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  • Deathbed Remorse

    I've reread the books a few times but this is my first listening to GTD Fast. I like it a lot. It is definitely worth purchasing even if you, as I, have already gone through the books.

    So here are today's random thoughts after listening to a side and a half of GTD Fast.

    On side 1 David quotes Covey as saying no one said on their deathbed, "Gee, I wish had spent more time in the office." Then David makes some humorous self-deprecating remarks about not being by nature a highly organized person nor liking to work all the time.

    How am I to take this? One way is to hear it ironically. But for this analysis I will assume that David really means what he says.

    What are the implications of David's remarks?

    1. Instrumentalism

    This forum contains some monster threads about how our jobs do not meet our vision of what we want to be doing with ourselves. DA is telling us to wake up and live in the real world. It would be great if our office work were (take your pick): creating world peace, advancing human understanding by opening new vistas of knowledge, generating new aesthetic values, or eliminating scarcity. But if that were the case, many of us might very well wish, on our deathbed, that we had spent more time in the office. After all, wouldn't it have been great if we had not only fixed global warming but also eliminated nuclear weapons? Too bad we didn't cancel that trip to Vegas three years ago and solved the mind-body problem instead.

    The reason David must be saying that it's good to spend less time in the office is that for many of us what we do in the office does not represent the highest expression of who we are. But you know what? We still choose to spend time in the office because in the social context where we find ourselves, it is very helpful to have the job we have to pay the bills for the things we choose to consume.

    So, our job is an instrument. Our job is a tool. When we are about to shed this mortal coil and we do our life review (no relation to weekly review) we are unlikely to express remorse about things that are not good in themselves, but good for the consequences they bring about, according to David. We will review our lives and remember those experiences of that which is good in itself: fun, play, karate for DA, family, whatever turns you on.

    So DA's position on Side 1 of GTD Fast is that GTD enables you to be more productive thereby increasing your leisure time by decreasing your office/work time. Thus DA describes GTD as good for a person like himself who is "lazy," i.e, a person who seeks to create more leisure and less work.

    Although I choose to interpret DA nonironically here I find great irony in the means he chooses to express himself. He quotes Covey against Covey. The Seven Habits book is all about choosing values first and deriving lower-order actions from higher-order values. Thus, Covey's is not an instrumentalist approach. His system is not wertfrei, as Rainer might say, it is not value-free but value-laden.

    The irony is that if one really believed that no one wishes on their deathbed to have spent more time in the office, then no one is a Coveyite. If I start with my overarching value--to create a world of abundance, let's say--and I dedicate myself singlemindedly to making that desired outcome manifest in the world, then I, and others of my ilk, might surely regret having spent too much time out of the office.

    The Covey quotation by DA makes sense only under an instrumentalist interpretation. I might add that this makes total sense. I am not sure, but I would guess that the people who attend DA's seminars are mostly the corporate executives Peter Drucker writes about. I imagine most of these people work for organizations that sell soap or software or financial services. Very few people on their deathbed think, "If only I had created 1.8 million bars of soap instead of the 1.5 million bars I actually created."

    2. Materialism

    DA is not a crass materialist. Let me say that straight out. He waxes poetic, on the parts of Side 2 that I have listened to, about the importance of visualization. But he understands that, at the end of the day, visualizations, ideas, and thoughts are only as good as their material manifestations in the world that we see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. He speaks adoringly of the importance of spending time thinking. But, again, he understands that, at the end of the day, thinking is only as good as the next material actions that emerge from that thinking. And before those next actions can be materially actualized they must be materialized first as a written item in a list.

    Myself, as you can probably tell from my lengthy ramblings, I tend towards idealism. I would, to be honest, much rather read DA's book 15 times than spend two hours slogging through a spreadsheet, or half a day finding a better widget to solve our production problem. But sweet ideas butter no peas. DA slaps me in the face and tells me to snap out of it.

    The fundamental key of GTD is to externalize or materialize one's thoughts. That is the essence of GTD. It bears repeating. If I am a GTD adept I will always be asking, "What is the next action? What is the desired outcome?" because my thoughts are always oriented outward towards the world. "GTD" could as well be an acronym for "Getting Thoughts Done." "Done" means materialized. If I solve Fermat's last theorem but I don't publish it, I didn't "do" anything.

