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How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Organizing your creative life in 13 weeks. Week One.

by
Sarah Hoyt

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July 6, 2013 - 7:00 am
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Over this last week, I’ve been reading books on how to organize yourself while flying out to Chattanooga Tennessee for Liberty Con, a science fiction and fantasy convention with an emphasis on Baen authors and Baen books.

I went for the first time ten years ago and since then it’s become our home away from home in the convention circuit.  Over the years, my husband started attending, and then my sons (the older of whom is also a published professional in SF/F.)

While at the con I had to deliver a short story I was contracted for and also to keep up my blog posting. At the same time, as I said, I was reading books on how to organize myself.

The one that has so far captured most of my attention, and which shows the most possibility of success in helping me organize is Getting Things DoneI confess what is so attractive about it, is probably the subtitle: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen.

But there’s more to it than that, as the author emphasizes this book is directed at “knowledge workers” – which I think includes us creative bums.

You see, most of the other books seem to be directed at business situations.  I realize my knowledge of those is deficient, because the last time I had what could be described as “honest work” – by Heinlein’s definition, something that required one’s going to the office and spending time there – was a good twenty two years ago. However, they seem to be more hard-and-fast as compared to the fluidity of creative/knowledge work. You have goals that impose themselves on you externally: appointments, meetings, things to check off your to do list.

My husband is laughing at me as I write this. He’s often complained he comes home to work because at the office he gets interrupted by someone else’s emergency every five minutes. But since he works in scientific programing, I suppose he too is part of the “knowledge worker” industry, where things can be done everywhere and therefore work bleeds into free time and vice-versa.

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I love David Allen's application of the martial arts metaphor to Getting Things Done. When we lower the mental/emotional tensions, we have much more strength/resiliency in our ability to get things done. There's a physical model for this kind of structure called tensegrity: invented by artists Kenneth Snelson in the 1940s and described extensively by Buckminster Fuller. High tensions work well for short amounts of time, but cranking up the tension too high works poorly for the long run. You'll see this theme countless time in "Getting Things Done", Allen's other books, and GTD resources by others.
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