17 September 2006

Putting Off Procrastination

Today's post started out as some notes in my A5 Filo two days ago, and I've been procrastinating about posting it ever since. It just doesn't seem formulated yet. However, because of this post, I've been procrastinating about other things until I get it done, so I may as well plunge ahead. What is it about trying to find a solution to procrastination that seems to generate more of same? (Here's my favorite morality tale about the perils of that paradox, as expressed in a podcast by 43 Folders' Merlin Mann.)

Today's post is about the struggle between subscribing to an organizational system packaged up by someone else, and doing what you know works for you. Thematically, I think of it as the third in a series of posts that started with "Dirty Little Secret" and continued with "The BS". Reading those two posts will help you understand how I've arrived at where I am now.

In my case, the three systems I've made earnest attempts to implement in recent years are: Franklin Covey, FLYlady, and David Allen's "Getting Things Done". I've now concluded that the net effect of each of these systems on my life and psyche, with the possible exception of FLYlady, was of more harm than good.

How can I say that? Well, there was some good. In any case, each system provided a break in the monotony and provided new ideas. But the harm was in the form of limitation. Fitting a round peg (me) into a square hole (the system) ultimately prevented me from taking the most expedient form of action available to me. Trying to codify my life's goals and "roles" a la Franklin Covey actually made me less, not more, certain of them. What I really wanted to do evolved organically, and it was right there in front of my nose the whole time. Categorizing my tasks into "contexts" a la GTD and writing them down before actually doing thing didn't free my mind from worry as advertized; it just gave me pages and pages of contextualized task lists to worry about.

FLYlady actually wasn't bad -- not too different from the way I organized my housework before, and with the help of this system I actually got my Christmas shopping done earlier than every before. But because I've spent more time trying to implement the system than just doing the actual housework, that I'd have to say that my house is messier and dirtier than before FLYlady. (But my sink is very, very shiny.) Because of trying to implement David Allen's filing system, I now have more of a backlog of unfiled papers than I did before.

There have been some good takeaways. David Allen's filing system is better than the one I was using, and with its help I do find it easier to access things I've filed away. Franklin Covey reminds me to set aside time to do what's important, not just what's urgent.

These days, I'm trying to remember what worked for me, and start doing it again. Ultimately, I may end up writing my own organization book. Not for publication -- it won't help anyone except me. But I will keep sharing what works and doesn't work for me, in case it provides inspiration for Philofaxy readers.

This post is still rather unformulated, I think. At least, however, it's done.


  1. I have recently been reading Time Management for System Administrators by Thomas A. Limoncelli, which to anyone who's read GTD, seems like a cut down version. It's very focused on IT professionals and system administrators in particular, but it's definitely the first book that's struck a chord with me. There's a good review over at 43 Folders.

    THanks to TMfSA I am now the proud owner of a Filofax Logic Zip A5 binder and a whole host of DIY Planner inserts.

    I think in the end we all evolve our trusted system to suit us. The trick is not to forget the guiding principles of which ever book or course set you on the road to organisational enlightenment.

    As always, thanks for all you do here.

    - Neil.

  2. Hi Neil -- Thank you for your good words about our humble blog and the book recommendation. I've added it to my "must read" list.

    Did you find some DIY pages that jibed with what you learned from TMfSA?


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