Parents and productivity

So I just got back from a trip to Israel. I had a great time in the sunshine with lovely food and family, but I noticed a few worrying things with my parents, and I really wanted to help.

Ever since I slid down the productivity rabbit-hole and started to think about the how of my life I've experienced a very real and remarkable improvement in quality of life. I have also started noticing other people suffering from the same issues that led me to making a change.

With my parents, I noticed consistent patterns of forgetfulness, stress and loss of sleep, and failure to complete simple tasks.

My mom lost her iPhone atleast twice a day; they failed to move an iPhone charger cable from one car to another and lamented it every day; and were consistently agravated by the broken parking gate clicker, wasting 1-2 minutes every time they entered or exited the parking area in front of their building.

Since I've been interested in the idea of sharing GTD or atleast some techniques for more purposeful living, I decided to run an experiment. I walked my mom through a mind sweep and then observed the results.

I walked her through the standard GTD trigger list and did a short walk around the apartment. All in all we managed to get about 75 different things out of her head. Some of these were one-off actions like moving the damn charger cable, while others where huge endevours like making the study, which had become a storage room, usable again.

The majority of the items are likely to become projects, in the parlance of GTD, which include upwards of 3-5 steps from a quick look over the list.

I walked her through clarifying and laying out the actions for a single project. That evening she checked off the first action on that project. She told me she's progressing to the next part of the project yesterday.

The day after the mind sweep she told me the process had been incredibly helpful, and had helped her sleep a bit more clearly. Now I realize that without consistent capture, clarification, review, and execution the high from doing the sweep will fade. It is good to hear the process helped, and that perhaps I'd just planted a seed that will lead her to improving her life.

It was amazing, when were discussing the principles of GTD she mentioned two things that stuck with me: she wanted to have something she did for herself, and that many of the items on her list were relegated to help out other people with their things. With a husband, 4 kids, 6 grandchildren, and the rest of her family, I can see how this would be a problem. She talked about havin a hard time saying no or rather getting led by what David Allen famously calls, latest and loudest.

What to let into your life or not is a huge question and while GTD does not address how to make that choice, it does give you the best environment to make that decision. Once you have a completed inventory of the things you have you can start making concsious and informed decisions about what to take in or not.

As far as finding something that is for her, once she obtains that space in her psyche, which I believe she got a glimpse of, she'll be able take action in order to make that desire into reality.

For my part I will continue to support her without being pushy. There is a real danger of turning people off this stuff by being overzealous. Part of the process is realizing or admitting that there is a problem. The latest edition of GTD in spanish is out at the end of the month, so I will try to get her a copy somehow. My worry at this point that it's a bit too much involved change, but even if she picks up one or two components of the whole system, it would be a huge benefit in her life. Maybe she'll even have a positive affect on my dad, who's even more overwhelmed with his job.

I will let you know how things develop, but I'm interested to hear your stories.

Have you tried introducing GTD or any other productivity techniques to a parent or family member? How did it go? Let me know!

Have a good one. Until next time.

-- Jay Blanco

P.S. After I finished the first draft of this article my mom sent me photos of the cupboards that she has cleaned and the junk from the office room she's thrown out. She's checked off 4 objectives off that list so far.