Browsing the archives for the David Allen tag

Laser Ninja Robots and the French Revolution

family, Life as it is, Mistakes

As a master of making mistakes, it is important that I recognize them and learn from them. That way I can stop making that same mistake and go out and find some new error while trying to do well.

A Video Worth Watching

In this case of an error on my part, it has to do with the French Revolution and planning. Now, I don’t mean to say that I am a revolutionary or an instigator of uprisings or anything of the sort. Rather, it has to do with my son’s report for school on the French Revolution and his decision to earn extra credit through making it a video – and, to his credit, making it the sort of wonderfully funny video that only he could make.

My Mistake

My error in this was simple. My son told me that this was his decision and that he had some ideas. Like a concerned parent that has learned some wisdom, I did try to stay out of it so that it could be his own vision and humor and video to present to the class. In addition, I also demonstrated some additional learning from other mistakes by watching to make sure he was making some forward progress. That is, I noted his study on the French Revolution and even saw that he had gotten DVD’s of documentaries on the subject, after all, I had seen what happened in his test of whether teachers really read the essays turned in for a grade.

But in hindsight, that wasn’t enough. I realized this at midnight on the night before it had to be turned in, when I realized that while fully animated, he had not yet rendered the video. Knowing what sort of computer he has in his room and how ancient it is, I quickly offered to install the software on my photoediting system so that the rendering would complete that night. And he still had to assemble the final video from there.

My mistake was simple. I have spent a long time learning how to plan and execute complex projects, but I have never sat down and shared that knowledge with him. Now, I am not talking about formal project management and creating gantt charts, but rather simpler planning on how to get from here to there – once we have identified where here and there are.

What I am Learning

I am a fan of the Getting Things Done, or GTD if you prefer, system by David Allen for most of what I need to be done. And while my execution of the system is flawed and erratic, I have long since loved and used his Natural Planning Process for most of my one-man projects at work and home. I even once made this simple diagram while reading and rereading the details of the process in David Allen’s book and I keep a copy on my wall at work where I can always see it:

[Image removed due to incompatibility issues in IE]

So I met with my son and reviewed these questions – trying to help him see where we can do better next time. In discussing what “wild success” means, it became clear that the video could have been made much cooler than it already is. When translating “wild success” to “the most awesome thing you could imagine your project doing at the end”, he responded, “It could have ninja laser robots worked into it somewhere.”

So there you have it from one wiser than me. Plan your french revolution properly, and laser ninja robots might just save the day. Of course, as it is, the teacher kept a copy and shared it with every class he had that day. Imagine what would have happened, had we hit the wild success of the laser ninja robots worked into the story line as well.

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How to Reboot Life Systems

Change, Life as it is

I spend quite a bit of time around computer and communications systems, both at home and at work. As a result, I occasionally have a system get stuck or need to be reset – that is restored to a known working situation with the system in a healthy state. Sometimes starting with a clean slate it all it takes to get past a problem, other times, it simply creates a starting point to solve problem.

Telecommunications Junction

I also have my life systems sometimes get stuck as well – because of a system crash such as a lack of housekeeping input causing the living-comfortably-at-home system to halt because of unacceptable disarray. Or as another example, I may be overwhelmed when I have too many challenges to handle at any one time, and this may affect any number of systems in home. This is where having a good methodology to reboot the hung systems is handy.

Most computers have simple ways to restart them when you need to. It may be a couple of mouse clicks, or a keystroke combination such at CTRL-ALT-DEL, that does it – but its a simple process that is often a first step in getting things working again. Unlike a blue screen of death I usually don’t have an external notice that systems are not working, rather it comes from listening to my own state of satisfaction. When systems in my life are working properly, I feel a sense of contentment – when a reboot is necessary it’s usually through a growing discontent with something I am doing or not doing.

I have a couple systems of living that are very helpful to me. I can’t say I do them perfectly – or even just very well, for that matter – but they are both good life systems, because they both have reboot methods built into them. They are David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (GTD) and the FlyLady‘s processes for decluttering and getting rid of CHAOS. (For those who don’t know the FlyLady, CHAOS is an acronym for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.)

In the book, Getting Things Done, David Allen writes:

Think about the last time you felt highly productive. You probably had a sense of being in control; you were not stressed out; you were highly focused on what you were doing; time tended to disappear; and you felt you were making noticeable progress towards a meaningful outcome….

And if you get seriously far out of that state – and start to feel out of control, stressed out, unfocused, bored and stuck – do you have the ability to get back into it? That’s where the methodology of Getting Things Done will have the greatest impact on your life, by showing you how to get back to “mind like water” wit all your resources and faculties functioning at a maximum level.

Falling off the wagon on any new system of living is easy – I’m doing it all the time it seems. But knowing how to get back on track is the key though. With GTD, I know I need to get my list out (I use MonkeyGTD for my lists) and renegotiate my own commitments to myself and to start gathering and processing again. That’s the beauty – it is that easy to start making prgress – to reboot to a known working state.

And for days like today when I feel overwhelmed by my home and the work it needs, Flylady always starts at the same place. What is the condition of my kitchen sink? And today was no exception – I went to the kitchen and started on the sink. Soon it was clean, and the cleanliness started spilling over to the surrounding countertops until my kitchen was done, and that lead me to working on other parts of the house. I know that next I will be working for 15 minutes a day and also working on being mindful of my bedtime and waking routines.

The point is, I didn’t have to wonder what to do to get rebooted and get systems back to a known running state. Before FlyLady, I would have wandered the house feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how to start working on so much to do. Before GTD, I would just leap into the closest fire and leap from one out-of-control mess to another, burnout and watch things crash again.

I wish I was always in control of all areas of my life. The good news it that instead of needing a systems that always stay in a steady state of harmony, I can make do with just knowing how to correct my course whenever I start to drift.

How do you reboot the portions of your life that seem to get hung up?

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