    So, what do I mean when I say that GTD is materialist? I am saying that there are three stages to getting things done. Stage 1 is the thought, vision, or idea. Yes, DA is a nuanced materialist. He acknowledges the reality of our thoughts. Stage 2 is the externalization of the thought produced in Stage 1 into a list. You don't have to externalize your thoughts, if you want to reject GTD. But then, as DA very humorously points out, you are wasting your mind by clogging it with psychic RAM. Get it out of your mind! Materialize! Externalize! Your material (or electronic) list is a very good place to store your next action. Your mind is a very bad place to store you next action. Key insight! Stage 3 is the materialization of the next action listed in Stage 2. Stage 1 creates a mental representation. Stage 2 creates a symbolic representation out of your mind. Stage 3 transforms the symbolic representation into a material reality.

    The sequence is: 1. thought, 2. symbolic representation, 3. material actualization.

    I hope this is of some use to others. I think that it is good therapy for me. As you can see, I like theory. GTD keeps kicking me in the pants and tells me, "Enough theory, time for practice!" I am not bashful about calling DA a genius. He's given me the theory I need to go beyond theory.

    "Philosophers had hitherto attempted to understand the world; the point, however, was to change it."

  • #2
    Regretting Time At The Office

    Moises wrote:
    ...David quotes Covey as saying no one said on their deathbed, "Gee, I wish had spent more time in the office."
    I'd be willing to bet that there are a lot of people dying in poverty every day who are saying that very thing.

    All seriousness aside, that is one saying that has always ticked me off. I think the most annoying part of it is the glib dismissal of the importance of one's livelihood, not to mention the possibility that some people accomplish some pretty wonderful things at their jobs.

    I rant....

    At any rate, thank you Moises and CosmoGTD for some very insightful and articulate thinking about one of my pet peeves.

    I would affirm Moises' idea that thought itself is sometimes one of life's great pleasures, even if it doesn't get on a list, or get turned into anything physical.

    I would also affirm Cosmo's idea that if you are only using GTD for work, you are really missing the boat.

    Comment


    • #3
      Frank Lloyd Wright was still working into his 80's when he was asked when he would retire. Waggling his drawing hand and wrist, he said, "I can't shake them out fast enough." Meaning, of course, that he couldn't get the ideas he had in his head down onto vellum fast enough.

      Here was a man who had already led an amazingly productive and noteworthy life, producing some of the most sublime architecture in modern history, who by any reasonable person's yardstick should have been enjoying a leisurely retirement, basking in the praise of his admirers-- and yet he still burned with the creative energy of a man in his 20's, just beginning a career.

      I hope everyone reading this can find that career or raison d'etre that will i fact have them pining for their office.

      Dave

      Comment


      • #4
        Office Time

        I disagree with DM on this one. I think alot of people on their deathbed wish they had spent more time at the office. I already do.

        Of course, I dont necessarily mean spend more time at the office - its more about spending oneself there. We dont live up to our potential. Part of it is avoidance, but I think a bigger part is the distraction of an "amorphous blob of undo-ability". GTD helps alot with that. However, the biggest reason is plain old fashioned laziness. Its a giving up on the worthwhileness of the worthwhile.

        I'm ranting too....

        Comment


        • #5
          Death, retirement, and time at the office

          Frank Lloyd Wright? C'mon, it's entertaining to compare ones self to FLW, but not very useful. For every one of him there were ten thousand Mike Brady's: mediocre and mid-level. Covey's comment is intended for them, not the geniuses.

          I retired from a decade of middle management in high tech. I *did* spend too much time at the office, in meetings, due to my own disorganization (pre-GTD for me), and because of social pressures. Had I died at that point, I would have regretted my time at the office very, very much. My time was spend doing that which I valued less (office work) instead of that which I valued more (being a husband and father).

          So I retired -- more or less. I had made enough money to spend the next few years doing "nothing." Actually I learned to cook at culinary school and wrote a novel. And now I'm going back to grad school (and back into debt!) because the thought of spending "more time at the office" in middle management sounds like sheer hell to me. Worse than death.

          I haven't listened to GTD Fast and can't comment on DA's tone, but I think I can gather his intention based on the comments here. And while I really, really like the methods of GTD, I don't agree with the value, virtue, and worth of office work.

          "The mas of men lead lives of quiet desperation," said Emerson. And I think he's right. By celebrating office work we're denying our own contribution to the unconscious desperation of our culture.

          Just my own .02, of course.

          Comment


          • #6
            Quiet Desperation

            Walden not Emerson. ..

