Bernie Anderson
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Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Productivity Patterns: The Liberating Power of Deconstruction

Deconstruction happens.

Sometimes it's intentional. Most of the time it's unintentional.

There are seasons when I sense my internal stress levels rising like a hurricane tide. It's relentless. There are too many projects. Looming deadlines. Ominous unknowns. And often stacks of goo on and around my desk in the form of papers, unread books, notes, and good intentions.

This is when I know I've hit phase one.

Stress is not great for creative thinking. It's not good for mental or physical health, either. At this stage in my life, I don't want it. I don't need it.

So in this situation, I must do something about it.

So here's the process for dealing with the chaotic wreckage.

1. Make a decision to make decisions.

Everything needs to be decided on. No more putting off, diverting, or getting back to. I will decide to throw away the thing. Or not read the book. Or file the paid bill. Or digitize my scrawled notes. But it's decision time. Hard core. No more FOMO. No more stacks (because the stress is in the stacks).

2. Be okay to throw away (or donate. Or recycle)

I have three boxes of give-aways. I took two bags to the trash. That, in of itself, was huge. It quickly and easily eliminated stacks, cleared space, and brought focus and clarity to what's left. Simplicity is productivity's best friend.

3. Do a brain dump

This is from David Allan's "Getting Things Done." Take a morning (Or an afternoon. Or an Evening) and get everything out of your head. Everything. I use notecards. You can use a legal pad or a white board or sticky notes or copy paper. It doesn't matter. But every potential project, every idea (that could be acted upon), every potential book to read or piece of software to try out: write it all down. Get it out of the head onto something tactile. There is incredible power to removing things from the intangible world of ideas into the tangible world of pen and paper.

4. Process the dump

Okay. This is serious. Stop with the bathroom jokes. This pile of notecards needs decision-making. Here's my matrix (remember simplicity is productivity's soul mate).

  • What is this?
  • Do I really need to do this?
  • If so, can I do it in 2 minutes or less? (If yes, do it now. Right now. Immediately.)
  • Anything longer than two minutes goes on a list.

This process puts out fires, eases stress, and gets the brain to the place where real work can be done.

And that is liberating.