The Two Problems in Life

davidallenSome days it seems like our lives are full of problems.  They appear to come at us in all shapes and sizes, adding stress and tension to our days.  But perhaps all these problems are not really different from each other.  Maybe they all have something in common.

According to David Allen, we only have two types of problems.  In his recent blog post at Getting Things Done, he shares his theory.

“You only have two things you ever need to be concerned about. Not only are there only two problems—they are really quite simple. Ready?

Problem #1: You know what you want, and you don’t know how to get it.

Problem #2: You don’t know what you want.

“Anything you can define as a problem can be reduced to one or both of those statements.

“Now, since there are only two problems, it follows that there are only two solutions that you will ever need. You need to make it up, and make it happen. You must decide and clarify what outcome you’re after; and you must then determine how you get from here to there.”

Learn in more detail how you can solve either of these two problems by reading the rest of David’s blog post.

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South Central Library System

A big thank you goes out to the South Central Library System in Wisconsin for hosting two Efficient Librarian webinars.  Jean Anderson and her team were great to work with.  We had excellent attendance and the participants asked very thoughtful questions.

SCLS has posted the presentations to their continuing education web site.  If you want to view a recording of the two webinars, both one hour in length, here are the links:

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Thank you again to Jean the SCLS team.  I hope to work with you again in the future.

The Power of Completion

DA-SmallDo you know how many projects lie unfinished in your world?  As we move through life there is a natural force in us that creates new things as they spark our interest.  Unfortunately, I have found this creation often results in lots of projects that quickly lose focus and instead become a source of stress.  It seems that the catch to managing all the stuff we create is finding a way to bring closure to them.

In his latest blog post, David Allen delves into the entwined powers of completing and creating and how their dance affects our lives.

“Seems that we’re here on the planet to learn about and do two things—complete and create. We are responsible for what we have put into motion on all levels, and we must manage the process of what we are putting into motion every moment. 

“Though both aspects are primary, I think a lot of people could use a good bit more emphasis on the complete part. Our cultural personality seems bent on limitless expansion and not necessarily cleaning up after itself.”

Read the rest of the post at the Getting Things Done web site.

 

Do You Know the Purpose?

We all got them.  Sometimes they are fun and other times they are a struggle.  Truth be told, they are a fundamental fact of work life that will never go away.  What are they?  Projects!

I was reminded at the NEFLIN workshop this past week that many people tend to think of a project as something big and complicated.  However, most of our projects are actually very small.  David Allen defines a project as anything that requires more than one action to complete.  By that count we have dozens and dozens of projects underway!  Unfortunately, it is far too easy for projects to stall and grow stagnant.  Is there a way to move them along?

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One approach is to follow the Natural Planning Model from Getting Things Done.  (In the latest edition of the book, it can be found on pages 60-63.)  Every project starts for a reason.  When that reason becomes obscured or forgotten, the energy behind a project can fade.  That is why the first part of the Natural Planning Model is all about purpose.   If you and your team do not clearly understand why the project even exists there will be little energy to see it through.  Another way to think about purpose is to ask the question, “What problem am I trying to solve?”

So what projects are on your plate that have lost focus and energy?  It might be time to take a good long look at the purpose of those projects to see if a little clarity might be the spark to move them forward.

Addressing Anxiety

DA-SmallWhen you travel home from work, do you ever feel a small sense of anxiety coming along for the trip?  With input coming fast and furious throughout the day, it is a challenge to process everything during our 9-5 day.  It is tempting to let it all pile up and resolve to handle it tomorrow.  However, when a part of your mind lingers on unprocessed work, it can be a source of deep unease at home.

In a recent blog post, David Allen shares that even a black belt GTDers like himself is not immune from this source of stress.

“I still have to work with myself to ensure I’ve captured, decided, and tracked all the commitments and creativity that happen with phone calls, meetings, social interactions, and even random communications in passing. I do know that this is one of the sources of much of the free-floating anxiety many professionals experience relative to the gnawing sense of overwhelm that is so pervasive. It seems that there is an unconscious part of us that hangs onto all of those incomplete creations. It is a part that will not let go until it can trust those agreements have been kept or re-negotiated with ourselves.”

Learn how David resolves this tension in his own life at the Getting Things Done blog.

GTD + BASB = Better Person

Personal productivity and knowledge management are related skill sets required for most of us to perform our best at work.  While they are both mostly thought of as functional efficiency tools, did you know their practice can also build virtue?

forteTiago Forte of Forte Labs recently shared his thoughts on how productivity and knowledge management skills can increase our own potential to do good in the world.  By committing to Getting Things Done (GTD) and his own Build a Second Brain (BASB) course, Tiago believes that we will become not only more efficient, but also a better person as a result.  He explains how we start the journey this way:

“Often, when we embark on this journey – learning digital fluency, task management (GTD), personal knowledge management (BASB) and beyond – our motivation is primarily one of utility. We want to stop procrastinating, to get more things done, to excel at our work, and have a vibrant, flourishing career. GTD and BASB will absolutely help you meet those goals.

While on this journey, however, we start to realize that GTD and BASB can serve another purpose: sheer pleasure.”

Learn how this eventually leads to mastering higher virtues by reading the rest of the article at Forte Labs.

There is Always Too Much to Do

Have you ever felt overwhelmed?  You know that feeling that there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them in?  This is especially true if you are an “ideas” person whose mind constantly generates new thoughts and insights that eventual lead to a string of projects.  How are we supposed to handle this overwhelm and stay sane?

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The first step is to understand that there is always more to do than time allows.  If you follow GTD practice, the generation of action lists and a robust project list will quickly demonstrate this fact.  Accepting that some things will never be done is a part of good mental health.  The trick becomes deciding what is essential to complete in terms of your larger mission and purpose.  Spending a lot of time completing small tasks with little payoff becomes exhausting.  It is far better to complete fewer tasks well that lead to bigger payoffs.

I was once asked this question in an Efficient Librarian workshop: “How often do you empty your action folder?”

I replied that as a functional folder the point wasn’t to empty it regularly like the inbox, but instead to corral actionable items together into one place.  In fact, in the last four years my work email action folder has only been completely empty once.  Since I am very active at work, it may never be empty again until I retire!

So, relax and remember that there will always be more to do than can be done.  The question you have to consider is what is the most important thing to do in the time you have.  That answer will lead you productively and efficiently forward.