with a friend and mountain bike buddy about the ideas I teach, especially the notion of keeping everything out of your head. He loved it, and really understood the negative impact that NUTs (Nagging Unfinished Tasks) have on us (see Personal productivity, IBMs, and NUTs: Some surprises about the brain). The next time we met he was very animated about this because he realized a) his spouse has these NUTs (most of us do, unless we rigorously practice a method like Getting Things Done), and b) he claimed she tries to get him to take them on for her!
Does this happen with someone in your life? It's essentially delegation, but in an unclear and indirect manner - more like a brain dump onto someone else. And as Roizen and Oz point out in YOU: The Owner's Manual, there's a real cost to not handling these effectively (they say these age you by eight years - excerpts on-line at Google Books).
The question is, how do you deal with someone trying to do this to you? It turns out I had a chance to practice - I ran into my friend's spouse (a very sweet person) when leaving their place for a ride, and she asked me to pass along a message to my spouse. Because I didn't have my capture tool with me (a calculated oversight - see A few thoughts on capture and What's the best tool for ubiquitous capture?), I told her I couldn't take it on. My reason was that I might forget or garble it, and then I'd have two women angry with me (much worse than 12 Angry Men!) Plus, I have enough of my own tasks I have to manage. To myself I thought, I'm not paid to take on stuff like this for others - that's a tough job (see Best practices for GTD and administrative assistants).
Is this bad? Should we take on little things like this for others? And are they little? My advice: Be careful what you take on. In general, saying "no" is important to managing your own stress levels, and it becomes much easier once you've identified every commitment in your life. However, people might see this as being selfish or unhelpful, so treat them with respect and compassion, possibly explaining your reasons. A few resources for saying no: