Much of my adult life is spent improving productivity — both as a knowledge worker and as a poet. However play — inherently non-productive activity — is also incredibly important to me to remain fresh and creative. Plus, it’s fun.
For as long as I can remember LEGO® bricks have been one of my favourite playthings. Being near to Christmas time, I thought it would be fun to make some ornaments for our tree. I found some excellent, but complicated, examples on Chris McVeigh’s website. Like so many spherical structures made with lego, it involves layering cuboids to achieve a rounded effect.
So I started playing on my own, and re-discovered something I that must have first learned very early on about LEGO® bricks — that if you join them corner-to-corner, they can rotate a bit. I began to explore the possibilities in this, and soon landed on rounded ornaments based on hexagonal, instead of square, structures.
This “thinking outside the brick” approach happens most often when I am in an inquisitive frame of mind, and one of the best ways to create that mindset is to give myself permission to not have to produce an outcome, but instead just play.
For those interested, what follows are pictures and step-by-step instructions to make these ornaments.
I would not have been able to complete an MFA in writing poetry while holding down a job as a technology executive had I not been a longtime practitioner of the GTD® methodology. In a recently released podcast, David Allen, my boss and the inventor of GTD, asked me about how the GTD concept of the ubiquitous capture tool relates to poetic inspiration. (That conversation begins around 16:56.) My process has evolved considerably in the past few years, from capturing phrases and lines whenever they came through my head to “assemble” later into a poem, to establishing a regular practice of opening up to the muse. This shift sees me capturing fewer individual lines in the moment, and focusing more on getting my head clear of work and personal responsibilities — by using GTD — so that when I do sit down to write, I can slip through the keyhole unencumbered into that poetic space.
The practice of capturing inspiration in the moment is nothing new to artists and writers. After the Ojai Poetry Fest Fundraiser, I had a stimulating conversation with a fellow writer who also happens to be a journalist. As our chat got interesting, he whipped out a pad and paper, seemingly on reflex, and began to take notes. He was “off duty” in the sense that he wasn’t taking notes for a news story — but it got me thinking that if one is, indeed, a student of life, there is no “off duty.” And a good student takes good notes about subjects that fascinate. The difference GTD makes, of course, is that it presents a systematic approach for what to do with those notes — including tracking any resulting commitments to oneself or others, and executing appropriate action and regular review in order to make one’s dreams more than just a scribble on a notepad.
So, in case I haven’t said it lately, thank you, David, for bringing this methodology into my life, helping me to bring appropriate focus and attention to the many different worlds I inhabit. The gift of being more present in my life is truly precious.
I leave tomorrow for the inaugural GTD Summit in San Francisco. Think TED for knowledge workers. The sheer density of thought leaders per square inch is staggering. In particular, I am looking forward to seeing James Fallows, a writer-hero of mine, along with scores of technology, productivity, and innovation experts. This is going to be one seriously big party for deep thinkers.
I deeply regret to inform you that my illustrious colleague Eric Mack has revealed the real secret to my success.
This doesn’t just apply to technology, folks. Any poem I attempt that takes more than two minutes to write gets likewise round-filed. Clearly, haiku is about all I have time for, and usually without all that restrictive syllable-counting nonsense.
Speed poetry, like speed chess? Now there’s a perverse thought.
This post took 1:56.
Part two of this series deals with some of the corollaries between Extreme Programming and GTD® and is aimed as much at those who manage programmers as those who actually write the code. Again, it is available on The David Allen Company website and 43Folders.
Part one of a two-part series on best practices for applying GTD® to software development is now available on both The David Allen Company web site and 43 Folders. I lay out software development and teamwork best practices we lived and breathed building GTD Connect. Hopefully a lot of the concepts extend beyond software development, into how to apply GTD to other long-range group projects. Part two is due out tomorrow. Enjoy!