Life & Style

David Allen on The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Full Transcript)

Just trying to keep up with the mess. And by the way, life is messy if you haven’t noticed.

Actually, mess is cool. Actually, the most productive times I’m in is when I have the freedom to make a creative mess; you too. I need room to be crazy, to make some mistakes, to brainstorm, to be chaotic, go a little off the edge. That is going to be your most productive time. It is when you have that kind of freedom to do that.

However, folks, if you’re already in a mess, you’ve no room to make one. If your kitchen is a mess, you don’t have time or the energy to have a creative dinner for your friends. If your desk and your office are a mess, you don’t have room and space to be crazy about some new project and spread out, and have a brainstorm with ideas. If your email is backed up on you with 1,000 unprocessed emails and you got 3,000 other things going on in your head, you have no space to take advantage of discretionary time that may show up in terms of being creative, in terms of your energy.

The results of that, if you’re trying to use your psyche to manage that mess and you never get out of it is that you get the results of two things that are the critical elements of self and organizational productivity. You’ll lose perspective, that is, you’ll lose the ability to put your focus where you need it on exactly the thing you need it at the horizon you need it, and/or you may be experiencing the results of what happens when you lose control, that is, I now don’t have stability, and I don’t have the freedom in my head to be able to put the appropriate attention and execute on it when I do.

So those are the two key elements. Folks, you can’t manage time. You don’t mismanage five minutes and come up with six. The only time that you think you need time management is when one or both of these two dynamics are sub-optimal. Either things need to be more under control or more properly focused.

If you map those two things together, what do you get? If you are on the bottom left here where you got no control and no focus – Ever been there? – that’s your basic victim experience. You know, driven by the latest and loudest. For the most part, most of us are thrown there by our own over-commitments and creativity in which you can’t even try to come up for air.

Now if that part of you shows up that has high focus and perspective but no control, now you’re the mad scientist, now you’re the desperate artiste, now you’re the crazy maker with all kinds of crazy ideas and no constraints of what you do; and you have nothing very well-organized. In the middle the morning, you decide to go buy the new iPhone but your IT department won’t support.

On the other hand, if you get down in the weeds and say, “I need to get 10,000 things organized, I need to get all this cleaned up and even;” and now you are getting into micromanagement. If you don’t have appropriate focus, you can get down in those weeds and hung up in them like crazy. And you spent a lot of time doing a lot, trying to get organized about things that may not be that important.

Like in the morning, you were a crazy maker getting the new iPhone, in the afternoon, you spent two hours of what could be a strategic afternoon, trying to set up the right ring tones.

Here’s what’s true about all three of those folks. You’d better get ready for what’s coming towards you.

You will be sub-optimal in terms of your ability to handle the surprises, and they’re coming. Good, bad, or indifferent. They’re coming. Trust me. And you want to be optimally available for those things, when they come to you.

Everybody says, “I’m doing OK.”

And I doubt if many of you in here will feel motivated enough to go do what I’m talking about because some part of you may not be feeling that it is that bad. Of course, you got a job. You are doing fine. You’ve got relationships. You have got money. You are doing OK. I’m suggesting though if thousands of people would implement what I’m sharing with you here, they could be a whole lot better.

How sustainable is your life and workstyle right now in terms of the long haul? How available are you to all kinds of creative things that are right around you right now, but you don’t have the bandwidth to recognize and take advantage of them? And it could be a whole lot better.

What would better actually look or sound like? Well, let’s use a metaphor from nature. Nature seems to get a whole lot of stuff done but it is not stressed neither worried. You know, there just seems to be a sort of natural rhythm about how things happen here.

So, if you go back to our matrix and say, Look! If I had just the right amount of perspective and just enough structure, just the right amount, so that I got the stability to focus on that, and then to execute on it, now you’re in the captain commander modality, which, by the way, is very cool, because that’s the place that you’re then going to be able to engage with life and your creativity and what was designed for, which is using your creative intuitive intelligence, you know, in the new frontiers, you’re going to much more be in your zone as a normal state as opposed to an exceptional state. And you are going to be a whole lot more capable of dealing with surprise and change as it is coming at you. And, by the way, it’s coming faster and faster. That’s what’s new about the world; it is how frequently everything is.

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By Pangambam S

I have been a Transcriber and Editor in the transcription industry for the past 15 years. Now I transcribe and edit at If you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know. And please do share this post if you liked it and help you in any way.