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On Thinking

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  • On Thinking

    Many people seem to have difficulty planning because they regard it only as "thinking"--which all too often translates into either "staring into space" or "daydreaming." They need a way to make a more concrete task out of planning. From experience with thousands of people I have concluded that it is much better to conceive of planning as "writing" than as "thinking."
    Alan Lakein. How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. Signet, 1974. pp. 27-28.

  • #2
    How do I know what I think, until I hear what I say?
    E. M. Forster. Quoted in GTD, page 217. And in Ready for Anything, page 35.
    Last edited by moises; 11-24-2005, 07:26 AM.

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    • #3
      Become aware of internal, subjective sub-verbal experiences, so that these experiences can be brought into the world of abstraction, of conversation, of naming, etc., with the consequence that it immediately becomes possible for a certain amount of control to be exerted over these hither unconscious and uncontrollable processes.
      Abraham Maslow. Quoted in Ready for Anything, page 52.
      Last edited by moises; 11-24-2005, 04:49 PM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by moises
        E. M. Forster. Quoted in GTD, page 217. And in Ready for Anything, page 35.
        Forster was a novelist. So writing was obviously important to him. Other than that, why is his opinion about thinking more valuable than someone else's?

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        • #5
          If we return to our guiding analogy, the way in which an action or gesture can express what is characteristic about a person, we can see that there are two aspects which can be united in this idea. Something I do or say can express my feelings or aspirations in the sense of making these clear to others or to myself. In this sense we can speak of a person expressing himself when he finally gets out and thus makes determinate, perhaps for the first time, what he feels or wants. In another sense we can speak of someone's actions as expression of his feelings or desires when they carry out what he wants, or realize his aspirations. These two aspects can be separated: I can bring my desires to verbal expression without acting, I can act and remain an enigma to myself and others; but they often do go together, and frequently we are inclined to say of ourselves or others, that we did not really know what we felt or wanted until we acted. Thus the fullest and most convincing expression of a subject is one where he both realizes and clarifies his aspirations.

          . . . If we think of our life as realizing an essence or form, this means not just the embodying of this form in reality, it also means defining in a determinate way what this form is. . . . [T]he idea which a man realizes is not wholly determinate beforehand; it is only made fully determinate in being fulfilled.


          . . . Thus the notion of human life as expression sees this not only as the realization of purposes but also as the clarification of these purposes. It is not only the fulfilment of life but also the clarification of meaning. In the course of living adequately I not only fulfil my humanity but clarify what my humanity is about. . . .

          This provides a new interpretation of the traditional view of man as a rational animal, a being whose essence is rational awareness. This idea is now formulated in a new concept of self-awareness. As we saw, our life is seen as self-expression also in the sense of clarifying what we are. This clarification awaits recognition by a subject, and man as a conscious being achieves his highest point when he recognizes his own life as an adequate, a true expression of what he wanted to say. And in one case as in the other, the 'message' could not have been known before it was expressed. The traditional view receives a new formulation in expressivism: man comes to know himself by expressing and hence clarifying what he is and recognizing himself in this expression. The specific property of human life is to culminate in self-awareness through expression.
          Charles Taylor. Hegel. Cambridge University Press. 1975. pp. 16-17.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by andersons
            Forster was a novelist. So writing was obviously important to him. Other than that, why is his opinion about thinking more valuable than someone else's?
            I believe that writers might have some special insights relevant to GTD. More generally, I believe that artists might have some special insights relevant to GTD.

            On the first page of the first chapter of GTD, David Allen's first point is that it behooves us to adopt the objective of getting stuff outside our head. Getting stuff outside our head is what Charles Taylor calls "expressing" in the quotation above. People who are artists devote their lives to expression.

            David Allen states in GTD that "the big difference between what I do and what others do is that I capture and organize 100 percent of my "stuff" in and with objective tools at hand, not in my mind." [pp. 21-22, emphasis in original.]

            David's key point is that he captures and organizes by expressing the stuff in his mind into external, objective form. This is what the artist does. She has thoughts, feelings, and wants. She then writes, paints, composes, or acts. In the ideal situation, she recognizes her thoughts, feelings, and wants in her expressions. And those expressions clarify her thoughts, feelings, and wants.
            Last edited by moises; 11-24-2005, 04:53 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by andersons
              Forster was a novelist. So writing was obviously important to him. Other than that, why is his opinion about thinking more valuable than someone else's?
              My impression was that the quotes were being used to start a conversation about "thinking," not as authoritative.

              I think (uh, am now writing) that it's a great topic. I know I can easily get into a "stewing about things" rut.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by moises
                David's key point is that he captures and organizes by expressing the stuff in his mind into external, objective form. This is what the artist does. She has thoughts, feelings, and wants. She then writes, paints, composes, or acts. In the ideal situation, she recognizes her thoughts, feelings, and wants in her expressions. And those expressions clarify her thoughts, feelings, and wants.
                I don't know what DA does, but I know that my own thought process when I'm capturing and organizing is completely different from when I'm writing. Capturing and organizing is much more conscious and objective, while writing is much more unconscious and subjective.

