Ready for Anything - Part Three

This section is called Create Structures That Work, or, It's Hard to Stay on Track Without Rails. It talks about the importance of underlying structure and discipline. Here are the titles of each segment and my notes.

27. Stability on one level opens creativity on another.
People rebel against "getting organized" because they haven't really figured out what they want. They associate the organization with giving them more undesirable things to do. When you're doing something you love, the "organizing" part is fun. Alternately, getting organized can help you learn to love what you do because it focuses you on what's best and most important.

28. Form and function must match for maximum productivity.
You need to know what the right tool is. To do so, you need to know what you're trying to do. You have to be both a visionary and a doer, but you have to be able to balance the two roles and understand which one is your strength, and which one might need some help. Your system has to support both roles.

29. Your system has to be better than your mind for your mind to let go.
If your mind doesn't believe that you're really following your system, it won't let you rest.

"Doing proactive knowledge work (thinking, deciding, and sorting) and setting up a well-organized personal-management system to handle the results is like hiring a fabulous executive assistant for yourself--it releases you to do the really important things you want to focus on. But if that system is not kept current, it's like having your key support staff quit without notice or replacement."

30. Response ability improves viability.
Unprocessed stuff reduces your awareness of your environment and your ability to react. But it also serves as a buffer and a layer of protection against the world. When a disorganized person cleans up, he feels vulnerable, and has to learn to live in a new world the way a reformed addict does. The unprocessed stuff allowed him to avoid dealing with real questions about his work and life.

31. Your system is only as good as its weakest link.
"A system relieves no pressure unless it truly handles its job 100 percent...Real systems must be solid enough to hold up in the toughest reality--when we least feel like maintaining them."

In an organization, the low-performer drags everyone else down. In an effective organization, they can deal with higher-level problems because they've taken care of the basics. If you know that someone is actually going to read the email you sent and do something about it, you'll be more careful about what you say. If you make careful decisions and think carefully about your work, you avoid problems later on.

32. The effectiveness of your system is inversely proportional to your awareness of it.
If you have to think about your system, you're wasting energy that could be better used elsewhere. The best systems run smoothly in the background and can handle a big increase in volume. For example, if you don't learn how to use keyboard shortcuts, or you filing system is too complicated and overstuffed, things will back up and take more time than they have to.

33. Function follows form.
A good system will not only help you be productive, it will help you engage with the things you care about the most. To do so, you have to get your whole life, including your friends and family, your staff, and all your interests and goals, into your personal-management system. "[F]irst-degree black belt is only the beginning!"

34. You can't win a game you haven't defined.
You have to know what your goals are. Some people have lots of actions, but don't know what their projects are. Some people have lots of projects, but don't know what their actions are.

35. Whenever two or more are responsible for something, usually nobody is.
Someone's got to be in charge! If different team members with different skills and concerns are competing, someone has to be able to make decisions about who does what. The same metaphor applies to different parts of ourselves. You need to think about what the creative part of you can do, as opposed to the disciplined number-cruncher part, for example, and create a plan that makes good use of each of your talents.

36. Prime your principles instead of policing your policies.
If you are clear about your principles and values, you will act in accordance with them. The same goes for your team, and for people who work for you. If you communicate your standards at the beginning of their relationship with you, you can avoid inappropriate behavior that might occur because of a lack of clarity.

37. Use your mind to think about your work, instead of thinking of it.
If your system isn't reliable, your mind will focus on things it's not good at, like trying to remember tasks. You need to create habits of action that you will be able to perform without thinking about it. "Form. You can't do, without it. Until you do, without it."

38. You are thinking more valuably than you may think.
"Give yourself the freedom to capture all kinds of thoughts that you can later reassess." Feel free to write down everything that comes to mind, regardless of whether you initially think it's important. Brainstorm and let it all hang out. You'll be amazed at how creative you are. Use paper and computers, or whatever tool works for you. Just get it out of your head so that you can think about it and process it into actions.

39. The necessity to plan and organize is inversely proportional to your perceived resources.
Scarcity creates a need to plan and clarify direction. "What we truly most need to do is often what we most feel like avoiding." For example, when we're super busy, we don't feel like we have time to stop and get organized. Allen argues that evolving and getting beyond this tendency toward self-defeating behavior is what will allow us to do meaningful work. GTD helps us to transcend.