Friday, February 5, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 9 -- If It's On Your Mind, It's Probably Not Getting Done

"To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life."

Robert Louis Stevenson

Allen comments on "mental karma." That goals as disparate as buying groceries or buying a company, when left in the same storage bin--one's mind--interfere with each other in importance, immediacy, real need vs imagined want.

Allen's solution is, as ever: "Write it down."

Process it. Review it.

Decide, "Do today." Or, "Maybe later."

But get it out of your head and onto paper, where you can reliably review the same data every day, even as you move projects to long-term or even not-at-all status.

Because doing so will be just as reliably moving forward the most immediate, most meaningful projects forward.

And the bigger reason: Maintaining a system that stores information reliably, so your mind is free to spend less time on pure processing and prioritizing, and more time on vision and creativity.

Allen's last point is that it takes adults years to fully incorporate his CoPORD model, but kids seem to take to it immediately.

It's true that the younger the mind, the more easily it learns huge masses of new information, so it stands to reason that younger minds will quickly adapt to Allen's methodology.

But learning is always preceded by motivation, and putting David Allen's good ideas and models to work must be proceeded by it.

Let's hope, not only that David Allen's ways get incorporated into curriculum, and that students quickly recognize its value, and so are motivated to practice it.

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."



  1. Younger minds find it easier to adapt to new things because they don't have to unlearn other ways of doing things. Learning is neural networks which are strengthened by repeated synchronous firing of neurons in response to information. Older people can still learn and neurons are still firing though. Which gives me heart for taking on the strategies you mention here.

    At the back of mind hovers the thought that taking the time and energy to set up a new system is often a huge distraction from getting things done.

  2. I agree, Heather. But my experiences with many younger learners finds too many disconnected from the need to learn at all.

    I may be overstating, even negative, but have found far too many students unwilling to put in the effort to learn when the learning doesn't cost them anything, only to be accepted to colleges where they spend most of a semester taking remedial coursework--at full college tuition prices--that effort while receiving their free and appropriate public high school education would have obviated the need for.

    Too many think life is, as Pen recently opined, like "Friends": low-wage, menial job equates to great NYC apartment.

    It doesn't, but that only gets learned during the remediation.

    And I think David Allen's CoPORD methodology, while not completely integrated, can be begun quickly, and as quickly repays the rather small investment of time it takes.

    Honing it to exactly meet one's needs is, of course, a process unto itself.

  3. I hear you about the need for remedial work at University level. I have taught third year undergraduates and noticed that fundamental skills were missing. When it came to exams there were a significant number who either had an out and out panic or simply switched off and went blank in the actual examination (or both). I wondered if perhaps they had learned to fear assessment, like a learned helplessness, at high school. It wasn't until I started discussions in my classes that I realised the extent of it. Where I am, there is considerable pressure to do well in final high school exams and admission to university is competitive. My son bummed out and burnt out under the pressure of it all, and has clawed his way back slowly and is now ready to take on more study. It wasn't uncommon among both his and my daughter's peers to fail in that first year at university. I wonder what has changed and I suspect that too much pressure blocks the motivation to learn at least in some cases. I don't think the issue you raise is just one generation whingeing about a younger one either. (sorry for my comment which resembles a blog post!)

  4. Heather, Thank you very much for your comment resembling a blog post!

    When I started this blog, my original target audience was the same Gen Y people that Penelope has long targeted.

    Working with young people, and meeting a significant number who seemed to have little better idea what they wanted to do after college than they did before, I wanted to give my students still in HS the message: "Make more than the most of it! You're guaranteed access to some of the best teachers in the world. They're all there to help you. Spend time with them, and take the time to learn."

    As my good old friend Karen Kubby once said to me during Field Botany, "I don't care what grade I get. I just want to learn it."

    Tell us more about the competitive nature of HIGH SCHOOL, Heather. Most of our American kids, I'm convinced, don't get it.

    They don't get how hard kids in other countries have to work just to stay in a public high school, let alone actually get to college.

    Are your kids in public school? Or private?

    Is the rigor of HS at the highest levels already equivalent to college at the lowest?
    Do kids who make it to University all get a free ride, simply by virtue of qualifying?

    Sounds like you've got a significantly different model, which may be more the international "norm."

    Many of us here in the US are concerned our kids aren't really learning good reading, writing, problem solving skills and that more, and harder-working kids in China and India--many of whom come to the US to get a better education!--will soon leave us far behind.

    "You gotta fight / For your right / To study!"

    The Beastie Boys said that. Something like that...