Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Easier or More Difficult?

I've talked before about how I think that Getting Things Done and Love and Logic function in similar ways by helping to distill the chaotic into the manageable. Getting Things Done does its distilling magic in areas from tracking and paying bills, to managing work projects, to planning birthday parties. Love and Logic does its transformation with everything from having heart to hearts with your child, handling the stolen item found in the backpack, to teaching kids about demonstrating some appreciation for their parent's contributions around the household. Because I think they are doing some sort of similar process, I would predict that you're going to find some ideas from each model that apply to the other. Well here's one that I've noticed that comes from David Allen. He says that implementing GTD is both easier and more difficult that you would respect.

"...both easier AND more difficult than you would expect"
David Allen

Now that is a bit of a paradox, AND I think its true. It is likely true of each model in similar ways. The easiest part has to do with what David Allen calls advanced common sense. Like with Love and Logic people say to him from time to time, "Well this is just common sense." And they are simultaneously right and wrong. It is common sense. Take for example always identifying a next action for any item on what would be more commonly called your To Do list. Once you get in the habit of it, it really does come to make sense and you might wonder how you used to do without it. The part that is wrong is the "just" in the sentence. It is common sense, but not just common sense. David Allen uses the term "advanced common sense" to describe it. I pointed out in a my first post over at GTDtimes that social psychologists might be more apt to call it hindsight bias, the illusion that what you know now, you must have known all along. Or there's a corollary I've added, which is What I know now must have always been very easy to come up with. Well, maybe not. But the fact is that we very rarely if ever do come up with these models on our own. And though we often do it, it doesn't really make much sense to hold ourselves or others accountable for information they couldn't have had at the time. This is a very common phenomenon with Love and Logic. I hear parents make similar statements all the time along the lines of "It only makes sense" or "I can't believe I didn't think of that.

So the easier part I think is that the principles are pretty straight forward. They aren't terribly complex. In fact that is actually part of the beauty of both models. You don't have to memorize ultra complex procedures, and when you break down the ideas, virtually anyone can get them. How about the more difficult part? What is more difficult than we might expect is that given how the ideas are relatively easy to grasp, it is surprisingly more difficult to put them into action that you might expect.

This has to do with why I was taken on as a contributor over at GTDtimes. Part of what the executive editor is wanting me to provide for readers is how our brains interface with the Getting Things Done model. In other words, what about cognitive psychology might explain why the principles work as they do. The reason things are more difficult comes largely down to two things. First it comes down to neural plasticity, which is neurospeak for the way that our brains change as you learn. The fact is that learning is a physiological process. And much of that learning actually takes time to chemically and neurologically alter the brain so that that learning stays long term.

A hugely common phenomenon is in coaching is that parents are surprised when they understood a principle in session, and were excited about it, but then they go home and do the same old ineffective thing and just yell at the kids, for instance. To me it is predictable, because I know that it just takes time, and one other key ingredient, repetition. Now lots of different things can work as repetition. First, they could hear about the technique several times in several different contexts. Often I encourage parents to listen to CDs about the Love and Logic techniques for exactly this reason. Another ways is by reflecting on what occurred when it doesn't go well and tying it in with the new learning. Another way to put this is to say that Awareness is the first step. I literally tell parents to expect that even though they fully got the concept of say, enforceable statements, to expect they will go home and blow it. That is why it is essential that they consider awareness progress. If they set the bar at going home and nailing right off the bat, the predictably run off the rails in short order.

So the good news is both programs are easier than you would expect. I've seen people transform their lives both in the areas of parenting and in "stress-free productivity". And the bad news isn't so bad. If you know the little bit about brains and learning that I just shared and you can fully accept that, it actually won't be much more difficult than you expect...or that's my prediction anyway.

If you enjoyed this article please vote for it on Digg, above, or Netscape or one of the other options below. You can also bookmark the site to the right. I appreciate your support.

blog comments powered by Disqus