Item #2 on the Personal Manifesto I have been slowly building is the following:

All notes, lists & ideas worth keeping should converge in one location, be readily accessible and easy to locate quickly.

As I mentioned previously, I have been feeling quite out of sorts lately. One of the reasons for this is that I have gotten out of my system of keeping it all together. I am seriously organizationally challenged and I absolutely have to have a system to follow to even function on a day to day basis. I do not say this lightly. I believe I actually have a undiagnosed mental disorder that causes this, especially because I see the same thing in my (medically diagnosed) oldest son and my brother. Therefore, when I get off track, when my system suffers critical errors, it makes my entire life seem broken. I find it hard to even start doing anything, which in turn feeds into my (well diagnosed) bi-polar condition.

This is why Getting Things Done appealed to me so much. Not only did it propose a great and effective system, it emphasized that the key was not just having a system, it was having a system you could trust. Lose trust, lose faith in your system, any system, and it will no longer work. This is why some of the endless tweaking done by many to get their system “just right” may, in the end, be just as much of a failure as not having a system at all. The tweaking generally means that you have lost, or do not yet have, faith in the system. Without that faith it is useless. I lost faith.

I did not really see this until Bethany pointed it out to me without really realizing that was what she was doing. Bethany is not a GTD convert but she is very insightful and wise. I was trying to explain to her the problems I was having being on top of things, or at the least feeling like I was. I was telling her how I felt my system was broken in some way that I had yet to truly identify. Then, she said the following:

” When you started with your Moleskine you wrote everything in the book. Then you got the index cards that you attached to the top of it, and would write down things that came to your mind when you were driving and could not open the Moleskine. Then you seemed to get afraid that the things you were writing in the Moleskine were not pretty and organized enough so you started to write on the cards first for everything and transcribe to the Moleskine. That’s where it all broke down. Now you have to write in two places and it takes longer and often does not make it into the Moleskine, and you lose the card. You need to pick one or the other.”

Did I mention that she was brilliant too. I mean, she saw what had happened. Somewhere in the tweaking to get a perfect system I lost faith in the one that I had and was working. It was at this point that the bell began to toll the beginning of my end. It all fell apart from there. I started losing information. I had things spread out all over the place. I was never sure where to go for my next action. Because some items were being tracked several different places, when a task was completed I would mark it done one place but not on the others. This all left a lot of “open loops”. It was a mess.

OK, so there is the problem… Where is the solution?

The wonderful thing about a system is that, as long as you know what that system is and it works, you can always go back to the beginning and start it up again. That is what I did. I went back to the beginning. I went back to my system.I sat down and started the collection phase of GTD again, gathering up all of those “open loops” and tossing them into my inbox. Then I just followed the basic model. I processed them, put them into their context and acted on the ones I could using the two minutes or less rule. Since then I have been back on track with my combo of Moleskine, Backpack and Now Up to Date and am starting to feel a little bit better and less scattered.

The moral of the story is that in the tightrope of life, if you start to feel unbalanced, simply stop where you are and find your center.