Making Stuff Happen: Practical Organizing

Because I'm lovey-dovey and generally absent-minded, I need tools and habits and tricks to get myself to generate happenings on this material plane.  Those tools and habits and tricks are generally discussed (in corporate-speak, by very corporate-y people) under the name "productivity" (an awful term that makes me think of the modern lust to commodify everything) or (even worse!) "life hacks."  I would find the term "life hack" to be acceptable if it referred to the process of fundamentally wiping out yucky cultural programming and replacing it with a fresh, ecstatic operating system a la Terrence McKenna- but, alas -  usually when people say "life hack" they really mean "neat tip to help me reach a completely boring and conventional goal.")  I prefer the term "generation" to "productivity."

So I've developed a process that helps me to make manifest all the wonderful things I want to see.  This process is heavily inspired by David Allen's Getting Things Done.  Getting Things Done, or GTD as it's known by its many accolytes, is a productivity system that can be used for just about any purpose.  I highly recommend the book - but be forewarned - its target audience is 50 year old corporate CEOs who play golf like it's their religion.  This means it doesn't much appeal to most of us counter-cultural types - which is unfortunate.  Because we at the living edge of consciousness need to be just as empowered to complete projects as the old guard of the old paradigm.  In fact, we need it way more.

I call my process "making stuff happen" instead of "getting things done" - in part because I find that "done" never really occurs.  I'm never done with my life.  I'm hardly ever even done with particular projects.  It's very similar to Allen's system, but it makes some important adjustments and allowances.  Also, I've written it up here just specifically for you, my fellow love bombs.

Making Stuff Happen: How to Do It

1. Devote at least 15 minutes to de-cluttering your environment and gathering stuff together that you have to deal with.

If you're like me you live in a jungle of books, clothes, bowls of tastiness, cups and art projects.  Before your thinker will work properly, I invite you to buckle down and tidy up a bit.  This might be painful.  It always is for me.  Why? Because it involves making decisions about what to do with that clutter.  The trick to this is to accept that these decisions involve pain and to embrace that pain.  Sometimes the decisions are easy: the dirty plates go in the sink.  But sometimes they're tough: where do I put these random bottles of vitamins my mom gave me? I'll never take them if I put them away. I'll forget about them.  For the purpose of this decluttering, the default answer is: it's okay to hide stuff away and forget about it.  Sorry, bottle of B-3 at the bottom of my bathroom drawer.

2. Make a giant master list of everything you want to make happen.

Sit down in your glorious de-cluttered space and make a big sprawling list of everything that's on your mind.  This list must include both giant projects ("Compose an album of songs that are hymns from the ancient Babylonian love cult that exists only in my mind"; "Throw a giant consciousness party so great that it would make Alex Grey's brain melt"; "Salvage democracy") and also the little tiny niggling details that are buzzing about your brain ("figure out how to get stains from last week's bachannal off the sheets"; "buy more coconut oil.")

Think about every area of life in which you've committed to make any outcome happen.  Are you committed to becoming vegan, to keeping your cat fed, to resolving your inner conflict over feeding meat to your cat? You've got to write all that stuff down, no matter how big or how small.

3. Figure out a single little "next step" for every item on your giant master list, do it if it'll take less than 10 minutes and organize reminders for your next steps on index cards and on your calendar.

Once you've got your giant list of all the stuff that you want to make happen (it's usually at least three or four pages long for me), take a deep breath.  That was the easy part.  Now, time for more decision-making!

You've got to figure out, one by one, a tiny little "next step" for every item on your big list.  Get yourself pumped up and excited for this decision mode.  You are a decision-making divinity!  Remember that it's seriously okay for some of your decisions to suck and be inadequate.  The universe has a way of adjusting for that.  The important thing is that you not stay stuck and paralyzed by how much there is to make happen and finding the most perfect, best possible way to make it happen. There is no best possible way.  Instead, get busy deciding what's the most possible way. Find a next, tiny, minute thing you could do to materialize every last thing on your list, even things you're not completely sure that you truly want to do.

If the next tiny thing you could do to advance each of your projects would take less than two minutes, go ahead and just do it.

