Thursday, March 27, 2008

Calling David Allen

I am currently somewhat GTD challenged. Oh, I have my lists. I'm putting things on lists so that they're not in my head. I'm keeping a relatively empty inbox (from over 400 today to 101). But the lists, they are not getting smaller. The stuff on the lists is all little stuff, sticky stuff, stuff I keep trying to do, but I get sidetracked, interrupted, or otherwise prevented from doing. Example, I'm supposed to be upgrading software. I've tried this three times, none successful. I think I know how to fix the issue now, but have not had time to do it. I'm at a point where I'm not sure what to prioritize. There are certain obvious things with deadlines, but then there's the not so obvious stuff. There are things that are important to me but not important to others. Things important to others, but not important to me. See the problem?

A recent David Allen post, in fact, talks about how knowing what your work is (which is the cornerstone of his system) doesn't necessarily make less work. In fact, it usually makes more work.

I'm wondering if what I want is less to do. I don't think I do. I think I am the kind of person who thrives on doing stuff. However, the stuff I'm doing needs to be mostly meaningful to me. I know 100% of can't be. There's always banal stuff to manage in life. But maybe 80% can be meaningful. Maybe 90%. That's a goal. I also need time to step back and assess where I am, process everything, re-prioritize. David Allen says to make time for this. I'm starting to take this more seriously and block off time where I sequester myself away but it's easy to let this slide when a seeming crisis arises. When I do manage to protect that time, I spend a chunk of that time researching, thinking, contemplating the bigger questions in my field. And I spend a chunk of that time processing stuff. I did this before my vacation last week and it's amazing how easily I was able to pick up where I left off. I still feel slightly overwhelmed, but in a kind of controlled way.

The other thing I need is time to not think, to just be free of everything. I'm amazed by how much better I function when I take a few hours, days, whatever, to do nothing. I bought myself a jigsaw puzzle the other day because I wanted a low-tech way of entertaining myself. I have all kinds of (probably wrong) theories about why it's good to make your brain do something else for a while. I'll let the cognitive scientists among you sort that out.

Anyway, I've just been thinking about the irony of GTD. In fact, you might finish discrete projects, but in reality, you're never done. Sisyphus indeed.