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

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

But what’s the problem? The problem is when you’re not in crisis, there’s a more subliminal crisis that happens. Why? The whole world now is allowed into your psyche. Boom! You now get to experience all the stuff that you would/could/should/ need to/might/ought to, all the stuff piling up in your in-baskets and emails while I am speaking right now. All of that now floods into your psyche, and that could easily create a sense of overwhelm, a sense of confusion, a sense of conflict. Every single thing seems to demand equal kind of attention from you.

And then, you usually respond to that by either numbing out or getting in the crazy busy. And then you blame that stress on the lack of time, “Oh! I just have… Oh! God! All I need is more time!”

Well, I’m sorry. Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Einstein, Mother Teresa, they only had 24 hours. Johann Sebastian Bach only had 24 hours. I know he didn’t have email but he had 20 kids.

And you say, “Just give me two more hours! David, two more hours, please!”

You know what you’d do with two more hours? You’d have two more hours of overwhelming stickiness. Actually, for most of you, it’d be a good thing you don’t get two more hours. Because the issue is not time.

How long does it take to have a creative idea? Zero time.

How long does it take to be inspired? Zero time.

How long does it take to recognize an opportunity you could leverage and take advantage of? Zero time.

Time is not the issue for those things. There is something required for those things. What’s that? Psychic bandwidth. You need space to think. Believe me. Every executive I coach, once I put those words on, “Oh yes! I need room to think. I need space to be able to be creative, be innovative, all that stuff I am being tasked to do, to be a leader, all that stuff. I just need a room!”

And if you don’t have psychological space you could have two hours of free time and waste it. If you do have psychic bandwidth, two minutes on an elevator, you can have a cool idea and have a fabulous relationship with somebody that moves the needle.

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So this is the real key issue here – is the lack of the bandwidth to be able to engage with that appropriately. Even worse than that is that our creative energy is then not available to be creative. Our creative energy is being used to try to patch up, and handle, and try to remember, and remind, and try to do all that stuff that most people are trying to manage: all the details and stuff of their life in their psyche instead of in a system.

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.

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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.

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