                Katherine

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                • #9
                  On Planning

                  Originally posted by moises
                  (quoting A. Lakein)
                  Many people seem to have difficulty planning because they regard it only as "thinking"--which all too often translates into either "staring into space" or "daydreaming."
                  Here is another quote you might give some thought:

                  Distinguish between ideas and commitments. It’s often said that a plan is an idea with a due date, but a commitment is more than that. A commitment is a plan that you can be confident that you’ll fulfill.
                  A commitment is a plan for which time is budgeted.
                  Tobis and Tobis, Managing Multiple Projects, page 134.
                  Last edited by Rainer Burmeister; 11-24-2005, 10:53 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kewms
                    I don't know what DA does, but I know that my own thought process when I'm capturing and organizing is completely different from when I'm writing. Capturing and organizing is much more conscious and objective, while writing is much more unconscious and subjective.

                    Katherine
                    What sort of writing do you have in mind here?

                    I think there's a whole spectrum of writing-acts. I simply can't write "unconsciously," For one thing, my inner critic is way too loud. But more than that, I can't write without consciously intending to write something in particular. A genre, at least, if not a firm topic. Am I writing an essay, a letter, a poem, a grocery list, etc. I'm pretty sure I require an audience too. Even if I write something only to or for myself, I still have to have a particular version of myself in mind to get started. Or maybe I'm just insufficiently in touch with my unconscious.

                    Capturing and organizing seems easiest when the ideas are fairly concrete and well-formed to begin with. What do I need at the grocery store, who needs to be informed about this development, etc. It probably also helps to have a familiar format/system/genre to capture these things into.

                    When things aren't so well-formed, many people like to mind-map or move post-its around.

                    But I'm not sure there's really any such thing as "free-writing." Am I taking the term too literally? I mean, I can walk around "aimlessly," but it's never entirely aimless, as I have to start in a particular direction, and generally have some parameters in mind as to speed, duration, safety, etc. Eh, I've probably wandered too far off-topic, but talk about writing regularly puzzles me.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ActionGirl
                      I think there's a whole spectrum of writing-acts. I simply can't write "unconsciously," For one thing, my inner critic is way too loud. But more than that, I can't write without consciously intending to write something in particular. A genre, at least, if not a firm topic. Am I writing an essay, a letter, a poem, a grocery list, etc. I'm pretty sure I require an audience too. Even if I write something only to or for myself, I still have to have a particular version of myself in mind to get started. Or maybe I'm just insufficiently in touch with my unconscious.
                      I encounter writing situations that range from very well-defined (write an article for X audience with Y many words conforming to Z outline) to very vague (Your goal for today is 1000 words. Go.), but I find the process is much the same. But then, there are as many approaches to writing as there are writers.

                      Originally posted by ActionGirl
                      But I'm not sure there's really any such thing as "free-writing." Am I taking the term too literally? I mean, I can walk around "aimlessly," but it's never entirely aimless, as I have to start in a particular direction, and generally have some parameters in mind as to speed, duration, safety, etc. Eh, I've probably wandered too far off-topic, but talk about writing regularly puzzles me.
                      I often do a warm-up exercise in which I pick a random line from a random book of poetry, write it in my notebook, and go from there. That meets every definition of free-writing that I've ever seen, and I've found it very helpful. YMMV.

                      Katherine

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                      • #12
                        Thinking/Writing/Mind-Mapping

                        Einstein was said to have original conceptions of his Theory of Relativity by daydreaming on sunlit day(s) about riding a beam of light and where it would take him. On a linear journey out into the universe or…..? The sunlight triggered thoughts which eventually led to his discovery. With much subsequent thinking/ working/writing to be sure.

                        Was this legitimate thinking without writing? Was it even sub-conscious planning as well?

                        David Allen in GTDfast CDs mentions the mind works by association as well.
                        To exploit this, I like to go to mega magazine/bookstores and randomly browse the merchandise as an enjoyable experience. Many many times I’ll see something out-of-the-blue in a picture or article or title etc. that triggers an associated thought about something occupying my brain cells at the moment and it gives an “aha” moment. Libraries, surfing the net, even art galleries give me similar experiences.

                        Mind-mapping, even though technically is writing, seems like a surrogate form of daydreaming as when you write one key word down, many times it triggers associated branch words or thoughts which it’s radial format allows you to include non-judgementally(judge later). You are also encouraged to draw pictures which helps activate whole brain thinking (left brain, linear plus right brain, artistic etc.) and even more associations. Ditto for adding colors.

                        A simple but profound example of mind-mapping and thinking: Write the word “afternoon”. Not much thinking going on.
                        But in mind map association mode you would write it as NOON-after, (main branch NOON, sub-branch,”after”) Immediately you think of a second sub branch “before” which could trigger new thoughts. This example is very simple and might go nowhere but imagine how much more thinking comes from the extra associations.

                        Maybe mind-mapping is “Einstein-lite”(?)

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