TED: “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” A recommendation and response.

When I hear the words “productivity guru,” I picture a bald, fit, bespectacled man with a goatee and a flashy suit giving a jargon-heavy presentation to a group of executives (who are pretending to understand what he’s saying) on the subject of how to cram 100 hours of work into a mere 50-hour work week — and, more importantly, how to get their employees to do the same. His constant calendar-checking, emailing, and texting do nothing to interrupt his flow of sophisticated corp-speak.

I definitely do not picture a guy like David Allen speaking intelligibly about concepts I can understand and that get me excited about learning to get things done. The fact that my expectations were utterly confounded is the reason I recommend this video.

David Allen TED Talk

What I appreciate most about this talk–and the reason I think it’ll work for me or anyone else who applies it–is that he deals not in rules but in principles, which presuppose no conditions in your life and can be individually applied to any set of circumstances.

Mr. Allen starts off with a story of crisis, in which the goal becomes clear and action becomes intuitive. In that moment, there is only one thing you need to do. You are fully present in the moment.

What Mr. Allen does is give you a set of tools to live in this state of mind without actually being in a crisis. He briefly shows you how to have

  1. Perspective: the ability to focus exactly where you need it, when you need it
  2. Control: the ability to act on the object of your focus

He shows you how, though your life may be “not that bad” now, it could be a whole lot better. How much better? Having the freedom to apply your creative and intuitive intelligence to things that matter to you — better. Getting everything done that you need to do without getting stressed about it — better. Not having to worry about everything you have to do because you already know what you’re going to do about it — better.

What stood out to me most was his “mind like water” principle. Water accepts whatever’s thrown into it, reacts appropriately, and returns to a state of calm. It actually makes me think of a skilled freerunner: pure, liquid motion, running top speed over, under, around, and through any obstacles in the way with perfect poise and balance.

The cover and publisher’s summary of Allen’s book look and sound like those of every cheesy, latest-and-loudest self-help book I’ve ever disregarded, but I am absolutely going to buy it. Although I could take the principles he talked about in the video and apply them to my life with enormous effect (which I’m going to do), I want to know the full system. What I’m going to do with it is take every one of my goals and projects and figure out my very next step towards achieving each one of them.

Before long, I’ll have people addressing me as “Captain and Commander Paul.” Because I’m Getting Things Done.

NtP out

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