What’s Broken?

On those occasions when I have the foresight to sit down and do a clear and comprehensive capture and review of all of my commitments, one of my favorite exercises is one I have come to call “What’s Broken?”. The process is this:

  1. Grab your capture tool of choice (I prefer pen and paper).
  2. Go to a room in your home.
  3. Look around and ask yourself “What’s Broken?”. Broken can mean many things, from “The layout of this room is not working as well as it could.” to “I need to sort through the stack of papers on that table.” to “Need to replace the lighbulb.” Get everything, from big tasks to small ones. The point is to capture as many items that grab your attention in one sitting and get them into a system of action you trust so that those things are not niggling you each time you enter the room (subconscious or otherwise).
  4. Repeat for each room.

This works great and I always feel a lot more on top of things having simply quantified them. I can then set up context specific lists that I can focus more clearly on. For instance, setting aside an hour per room each week and knocking as many things off the list as possible. It is immensely satisfying and can change your whole attitude about the spaces you dwell in.

This method can also be useful at work. Take a half hour to capture what’s broken about your job or work environment. Even the things you think you can’t change. Because capturing everything will allow you to take action on the things you can change and, at the least, identify the things you can’t.

Lately, this has me thinking about expanding this exercise to less obvious places. For instance, taking inventory of my social networks that are not working as well as they should. Or even my real world relationships. Taking a hard look and asking “What’s broken?”.

Unseen or ignored problems will only be solved by identifying them. Bringing these to your attention and quantifying them is the first step to eradicating them. For me, this has proved a very effective question in many areas of my life.

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