Mind Like Water

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is an entertaining book by David Allen about how to be organized and happy when one's life is too full of complexity — appointments, projects, interruptions, conflicting missions, etc. Getting Things Done is optimistic and full of good advice. A big idea it suggests for personal time management may be the most important discovery in human history (after language):

Write It Down!

... or as the author admonishes, "Get it all out of your head!" Don't try to juggle a mental To-Do List, don't fret over all the tasks that you've delegated to other people, don't freak out about the train wreck of meetings that next week is going to bring. Write everything down — and then you can relax and stop worrying (so much) about it.

Agreed, it also helps to have some simple organizational principles. Allen suggests ways to do that. He recommends binning material into a few big categories:

But simply writing things down brings profound mental relief. Chapter 1 describes the goal:

In karate there is an image that's used to define the position of perfect readiness: "mind like water." Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn't overreact or underreact.

A few pages later Allen expands:

- First of all, if it's on your mind, your mind isn't clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you'll come back to regularly and sort through.
- Second, you must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do, if anything, to make progress toward fulfilling it.
- Third, once you've decided on all the actions you need to take, you must keep reminders of them organized in a system you review regularly.

In my own case, simplest is best. I try to:

Those three simple tools for thought help me be more relaxed, creative, energetic, and joyful. Or so I imagine, anyway!

(cf. ThinkingToolsDefined (1999-04-06), IdeasLikeSparks (1999-09-04), TechnoTime (2001-11-05), TripleThrills (2003-01-11), PracticalProductivity (2004-01-20), HelpfulHomilies (2007-09-02), Earning Red Checks (2011-11-28), ...) - ^z - 2011-12-24

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