March 20, 2008

GTD: SmartBrain -v- DumbBrain

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:30 am by a11en

Trying to get myself back on the horse here. This is my conceptualization of why GTD is a good thing to implement. [Very soon, I’ll have a bit more pointed discussion of “Why GTD works”- in which we’ll let a Mathematician jump in and discuss how we work with problems.]

But today, while reading the every end of GTD, I came up with an idea of how to conceptualize the problems people have in getting things done, and what the GTD approach attempts to do. I call it: “SmartBrain -v- DumbBrain.”

The idea is quite simple. SmartBrain is the part of our brain which is saying: “Yes, good idea, get that done.” or “Yes, I need to make Goo-Widgets for my project.” DumbBrain is the part of our brain that implements. Basically, it’s the brain that decides: “Do this next.” DumbBrain is the thing that sits between your eyes when they’re scanning your Lists and implements your actions based upon your list-items.

The basic problem in getting things done, is that DumbBrain is sorta lazy, and doesn’t like to do much work. It doesn’t communicate well with SmartBrain, and since SmartBrain sometimes doesn’t convey exactly what it wants to get done, DumbBrain (being dumb) generally doesn’t get what SmartBrain means.

Let’s first talk a bit about what DumbBrain needs in order to accomplish things. DumbBrain basically needs to be handed on a silver-platter some sort of easily understood list of items it can choose from and tell “body” what to do. It is sort of like the lazy-boyfriend in the middle of an important MythBusters episode with a beer in hand, firmly ensconced on the very wide squishy chair with feet up on the long short table like object. Tell him to “clean up,” and he’s likely to grunt some sort of affirmative-sounding sound yet stay where he is watching for more shots of the cute chick who welds on the moving-picture box.

What DumbBrain needs is something more like: “Honey- since it’s the commercial and you’re mostly just drooling with a blank stare at a Hoodia mini-info-mercial, could you snag that empty chip-bag and throw it in a ball towards that basket right there?” Now, that, is do-able. 🙂 “Me knows how to throw, and me thinks it’s more fun than Stupid Hoodia-mercial.”

Now, let’s talk about SmartBrain. He’s the Einstein of your head. He says: “YEs yes, that’s the next product idea! Do it!” He may pause in his smart-think long enough to write down “Widget is a great idea- make it!” Only problem, is that SmartBrain likes to think more than he likes to itemize and project-plan. So, he’s much more likely to (in the next 10 minutes) say: “Hey, since I wrote down Widget idea, let’s find out about Bocelli at Wikipedia- that sounds awesome.” [Enter: relatively useless info about Bocelli unless you’re a music student who needs to research Bocelli at this very moment.] He’s much less likely to write down all the steps DumbBrain needs to implement “make it!”

What SmartBrain needs to do, is learn how to talk to DumbBrain. He needs to itemize, run a flow-chart, organize, and drop lists which are stupid-dumb for DumbBrain to see. “Hey DumbBrain- Pitch the Chip-Bag you left out last night (when you get home) before your GF goes ballistic upon entering the door.” Or, in short-form: “At home, pitch Chip-bag.” That of course might be in the overall project called: “Make girlfriend happy about horrible state of apartment.”

It’s SmartBrain’s job to be smart. And to realize DumbBrain is lazy and won’t be able to figure out what “Widget” meant last week, or exactly what needs: to be done with, or too, or about “Widget.”

This is exactly why GTD works. It gives a run-down of what SmartBrain *should* be doing to help DumbBrain work, but isn’t currently. So, yeah, you might read GTD and think: Hell, that’s simple. Straight-forward. Everyone Knows that. Well, ok, smarty-pants: Why the hell aren’t you doing it then? Are projects still slipping through your memory? Still don’t know where Project B left off 2 months ago? Still don’t know what to do next when you have free-time? What is hindering your work? What is it that DumbBrain isn’t getting when it’s time to do something? Think about what DumbBrain needs to accomplish things, and try and slow SmartBrain down enough to give DumbBrain those cues it needs. [This might mean more extensive project planning, weekly reviews, or even refinement of your whole list-system to include next-actions only. Or, putting your cell-phone in your coat-pocket at night before bed… BTW, Life-hacks are also tricks SmartBrain can use to help DumbBrain get crap done.]

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