Self-organization: What if there was no “pending” category?

16 March 2006

I spend a lot of my life managing projects I’m “meaning to” do or “planning to” do or the like. It’s a chump’s game.

Yes, plan. Figure out the big objective off in the distance, and break things down between here and there as an engineering problem. (What will it look like when I’m 99% of the way there? 96%? 92%? Keep backing up until you can visualize the very next thing you need to do.)

But that’s it. Don’t let ideas sit around and molder because you’re caught up in this-‘n’-that and unwilling to implement them now. In Hackers and Painters, Paul Graham talks about the grand power of implementing ideas right now rather than leaving them on the shelf. When they’re on the shelf, they’ll stare at you, taunt you, and generally remind you of your failure to implement them. This is like the idea at the core of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, viz. that “open loops” are what drag you down and create stress in your life. Close those loops by doing things to completion now, by delegating them, or by kicking them off your plate.

I’ve spent years of my life as a planning monkey, because I love to plan. But it has meant a wealth of plans–too many ever to work–with much less actual accomplishment than I want. Enough already. Nothing pending. I’m prepared to be a hard-ass about this.

“Now! Now is always best time!”
–Yul Brynner as the King of Siam.


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