Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What's the Big Deal?

I tried to take a fresh look at this and other similar blogs that I follow to see what someone without an organization/productivity otaku must think about them. I mean, what's the big deal with all the little tips and hacks and ways to shave three minutes here and seven minutes there?

To answer that I'd like to share a passage from the beginning of a book I'm reading (via DailyLit.com) entitled How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett. He's talking about the discipline of getting up earlier:

Rise an hour, an hour and a half, or even two hours earlier; and--if you must--retire earlier when you can. In the matter of exceeding programmes, you will accomplish as much in one morning hour as in two evening hours. "But," you say, "I couldn't begin without some food, and servants." Surely, my dear sir, in an age when an excellent spirit-lamp (including a saucepan) can be bought for less than a shilling, you are not going to allow your highest welfare to depend upon the precarious immediate co-operation of a fellow creature! Instruct the fellow creature, whoever she may be, at night. Tell her to put a tray in a suitable position over night. On that tray two biscuits, a cup and saucer, a box of matches and a spirit-lamp; on the lamp, the saucepan; on the saucepan, the lid-- but turned the wrong way up; on the reversed lid, the small teapot, containing a minute quantity of tea leaves. You will then have to strike a match--that is all.

In three minutes the water boils, and you pour it into the teapot (which is already warm). In three more minutes the tea is infused. You can begin your day while drinking it. These details may seem trivial to the foolish, but to the thoughtful they will not seem trivial. The proper, wise balancing of one's whole life may depend upon the feasibility of a cup of tea at an unusual hour.

It's the last line here that contains the profundity. Sometimes the difference between getting your exercise in for the day or not boils down to if you left your running shoes in front of the bathroom door so you'd trip on them when you woke up in the morning. The difference between getting the new client account or not may come down to remembering some detail about the client relationship that was on the index card you had with you to read in the waiting room before the meeting.

To paraphrase a quote from Dr. Covey's 7 Habits book,
"I see so many big results coming from such little things I'm persuaded there are no little things."

Or to put it another (albeit a bit more obscure) way, in many Eastern traditions they believe the hidden path to enlightenment is found through the mundane.

If you're so overwhelmed that you can't relate to the above then read what David Allen and Covey have to say to learn how to block and tackle. But after that, the big "aha's" and breakthroughs are hard to come by and our hunger for more must be satisfied with a crumb here and there. But that's okay because often it's the strategically placed straw that breaks the camel's back or can make the difference to put us over the edge or to reach the tipping point.

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