Up until recently, the volume of information that I have had to deal with has been manageable and I haven't felt as though anything was interfering with my growth. However, that’s beginning to change.
As the volume of information I consume increases, the volume of stuff I want to get out -- ideas, things I want to learn, stuff I want to create or share -- seems to increase exponentially. Trying to manage this torrent of stuff, both incoming and outgoing, on a day-to-day basis leaves my head feeling cloudy and disorganized — just thinking about it is overwhelming.
I'm beginning to recognize certain aspects of my life that are growing out of control and some that need obvious improvement.
Here’s what I feel I have an endless supply of:
- Interests I’m willing to learn more about
Here’s what I want to do more of:
- Connect and build relationships with individuals who have similar goals
- Create & share information and ideas with others
- Reach the goals that I set for myself
- Learn and grow
Here’s what I feel I’m missing:
- Structure and order
- Clearly defined goals
- Clearly defined outlets for creating/sharing
- A system for regularly reviewing ideas/goals/TODOs/etc.
- A system for efficiently managing everything
As you can see, the stuff I’m missing is clearly causing problems with everything else. For example, reaching a goal is impossible if I haven’t clearly defined what the goal is and what it means to complete it, and the lack of clearly defined outlets causes problems with creating and sharing ideas and information.
It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that not having a system in place for managing everything is greatly restricting my growth. I feel like a butterfly in a Kevlar cocoon, desperately trying to spread my wings and fly. (Isn't that a much better analogy than a boring "plateau"?)
This problem I’m having with organizing my life and being productive certainly isn’t new — there are many systems out there that have solved similar problems for various individuals. There are techniques for mind mapping, for creating an Exocortex, and for growing an idea garden. David Allen’s book "Getting Thing Done" talks about a complete system of inboxes, someday/maybe lists, contexts, and action items.
Being somewhat of an organizational freak I've tried several of these methods out of pure curiosity. I read David Allen’s book and implemented the GTD method to some degree with mixed results (perhaps because I only implemented it “to some degree”). I tried mind mapping but then had problems figuring out how to organize my mind maps.
What I'm discovering as I read more about the systems others are using is that each individual needs to develop their own unique system optimized for themselves. There is no one-size fits all. Everyone has different ways of thinking and learning. The nature of the content we consume and create, the ways in which we communicate, and our situation all vary from one individual to another.
Now that I’m fully aware the lack of a system is restricting my growth, I’m going to make a diligent and deliberate effort to create a system that works for me by testing the techniques and methods that others are successfully using.
What system, if any, do you use? How do you manage your ideas, projects, TODOs, and someday/maybe’s? Does your system inhibit growth or promote it?