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Jeff, I recently adopted an approach very similar to what you describe here, and have found myself both happier and more productive as a result. I spent many years using a progression of mainstream approaches, from Franklin Institute's Productivity Pyramid, to Stephen Covey's First Things First, to David Allen's Getting Things Done. And while I did get value from each approach, I also found myself chafing in multiple ways with every single one of them. None of them seemed to work the way I naturally work inside, so I went looking for a more natural way. I still use standard tools (outlines, diagrams, calendars) for specific needs. But when it comes to the all-important question of where to direct my attention on the current day, I likewise prefer (and trust) a more organic approach. Gary Klein has a terrific book called the Power of Intuition, where he suggests that the best decisions come from intuition (which he describes as pattern recognition based on past experiences) which is then validated (or not) for the current circumstance through mental modeling. This makes deep sense to me, and is the basis of my own approach. What I do, first of all, is regularly feed my intuition with clear images of directions I might like to go (work, family, personal, whatever). This usually takes the form of simply writing down as much as is clear to me when it occurs to me, in what amounts to a digital diary. This has two clear and immediate benefits: writing it out helps me get much clearer and more specific, plus it gives me the security of knowing it's on record and locatable if I should forget about it. In practice, I rarely go back and look at these things unless there are very specific details I worked out that are no longer clear to me. However, the images stick and unconsciously integrate in my awareness, informing my intuition when it's time to make choices. So when it comes time, at the start of each day, to choose what to work on or where to direct my attention, it's very easy to relax and just see what naturally comes up. I still get more ideas from this process than I can fit into a single day, but by doing this, certain ones just naturally stand out as the most important ones to focus on now. I believe my own cumulative experience informs which ones naturally bubble up to the surface, and I continue with this exploration until I find ones that deeply resonate. This process seems to work not only for the things I want to do, but also for commitments I have made, and directions that may be uncomfortable initially but align with my deeper values. It also allows my thinking to evolve in each prospective direction, without feeling unwittingly beholden to a particular notion from a previous point in time. Choosing this way is, for me, producing much more meaningful days. Like you, my experience is that the personally important things do just keep coming back, and they inform my decision making quite nicely when I quiet myself to sense them. Thank you for sharing your own experience with this in this public forum. Eric
Commented Oct 6, 2012 on
What do you need to do today? Other than read this blog entry, I mean. Have you ever noticed that a huge percentage of Lifehacker-like productivity porn site content is a breathless description of the details of Yet Another To-Do Application? There are dozens upon dozens of the things to choo...
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