Last week I introduced a time management strategy developed by David Allen called Getting Things Done. This week I want to talk about a couple more of the concepts on which Allen builds his system. I think these next two concepts are very powerful. We could all benefit from integrating them into our lives.
Allen puts for this idea — life is a continual series of surprises. He suggests that we never truly know what is going to happen next. Some surprises are small, like the need to step around someone that walks in front of you to larger things like a car accident or winning the lottery. The point is that while we often spend time worrying about the unknown when in reality life is all unknown. While that may seem like a scary proposition in truth we deal with it every day. We constantly navigate surprise after surprise and often don’t even recognize it.
Allen doesn’t just leave us lost in a string of endless surprises. He offers a strategy for dealing with those surprises…he suggest that we should have a mind like water. Think about how water behaves. It can sit perfectly calm and still. When a pebble is thrown into the water it reacts as you would expect it to…small ripples radiate out from where the pebble entered. And then the water becomes still again.
Contrast that to when a boulder is thrown into the water there is, as you’d expect, a different reaction…a big splash with waves. Put more simply, no matter how the water is “surprised” it reacts appropriately. A big reaction to the big surprise and a smaller reaction to the smaller surprise. And always the water returns to calm, waiting for the next surprise.
And the calm state is important. Think about what water doesn’t do. It doesn’t tense up in anticipation. It doesn’t create ripples before the surprise happens. It spends no time worry about what to do about things over which it has no control. It just reacts appropriately when it does happen.
Imagine if you lived your life that way…not using your brain capacity and energy to worry about things you can’t control. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t plan and prepare for the future. But I do mean let go of things that you truly can’t control or for which you can’t be more prepared. Imagine if instead of using your energy to worry or be stressed you remained calm and relaxed. Then, when a surprise comes along, you simply react appropriately. Just think of all the things you could get done…and how much more enjoyable life would be.