For all the other next steps, make sure you have a little system of index cards and a calender set up to hold written reminders of them.

Here's how I do this: I take a pile of index cards. At the top of each card, I write the name of a specific context in which I do various stuff.  So, "Home" "Out and About in the Neighborhood" "Facebook" "Phone" "With Sophie" "At Grocery Store" "Email" "Google," etc.  After I have all my little index cards set up, I take a look at my master list.  Let's say the top thing on the list is "Compose an album of songs from the ancient Babylonian love cult that exists only in my mind." I have to ask myself: Okay, Carolyn - what's the very next tiny little step that you could do to make this happen?

After much painful reflection, I decide that the next little step I could do for my Babylonian love cult concept album would be to set some time aside to try to hum up a fresh melody.  I'd probably want to do that at home.  So on my index card labeled "Home" I write, "Spend fifteen minutes dreaming up a new melody  for the love cult album and record it on my phone."  I also go ahead and pencil in an appointment with myself on my calendar.  10 am Monday is my time to hum.  Then, because my album is a project that will require many more steps to ultimately make it happen, I have to make sure I have a reminder in place that will tell me to come back to it and think of a new next step for it (after I've completed the one I just wrote down). So I create another index card.  This one is titled "Projects." On "Projects" I write "Complete Babylonian love cult album."

The next item on my master list is "buy more coconut oil." That one's easy. I write that down on the "Grocery Store" index card and forget about it.  The third item on my list is "Salvage democracy." Hmmmm. That's a tough one. I'm not even 100% sure I want to be responsible for that.  But for now, I just ask myself: what's the next tiny little thing I could do to make it happen? Well, I think consensus-decision making processes are the future of democracy.  So I guess I need to learn more about those.  Better look on my friend Caroline's website to see if she's teaching a workshop on the subject any time soon. This takes less than two minutes, so I just go ahead and do it.  Let's say I find out she's teaching just the workshop I need next Saturday at 1.  I go ahead and put that on my calendar. Then, since salvaging democracy is a big project unto itself (unlike buying coconut oil) I stick "Salvage democracy" onto my "Projects" index card.

By the time I'm done with this, I usually have two Projects card that are packed front-and-back with the names of about sixty projects ranging from "Reach unconditional love consciousness" to "Do laundry."

I also have about ten context-specific index cards that are full of next steps and a calendar all filled up with Very Important things to do.

The point of all this "next tiny step" thinking is that it breaks down any resistance that comes from uncertainty, and gives me momentum to move forward with confidence.

4. Make Stuff Happen

After all this laborious thoughtful decision making has been done, it's only left to hit the ground and start doing the steps you listed.  My index cards usually contain enough specific instructions to keep me going for three or four days.

5. Spend a Lot of Time Meditating and Reflecting

This isn't one of Allen's instructions for Getting Things Done, but I've read all about how he's quietly an spiritual weirdo (like us) so it probably is part of his own practice.  This is super-important because if you don't spend a lot of time meditating and cultivating your higher consciousness, it's really super easy to become so obsessed with the little niggling details of making stuff happen that you lose all perspective.  Like, maybe it's not really my job to salvage democracy.  I won't know that, though, unless I go within and really find that answer for myself.  Until I do it'll sit on my Projects list, demanding that I come up with next steps to actualize it.  Through meditation and reflection I can learn to let go of Projects that aren't truly important to me and to keep the ones that are.

5. Do It All Over Again

After about three or four days I complete most of the tasks on my next step index cards.  That means it's time to take a look at my Projects card and decide on new next steps that have to happen.  Then I have to organize those next steps onto fresh cards and keep rolling.  Yes, this means I end up spending a lot of time with index cards.  But it's so worth it.  Because those index cards become like little brains that think for me when my mind is numb.  When I'm sitting in front of my computer, tempted to just watch more Robert Anton Wilson videos and  play on Facebook yet desiring to be productive, I can glance at those cards and get simple, direct instructions about what stuff to do to move my projects ahead.  It's a cool feeling.

In Conclusion

Whoah, man.  That's a lot.  My best wishes to you in your own process of making stuff happen.


image: [Anosmia]

Posted on June 22, 2012 and filed under Creativity.