Friday, January 15, 2010

Ready for Anything: Chapter 6 -- Two Commitments in Your Head Create Stress and Failure

Taking on new projects is not necessarily a positive change. It may be a sign of recklessness and non-fulfillment. But going back to all levels of non-completion and completing them is a sign of positive change.


There are a few things I'm learning as I'm writing this series.

First of all, that it's tremendously therapeutic.

Addressing (gerund, kids, gerund) my personal DIS-organization issues in this very public manner is slowly making me more organized.

It's what someone I was reading recently--whose name's missing now--was saying about "hiring a Board of Directors" to keep you accountable.

Now, it's well known -- or at least easily look-up-able--that this blog is not commented on by many.

Still, it is in the public eye.

I'm not much adept at determining how many discrete page viewers I have per week, and which posts they're reading, but I know people do read this blog, and that awareness helps keep me focused.

Second, more than anything, the structure of David Allen's book keeps me focused.

As mentioned in Post 1 of this series, the fact that Ready for Anything has 52 chapters visibility than keeping me organized in a most constructive way.

52 chapters in 52 weeks. Launched on the first anniversary of Pragmatic Alternative, looking forward--clearly--to the second and -- by implication -- beyond.

The third thing is the nature of serendipity. Ready for Anything came to be the template for this year's posts because I couldn't put my hands on Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, the first David Allen book. It was buried under a stack of books and other stuff next the bed.

Knew I had it. Figured it was nearby, in a place of nominal importance. But could I find it?

Not so much.

Because I've committed to evaluating RFA each week, I've been able to begin to integrate CoPORD into my life. In another four weeks I'll have a better big picture idea of all my roles responsibilities projects, and goals.

Meanwhile, it's nice just to know where I put my copy of Getting Things Done.

Today I take great pride in having found an organizational template that works for me, and am committing to working that plan.

It's a good thing.

Because my lack of structure has stood in my way.

It's not a strength.

Enter David Allen and his GTD methodology.

Kind of like Elvis's "TCB." Only different.

In Chapter 6 of RFA, Allen answers critics who claim "getting things done" and CoPORD are "reactive" strategies.

That by focusing first on minutia/trivia, the micro over the macro, don't we then run the risk of staying in Covey's Quadrant IV: Important and Urgent?

"Hey, seeing the big picture, great idea!" says David Allen. "But might not the minutia, the trivia, the overflowing "In" box need to be reckoned with first? "Open loops," as Allen refers to them, must first be closed before we can hope to maintain effectiveness.

What are "open loops"?

Simply put, they're items on yesterday's "to-do" list that didn't get done.

They represent commitments to yourself to do certain things.

Things that didn't get done.

As a result, they take up way too much space in what Allen refers to as "psychic RAM." Because we know we haven't gotten things done we'd planned on getting done, these "open loops" take up--and worse, FRAGMENT-- space in our psychic RAM.

They slow down our operating speed by slowing down the speed of our processor.

It's just that simple.

And how do we close open loops?

By CoPORDing: Collecting. Organizing. Processing. Reviewing. Doing.

Over and over again, with a particular eye to closing open loops, or else putting them in the "Someday / Maybe" file.

It takes time, but as I'm finding out--and betting you will, too--it's time not just well-, but best-spent.

Then horizons -- now replete with mountains and oceans -- beckon.

And the paths are clear.

And you're positioned to choose effectively among them going forward.

It's a good thing.

If you know the point of balance, you can settle the details. If you can settle the details, you can stop running around. Your mind will become calm. If your mind becomes calm, you can think in front of a tiger. If you can think in front of a tiger, you will surely succeed.



  1. Wow- there is such a lot in this post. I am struck by the truth in the opening and closing quotes. I have learned not to take on anything new (took me a long while that one) and I agree that calm is key to success in the face of an enormous project. Closing off the open loops and bringing it all together must feel wonderful! Ok I am motivated again-many thanks!

  2. A. Thanks for reading, Heather.

    B. Stay tuned.

    C. I agree!

  3. Hey Jay;
    another tip I've always found useful - if you have a lot of mixed up projects, after you've prioritized, set deffinitive goals. For example, every week I will accomplish one thing from my "someday / maybe" list. That way you don't feel like these things won't ever get done ... and decide what on that list to do each week by what sounds the most fun! It quickly becomes rewarding to check things off.

  4. Yeah! How much sense does that make?

    Thanks, Melissa!