Technology was supposed to make our lives simpler, and it has – provided you have discipline and realistic expectations.
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One thing it will not do is organize our lives for us.
The inspiration for this post was an article
on the Clientwise blog referring to an article
in the New York Times recently by productivity guru David Allen. I am a huge fan of Allen's, and over the last few years I have worked hard to incorporate his principles into my daily routine.
A common complaint I hear relates to information overload. There is just too much we have to process every day. Technology can put information overload on steroids. But it is not the information, it is how we handle it. As David Allen is fond of saying, if the sheer quantity of information were the problem then every time we walked into the library our heads would explode.
Technology is not the cause of our struggle to get the right things done but used poorly it can make the problem a lot worse. Allen's principles can help us do more than get organized (hugely valuable in itself), but can help us tame the technological beast and put it in our service. He suggests a series of five steps to optimize your focus and resources:
- Capture everything that has your attention, at work and at home, and writing. The first time you do this may take as much as six hours to "empty your head." A big project to be sure but a necessary one if the rest of the system is going to work.
- Clarify what each priority means to you. Decide what results you want, and what actions are required.
- Keep an inventory of all your projects someplace where you will see them often, and organize reminders for the to-do lists you create.
- Regularly review your inventory of commitments and projects.
- Deploy your attention and resources appropriately.
As I gradually learn how to utilize technology to apply Allen's principles, I find myself more consistently completing the important tasks I have committed to. I find that the more diligent I am about having discipline in following his ideas, the more productive I am and the more technology helps me accomplish things rather than burying me deeper in a tidal wave of tasks and information. If you struggle with overload of any kind, I strongly encourage you to take a look at some of the articles on Allen's website
or to get his book Getting Things Done.
His ideas have been a career changer for me.