Flow - The Theory of Everything

My SIL is under stress at work.  The work expands, but her and her team's capacity to do it does not expand at the same pace.  It is a problem that we all face individually and in our work teams.  Moreover, these time stressors are not limited to work.  We have personal 'stuff' that needs to get done--children to raise, exercise to do, gardens to plant, houses to clean and significant others to please.  There is not a magical wall that cordons off our personal and work stressors.  Rather, they all just pile in like evil clowns invading our much too small time car.

Just as you should never take sobriety advice from a teetotaler, you should never take organization advice from anyone who has not slogged through the morass of 'things to do'  successfully.  On that count, I'm an organizational binger.  I go through expanses periods of time of doing very well on organization to lying in the gutter smelling  foully of undone things.

So as my SIL was recounting her stresses, I instantly said with the fervor of a disciple, I have a book that I want you to read.  It was David Allen's Getting Things Done:  The Art of Stress Free Productivity.  David Allen is a gifted speaker and author.  I loved his books, tapes and seminar so much, I brought him in to speak to my executive team.  It was time and money well spent.

There is a reason for that childish joke about which was more powerful, the brain or the butt. Of course the brain thought it was superior until the butt girded its loins and stopped the flow of "stuff".   The sphincter is a small but powerful muscle with the power to do great harm and great good! It's a crude but apt analogy, and demonstrates way the importance of flow to what passes through our bodies as well as what passes through our conscious thoughts. 

In our work and personal lives, we set up barriers (sphincters) that cause things to block up.  It is easy to find time for things that we enjoy doing, but not so easy to tackle the more unpleasant things.  Wherever there are blockages, there is going to be stress.  Ultimately, we need a mechanical system and a psychological system that works seamlessly together to allow us to relax the sphincters in our life that are causing blockages.  Those blockages over time poison our psychological and physical space. (She shudders as she looks at her office).  Competently capturing and managing the flow (flood!) of stuff that comes into our lives is what gives us a sense of control.  We go from shaking our fists at the gods of 'stuff thrown our way' to using our energy to dispatch that stuff as required.

As I hunted for my David Allen book to give to my sister in law, I was inspired to reintegrate his excellent system into my life.  You can find David Allen on line here.  The beauty of his system is that it is powerful, elegant and it yields good extraordinary results.  You also don't have to buy any fancy planners etc...it can work on any paper based system that you like to use.

Like any worthwhile endeavor (a clean home, a physically fit body, a beautifully written paper), the results are only as good as the time and energy you spend keeping it up.  It is a model that uses a construct (infrastructure) to allow things to flow into and out of your life.  There's some stuff that flows into our lives that we don't want and don't need, and are not even our responsibility.  This system gives you the opportunity to triage 'stuff' that sticks to you as you move through your day, week, life so that you can make a competent decision about what do do with it. The systems allows you to manage your projects, your short and long term time horizons whether it is business or personal.

Ultimately, I see it as a superb system that optimizes the flow of "stuff" that comes into my life and gives ame the tools to capture the important stuff, get rid of the unimportant stuff (or file it away for another time) and manage my time.  Managing time is simply doing the right thing now that appropriately matches our current  priorities, time and energy.  Sometimes that "thing" is watering a plant in the office or replacing staples in the stapler. Needful things, to be sure, and there is a time and energy vector that intersects when/where that is the only thing that we can do at the moment.

Optimizing the time/energy/priority intersect is the goal.  There is no shame in only having the time and energy to water the plan when we've given our due to other priorities.  The outcome is that you have a system in which you are in control of....not in control of you.

This is from David's Blog (which I've just Googled) ...and demonstrates what the system is all about

Capture everything that has your attention (Collect)
Make decisions about what it means and what you are going to do about it (Process)
Park those decisions in trusted places (Organize)
Step back to reflect on those choices from a clear, current, and creative place (Review)
So that you can make the best action choice  (Do)

Read more here, for a 5 minute (if that) overview.

I'm glad to be re-invigorated to use this system having fallen off the wagon.  That means, that you can trust my advice that this is a singularly good way (among many ways) to take control of your time, your life.

I'd like to suspend judgement and take a picture of my office, but I'm literally too embarrassed to do so.  I may work on that embarrassment.....


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