Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Interesting Finds (oS edition) 2006/04/26

If you've spent much time on David Allen's "Getting Things Done," you know that the goal is to get everything out of your head by putting all your projects, tasks, etc. on lists. Then, you look at the lists, get them to next actions, and renegotiate your internal commitments so that you don't feel guilty, overwhelmed, or otherwise at the mercy of all the stuff on your list. It's easy - put all the things you don't want to do or think about on a "Someday Maybe" list.

The theory behind "Getting Things Done" is that your subconscious will know about this renegotiation and leave you alone about the things you haven't done. That's cool and everything, and I've found it to be a very effective technique. But I think it only works perfectly if all the people around you have the same "Someday Maybe" list that you do. I live in a house with four other family members, and I generally can't get universal agreement on anything, so this sometimes creates challenges.

I've been experimenting with a new way of dealing with this that seems to be working. Here's a story about it:

I've created a new project on my Projects list called "Reduce clutter and get rid of stuff we don't use any more." That is a vague, overwhelming kind of project that I could just leave on a "Someday Maybe" list forever. The challenge with it is, a) it's something I want to do, b) it's hard to know where to start, c) there is no shared sense of urgency around this project, and d) "done" means something different to everyone in the family.

To make progress against this, I have been working with my kids on a periodic "mini-project" called, "Pick one box o' mystery and process it." Processing means:

  • tossing out anything that's trash, broken or unusable,

  • putting misplaced things where they belong,

  • getting rid of stuff we never should've kept in the first place (how many Happy Meal toys do we really need?)

  • sorting and finding a permanent home for anything that looks remotely like a collection,

  • putting anything that's still usable into our 'giveaway box' so we can donate it,

  • etc.

This can apply to any container, drawer, closet, or other vortex of accumulation around the house. At first, it was kind of a pain, but now 2/3 of my kids look forward to it and ask me when we're going to process another box. We do a few a week, and it give us enough progress to feel good about it without feeling like it's eating up all our fun time.

I think this model can apply to lots of ongoing projects with vague "completion" criteria, and have been brainstorming how I can apply this to some of the other parts of my life.

What about you - have you developed any tricks to make the daunting tasks in your life less daunting?