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DA's Productivity Principle No. 26

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  • DA's Productivity Principle No. 26

    Expressed thinking generates enhanced thoughts.


    The act of thinking and capturing it, objectively and externally, often creates more than what we originally intend to express. Clarity and creativity seldom blossom only in our own constrained psychic space. The germ may happen there, but the act of transmission and reflection on it is where the real music is played. If the mind is the only place keeping a fertile thought, it must continue to hang on to it, and creative thinking is then burdened by that chore. Freed of having to hold an idea, the mind will have more of them, and more maturely.
    This is the psychology that underlies GTD. GTD is one small application of a much broader view of the human psyche.

    The idea is that our mind keeps moving. Our mind is wet and fluid and dynamic and changing. This is great and this sucks. Itís great because by being dynamic and fluid and changing our minds are creative. ďCreativityĒ means making new connections between thoughts. We start to see relations of sameness, difference, cause and effect between thoughts in ways we hadnít seen before.

    It sucks that our mind doesnít stay still for very long because all this motion and dynamism and fluidity mean that thoughts get lost all the time. Sometimes we see great relations or connections between thoughts and then we forget them as we honk at the car ahead of us. Sometimes we might have seen great connections between A and B, but A is lost or forgot by the time we get to B.

    Combine the fluidity of our wet minds with the narrowness of psychic bandwidth and we have some major obstacles to functioning well in the world. My mind keeps moving and at any given moment there is not a whole lot of thought going on in my mind. I am only capable of having just a few thoughts at any given moment in time. I can have a lot of thoughts sequentially. But only a few thoughts at any instant.

    Now, when we use the stuff that DA calls cognitive artifacts, which are tools for externalizing our thoughts, we can synthesize the fluidity and dynamism of our wet brain with the fixity and durability of symbols congealed with cognitive artifacts. Cognitive artificats Ė pen, paper, Palms, etc. Ė have a couple of advantages. First, they allow a large number of externally represented thoughts to be grasped by us in a single view (large relative to the number of internal thoughts we can grasp instantaneously). Second, the cognitive artifacts preserve these external representations of thoughts in a relatively permanent form. So, cognitive artifacts overcome some of the major drawbacks of our minds. Our psychic RAM is small. But the storage capacity of lists and other cognitive artifacts is much larger. Our minds lose stuff and forget stuff all the time. But cognitive artifacts are great storage devices. What we put in them stays in them. Cognitive artifacts are better than our minds because the cognitive artifacts can hold more at any moment and they do not lose what they hold.

    But our minds are better than our cognitive artifacts because, as of this writing, cognitive artifacts are not very good at discerning relations between externally represented thoughts. And that is what our minds excel at. Our minds are relation-creating devices. We canít help but look for connections between stuff.

    What DA has done brilliantly, is to take this abstract psychology and apply it to a personal productivity system. There are other places to go with this stuff. I know that there was a study which had people write down the most traumatic event of their life and then destroy what they had written. A few months later they were tested and were found to be healthier emotionally than those who had not written down their painful feelings.

    If I am the Pharaoh and I want to know how much tax I collected from each of my subjects, itís a good thing to have the technology of writing. Thatís obvious. If I want to stay on top of all the many things I have committed myself to do, itís a good thing to have the technology of writing. Thatís obvious. If I want to be less depressed and less anxious, itís a good thing to have the technology of writing. Thatís not obvious to me. Externalizing thought is good. Itís good even if the thought is bad.

    Now we see that paper and pen and PDAs are not merely cognitive artifacts they serve as emotive artifacts as well. Davidís theory states that cognitive artifacts reduce stress. We get stuff out of RAM and put it into the ROM of our next action list. But Davidís theory is merely a special theory of external expression. What is the general theory explaining why mental health is improved by the external expression both cognitions and emotions?

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