One of my favorite clients sent me an article from one of my favorite writers [James Fallows, Free Flight, et al] about my favorite productivity thinker David Allen and I share it with you here. Fallows writes:
As I mentioned… I’ve been writing about and learning from the productivity expert David Allen for nearly a decade. Eight years ago, I wrote a profile of him for the magazine. In our newest issue I have highlights from a conversation I had with him, about coping with the modern nightmare of email and all-hours connectedness.
Here are some highlights from the article online…
Everybody’s going to top out at some point, where your psyche just can’t manage any more. I was just reading that J. S. Bach had 20 kids. People complain now, “I’m so busy with the kids.” Okay, have 20 kids and see what happens. If you’re a musician or a writer, you could always be doing more work. So I don’t know that it’s ever been different for someone with an open-ended profession or interest.
So again, back to my general philosophy, [which] is: look, make as few plans as you can, capture every single thing that is potentially meaningful, and make sure you’ve got the appropriate maps to be able to know where to focus. It’s always been true about GTD, but I think [you need] a way to be able to see: How do you set priorities about all this stuff? Well, you need maps. You need maps to orient yourself. You need a map that says “Hey, in the next three years, what’s coming toward me that I need to be aware of?” “In the next three minutes, what’s coming toward me?” Those are different maps. By the way, you know, a “map” would be any list that you have that orients you: “Here’s my whatever-it-is project.” That’s a map. Obviously your calendar is a map. So having all the potentially relevant data determined so you can populate your appropriate maps and then spread out [in] your map room and say “Okay, what do I need to look at right now?” So the ability to be able to decide what needs to go on what map and then building the behaviors to make sure that you’re then negotiating with those maps appropriately.
What’s different these days? Nothing is different really, except how frequently this occurs. You and I have gotten more change-producing and priority-shifting inputs in the past 72 hours than your parents got in a month, some of them in a year. I was reading that in 1912, someone was complaining about the telephone, exactly the same things you hear people say about e-mail: “Oh my God, it’s going to ruin our quality of life”; “conversations are going to become surface-only and not meaningful”; “all the interruptions and distractions!” It reads like right now. I am hearing the same things I did when I first got into these issues, at Lockheed in 1983. In those days, if you even had a pocket Day-Timer, you were considered something of a productivity geek. The difference is that rather than a small minority of people experiencing this stress, it’s a much larger group of people, at every level.
Allen is brilliant and Fallows captures him at his best! Read the full story and then go back and consider how to apply Getting Things Done [GTD] to your internet tasks as I have outlined in this ongoing series! You might also enjoy this audio interview I did with David Allen several years ago…