            Sorry, I couldnt resist the opportunity to seem well read!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Quiet Desperation

              Originally posted by DM
              Walden not Emerson. ..

              Sorry, I couldnt resist the opportunity to seem well read!
              Doh!

              But just to preserve my own dignity (even if I misspell "mass" as "mas" as if I were trying to make some spanglish commentary on 19th century transcendental-naturalist)... Walden is the book, written by Thoreau. But the land whereon Thoreau lived at Walden pond was at least *owned* by Emerson.

              Two points to you for catching my mis-quotation. Half a point to me for desperately trying to reclaim my own literariness and probably going way, way too far.

              Comment


              • #8
                Ralph Walden Emerson

                Comment


                • #9
                  scott wrote:
                  I would affirm Moises' idea that thought itself is sometimes one of life's great pleasures, even if it doesn't get on a list, or get turned into anything physical.
                  Scott,

                  Send me the name of your local bar – there will be a cold one waiting for you after work.

                  This is one I had been circling around for a while now. The best I could come up with way to define the outcome as a state of mind: “awash with Plato”, “immersed in Aesthetic theory”, “transported to nineteenth century London” etc.

                  But what is the next action? What is the third action, or the seventh? It seemed to me that it was just a case of lining ‘em up and reading ‘em.

                  In my blissful early apprentice days I could read for over an hour in the morning, an hour at lunch, and all the way home in the bus. I could retain that sense of involvement with favourite topics throughout a working day.

                  No matter how much I clear off the desk, it will rarely if ever touch the pleasure of a good read. There is something deeply right about grasping a new concept - it certainly feels at least as important as productivity.

                  I referred on another thread to my spare room. One thing it will definitely have is a comfortable chair - just for gazing out the window and thinking.

                  Dave

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Once again I didn't log on properly. That was me above.

                    (Busy)dave

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Busydave (under the nom de plume "Guest") wrote:
                      But what is the next action? What is the third action, or the seventh? It seemed to me that it was just a case of lining ‘em up and reading ‘em.
                      I used to work with a fellow named Glenn Guest. He never had to log into anything. What's particularly ironic, was that we both worked for Holiday Inn at the time.

                      The next actions are:
                      1. Line 'em up
                      2. Read the first one
                      3. Read the next one
                      4. Read the one after that
                      ....

                      (Actually, 2-4 are probably projects, but you get my drift.)

                      This is why I also wanted to affirm CosmoGTD's point about using GTD to manage your whole life, not just your work life. GTD can be the vehicle for ensuring that you make time for savoring great ideas. In addition to that, by not using GTD to do this, by not putting these things into your project and next action lists, you subtly reinforce the toxic notion that the great pleasures of your life are not as important as your job.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Death, retirement, and time at the office

                        Well, I don't recall comparing myself to Frank Lloyd Wright, in this post or elsewhere. Simply because your work experiences were draining does not mean that others must follow suit. I had hoped my little anecdote would have been inspirational to those who are in a profession or career that does not fulfill their god-given aptitudes. I'm a firm believer in quoting others in order to better express myself, so I'll quote James Michener to try to illustrate:

                        The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both.

                        Dave


                        Originally posted by terceiro
                        Frank Lloyd Wright? C'mon, it's entertaining to compare ones self to FLW, but not very useful. For every one of him there were ten thousand Mike Brady's: mediocre and mid-level. Covey's comment is intended for them, not the geniuses.

                        I retired from a decade of middle management in high tech. I *did* spend too much time at the office, in meetings, due to my own disorganization (pre-GTD for me), and because of social pressures. Had I died at that point, I would have regretted my time at the office very, very much. My time was spend doing that which I valued less (office work) instead of that which I valued more (being a husband and father).

                        So I retired -- more or less. I had made enough money to spend the next few years doing "nothing." Actually I learned to cook at culinary school and wrote a novel. And now I'm going back to grad school (and back into debt!) because the thought of spending "more time at the office" in middle management sounds like sheer hell to me. Worse than death.

                        I haven't listened to GTD Fast and can't comment on DA's tone, but I think I can gather his intention based on the comments here. And while I really, really like the methods of GTD, I don't agree with the value, virtue, and worth of office work.

                        "The mas of men lead lives of quiet desperation," said Emerson. And I think he's right. By celebrating office work we're denying our own contribution to the unconscious desperation of our culture.

                        Just my own .02, of course.

                        Comment

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