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The Resistance Principle

Those of you who have read my book Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play will know that in the last chapters I mentioned an “advanced” method of time management that I called the Resistance Principle. I even gave an example of how the principle worked out over several actual days in my life, written in real time as I was finishing the book.

I also warned in the book that it was difficult to keep to the Resistance Principle and that, when one wasn’t feeling totally on top of it, it would be necessary to revert to more formal methods of time management. And so it proved: I was never able to keep the Resistance Principle up for an extended period of time. And although I kept coming back to it, I never quite got it to work. I am not aware of anyone else who has done so either, though quite a few people have told me it has been extemely useful in specific circumstances.

I have always remained convinced though that the Resistance Principle is worth further exploration. So now I have decided to give it another go. This time I am going to try to spell out a bit more precisely the theory behind it.

My original idea was that if one always went first for the things in one’s life that one was resisting hardest, then resistance as a whole would diminish and one would end up on top of everything. I found that worked well in specific situations, but if carried on too long my mind fought back and resistance actually increased.

I then developed a rather different concept of how the Resistance Principle might work. My idea was that at any one particular moment of time, there is one right action we humans can take which is perfectly fitted to our individual circumstances and will take us perfectly in the right direction. What’s more, we know in our heart of hearts what that one right action is. I’m not talking high-falutin’ stuff here, like “save the world”. The One Right Action might be something as simple as “get out of bed”, “make a cup of tea”, or “write a blog entry”. As soon as we have done that One Right Action, there will be another One Right Action for us to do.

Now my theory is that, if there is One Right Action that we should be doing at any given moment, in that given moment we are either doing it or we are resisting it.

We can therefore easily identify what the One Right Action is by simply asking ourselves:

What am I resisting?

If I do that, the answer is going to be either “nothing” or whatever the One Right Action is. If the answer is “nothing” then I am doing the One Right Action. If the answer is “Write a Blog Entry on the Resistance Principle”, then all I have to do is carry it out. If I ask the question again while I am writing it, the answer will be “nothing” (unless something else has come up in the meantime).

So there should be two results of asking the question:

  1. I learn what the best action would be for me at this precise moment in my precise circumstances
  2. I learn what it feels like to be doing the right thing

So I am starting to ask the question continually in my daily life again. The difference this time is that I am going to put my emphasis more on result 2. than on result 1. Let’s see how it pans out.

I want to make it very clear that I am trying this out, not that I am recommending it. I intend to describe how it works in my daily life. It may work or it may not - I’ll keep you informed either way!

Reader Comments (2)

Hi Mark. I look forward to this experiment! Of all the techniques in your first book, the Resistance Principle is the one I find easiest to remember and carry out without needing to reference the book, and also the one that I can tell to people very quickly as a way to help them out of an organizatiional snarl.

in fact, I should probably use it today. Two hard drive crashes and a full inbox is causing me to freeze up on all the projects that I see languishing. Once all my tasks are written down or otherwise scheduled, I can relax its use.

The other technique fromm your first book that I often come back to is the scattermap. Again, not something I use all the time, but when I have a smattering of tasks and no clear objective to the day, it's useful to pin those free-floating ideas to the page and just start thinking about them and knocking them out.
January 13, 2007 at 16:00 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Dear Mike,

Sorry to hear about the hard disk crashes. I hope the Resistance Principle will lead you to download HDDLife Pro from the Giveaway of the Day!
January 13, 2007 at 16:19 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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