Personal Productivity and the Inner Seven-Year-Old

There seems to be someone about seven years old inside of all of us, who never matures, and whose behavior either allows us lots of creative expansion and productivity, or causes us to crash and burn.

It seems that the smart (adult) part of me has known what to do for years. It knows that in order to be productive, just focus on positive outcomes, capture the moving parts into trusted buckets, and move on the most important thing. It’s that other part of me that has to be dealt with—the one that basically supplies my physical and emotional energy.

Let’s talk about managing a seven-year-old. Think it would be a good idea to take a seven-year-old kid into a room, sit them down, and demand that they handle the 563 things on their mind, clarify their life mission and purpose, decide their strategic objectives, roll them down to action plans, and get going…but if they screw up once, you’re going to berate them? Hardly an effective model, we would guess. But how many of us do that to the equivalent kid inside of us!? We need to work with it more appropriately to its age and capabilities.

Ever clean a refrigerator by accident? You were scrounging in there for lunch one Saturday and discovered “mystery meat” wrapped in foil. “Ugh!…wonder what else is back in there?” Two hours later you’ve got a bright shining fridge, and you feel great! That’s the seven-year-old. It loves to work, loves to complete, loves to accomplish…but one at a time. It has no sense of past or future. Want to know how to cause your energy to collapse? While cleaning the refrigerator, think of your taxes you ought to be doing! Crash and burn.

Capture and track all your projects and actions. Get them out of your head and into an objective, accessible system. So when you review it all, you can give a simple, single direction at every moment to the part of you that can really get it done.

–David Allen

This essay appeared in David Allen’s Productive Living Newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

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