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Discussion Forum > Calm is the best system of all?

Hi all,

It has been awhile since I have posted, but it's Friday and I'm left to wonder what's new in productivity land. I now have a new question that I would love other's thoughts on.

It has occurred to me that the reason I so desperately (at times) want a new productivity system is because I get into frantic mode and start to feel out of control. When I feel out of control, I tend to think "there has to be a better way!" I often spend too much time online looking for a new way to feel in control because my current system may not *immediately* provide the needed relief. I think the need for immediacy is where I may be going wrong. (Even though I would love to learn more ways to get to calm and clear-headed as quickly as possible)

I have learned that each new system I try typically works great the first day I get it set up. But perhaps the *process* of setting something up by writing or rewriting tasks down is what calms me and clears my head. When I'm calm it becomes clearer what I should do next. I recognize now that it might not be the *structure* of the system that helps me get more done but the act of *participating* in a system the puts me on the right track. Perhaps then, the best system of all is the one that is the most calming?

I'm going to experiment with my current structure to see if I can introduce a first step that is guaranteed to get me into calmer, clearer state.

Do any of you have any ideas of what that first step might be for you?

Best regards,

May 12, 2017 at 18:18 | Unregistered CommenterBrent
Starting over with a simple system like DIT or AF1 always gives me a sense of calm. The hard part is sustaining that sense of calm over time without the need to throw it all away and start over at intervals.

For me, I think the calm starts to be replaced by overwhelm because of conflicts in my work and life that persist over time without being resolved. The conflicts drive all kinds of overcommitment and overwhelm. I've been using the TOC "Evaporating Cloud" thinking tool to address these conflicts and get a series of breakthroughs to eliminate the conflicts. I've written about it here:
May 12, 2017 at 18:45 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Brent -

I've been using the same productivity system - more/less - for 2 years now. It took innumerable failed attempts to soothe my own version of "frantic mode". These failed attempts were helpful (more on that below), along with a remark from my clinical supervisor:

"You spend a lot of time thinking about productivity. What function does changing systems serve for you? It sounds like this is how you settle your anxiety... temporarily anyway."

The "temporarily" bit bothered me. Because, like you, the honeymoon phase of a new system grew shorter and shorter as the years past.

Each failed attempt wasn't wasted, because with each rule/tool, some stuck. For me, the key was getting clear on the 2-3 emotional and practical needs that I was seeking in a system. Once that happened, everything else fell into place.
May 12, 2017 at 18:49 | Registered Commenteravrum

I haven't really thought about this from a conflicting goals angle although I see you are right that it does cause anxiety. I've always been pretty clear on my goals at a high level thanks to years of reading about all of this stuff. If I made keeping calm and clear headed as #1 goal it might help me with managing the other goals. It's a nice thought. Thanks for calling it out.


<< It sounds like this is how you settle your anxiety >>

I'm glad you said it that way, I think I'm just now realizing that it is true for me as well. I don't think there is anything wrong with that if it works.

Anxiety is often temporary so I guess part of the solution can be too.

Over the years, I've settled into a pretty consistent core list management scheme. (I always end up with an outlining tool and move and process tasks and projects with a mix of FVP, AGILE and GTD principles.) I think what I'm after now is how to best execute "Step 1 - get clear and calm" otherwise I tend to bounce around too much when I'm stressed.

May 12, 2017 at 20:47 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

I think you answered your own question:

<< I have learned that each new system I try typically works great the first day I get it set up. But perhaps the *process* of setting something up by writing or rewriting tasks down is what calms me and clears my head. >>

Start each day by re-writing and editing your list.
May 13, 2017 at 11:57 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

I've been resisting the urge to re-write my lists because it feels too inefficient. But your point is well taken in that I have already said that I may need to do it anyway.

Sometimes having someone repeat it back to you helps drive the point home. Thanks.

So, putting some thought to this, I think I can incorporate a section in my outlining tool. (currently Dynalist) for what I'm going to do today and have that be freshly written each day.

I won't delete previous lists though because I don't intend to rewrite the entire catch-all list each day. I'll just re-write what I need to write to get clear about the day. I can deal with the redundant or duplicates items in other lists by doing a quick review *after* I write the fresh list and delete or edit the duplicate entries from the catch-all lists

I tried it today and felt it went really well. An added bonus was that since I like to sequence things chronologically of how I think the day will go, the fresh list allowed me to think through my best case scenario before I got distracted by older items on the previous catch-all lists. I did find a few things on previous lists that I forgot about and needed to do today anyway but again It was easier for me to choose where I might fit it in after I got clear on what was already in my head.

Once a list maker always a list maker I guess.

May 14, 2017 at 5:04 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

i'm probably oversimplifying things, but I think there are two main ways of dealing with a long list.

1) Before you start working on the tasks each day you work on the list itself to arrange it, prioritize it, etc.

2) You work on the tasks right away using an algorithm or system that orders and prioritizes the list as you work.

I on the whole prefer Method 2, but it sounds as if you would be happier with Method 1. What matters is what works best for you.
May 14, 2017 at 11:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster