Fast Company May 2000 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Fast Company, May 2000 Tina Meyers

You Can Do Anything  But Not Everything. David Allen, pp. 207-214

In the May issue of Fast Company there were many interesting articles about time management, burnout, and stress related topics. I found this particular article to be very interesting and pertinent to how my professional and personal life has been transpiring.

In a world of information overload, professionals face many challenges not only in the workforce, but also in how to reshape and rebalance their everyday lives. Although this information age is an exciting one to work in, there also exists an exhausting demand from other knowledge workers that perpetuates the feelings of being overworked, over committed, and overwhelmed. David Allen, an influential world leader on thinkers and personal productivity and the author of this article, warns that if these circumstances continue to go unchecked dissatisfaction and despair soon become the emotions that we deal with daily.

Allen argues that managing your time is important; however, the real challenge is maintaining focus. Many of us cannot be effective if we have unfinished projects or new demands that need a reaction, decision, or more of our time. The author suggests that by maintaining focus a person can increase their ability to respond appropriately and also become more effective.

David Allen is a gifted presenter, an author, and an entrepreneur that passionately promotes the importance of self-discovery and personal-growth. Throughout his quest for his own self-awareness, Allen studied Zen Buddhism, was part of the Beat generation, and earned a black belt in karate. Although somewhat flaky on the edges, Allen feels that at the core of the above-mentioned philosophies, exists good ideas about how to live a life that parallels with our own personal values. He suggests that we can broaden our personal growth and freedom and also increase our productivity by becoming more self-aware through self-discovery. The bridge between self-understanding and productive, practical interaction with the world, is time management.

In the interview Allen was asked why so many of us feel we have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. His reaction was that there is always more to do than time permits, however, we live in a society that wants acknowledgement, but we also want to feel that the work we do is meaningful. Because of this, we continue to take on more and seldom finish what we start and for many that causes stress. When projects pile up most people are willing to acknowledge that there exists an open loop in our subconscious, something incomplete, and this distraction causes us to slow down and become less effective. Productivity is about completion.

So where does one find the time to inventory and fulfill commitments? Take action right away is one approach that Allen suggests. Maximizing a concept called weird time, Allen believes cognitive use of time is extremely important. Five minutes between meetings and phone calls can help increase productivity if it is used wisely. The worst thing that a person can do is to let things sit. But first consider your energy level, allocated resources, and time. Productive people dont always work on the important things first. They inventory their resources and work on the most appropriate tasks, thus becoming more productive and also developing a true competitive edge.

According to Allen, having the ability to focus on your values doesnt always simplify things. Often what is discovered is that values-driven individuals and organizations suffer from burnout because they want to be players. These types attend too many meetings, are always invited to collaborate on projects, or join and actively participate in various committees. Eventually they become more stressed and less content with their personal lives. The author states that if you have open loops and too many commitments to fulfill, then you need to decide on a plan of action. You cannot do things faster until you learn to slow down. Detaching yourself from projects you cannot complete, and setting boundaries is very important, yet often times extremely difficult for players.

In conclusion, one cannot continue to play the game without getting eaten alive. The focus needs to be placed on values and simplifying our lives. As the title of this article states, You can do anything-but not everything. I think that sums up the article very well.

In personal reflection, I enjoyed this article tremendously. It describes some of the same distractions and concerns I encounter both professionally and personally, but also provides very insightful and informative theories on how I can reevaluate how effective and/or fragmented my own productivity really is.

-- Anonymous, August 30, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