Going the Distance to Mind Like Water

There is a light-year of difference between a system that has merely a lot of our stuff objectified, and one that has 100%. Few people have experienced what I’m talking about, because there are few people who have ever gotten to a 100% empty head—absolutely every project, action item, and potential commitment we have made with ourselves and others externalized in an easily reviewable format.

If you don’t have everything in a system that the system ought to have, you won’t have full trust in that system, and you’ll have greatly reduced motivation to keep it up and keep it current. If your system isn’t tracking every computer-related action you need to take in discreet folders or lists, then your mind still has the job of remembering what to do when you open your laptop. You’ll probably leave emails sitting in the inbox or files on the desktop, hoping you’ll remember you need to handle something. There is not full freedom to trust your intuition about which action to take off the list, since your mind still has the job of remembering and formulating all the options. Similarly, if your reference systems are only partially complete, you probably won’t be motivated to get all your reference processed and organized, as soon as it arrives in your life.

How will you know when your reminders and categories are complete? When will you know how much you have out of your head and into your system? Even if you have 99% out of your head, you still won’t know that it’s 99% because of what may be lurking in the 1%. You will only know how much you have left, when there is nothing left!

Either your head is the best place to hold all your agreements with yourself, or it’s not. (You can guess which way I vote.) I can’t imagine any intellectual justification for halfway in between. Yet most people still have over half their life in their heads. They won’t totally trust the incomplete system, nor will they totally trust their head. This fosters latest-and-loudest prioritizing, instead of trusted strategic choices.

A partial system is almost worse than none. In regard to life commitments—99%’s a bitch, 100%’s a breeze.

–David Allen

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

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