Focus, behaviour and getting a new kitchen.

27th May 2009  |  by Greg


How productive are blog posts about productivity? Let’s find out.

I haven’t done much else for the past fortnight but collect and tag tasks in my efforts to become a task-management ninja. It got me reflecting on how important it is, in every area of my life, to have a clear vision of the future. I’ve blogged recently about the necessity to have a plan and the quest to get super-organised has focussed my mind on focus. Not for nothing, the app I’ve been using to collect *all* of my tasks is the GTD-based OmniFocus, a Mac OS X only, project management tool.  (A whole new post on this on the way soon- it’s in my list of things to do.)

I was thinking about our recently installed new kitchen and the processes involved in it’s completion. I needed to imagine my new, not-yet installed kitchen in intricate detail focussing on each of the areas in turn and identifying tasks that needed to be ticked off.

Getting round to starting the kitchen project was delayed by something I think we all do. I had spent far too much time thinking about my old, worn kitchen and the things I didn’t like about it but I eventually realised that I wasn’t going to get my new kitchen by thinking about my present one. I needed, instead, to imagine my new kitchen in intricate detail, right down to the handles on the cupboards. Once the clear vision for the future kitchen was established, it was amazing how many opportunities I seemed to spot to move the project forward. Similarly, have you ever noticed that when you’re in the process of choosing a new car, you spot every single car of the type you are considering?

I’m not sure why we don’t utilise the method we use naturally for planning a little more often. Take for example, classroom management. Many teachers will complain about the behaviour of the children in their class/classes. My question is always- how do you want them to behave? Often teachers don’t know how they want their classrooms to look in terms of behaviour. They just know, in the most intricate levels of detail, how they don’t want it to look. But just like complaining about the dated and decrepit state of my present kitchen was not the right way to get a new one, deep analysis of what is wrong in my classroom does not help me improve things. Plus, unsurprisingly, if I don’t know how I want behaviour to look, then my classes definitely won’t either.

I have found this during the last couple of weeks as I attempt (so far successfully) to get more organised. Firstly, I needed to imagine myself dealing with and completing tasks in an organised and focussed way. I also needed to imagine myself feeling calmer and more organised, handling tasks as they come towards me or as I see them with a robust system that allows me to get them off my mind and in to a place where I can come back to them later. Not only this but I had to take the process a step further and imagine exactly how I would do this. I’ve found that this element is an essential ingredient to making change. The desire to do it isn’t enough. It’s the reason that when we “decide” we’re going to lose weight, do more exercise, drink less red wine or relax more, we often don’t, even though we know it would be of real and lasting benefit to us if we did. We know we’d be happier but we still don’t do it. There’s a part of our brains designed to keep us who we are. This is handy because we don’t need to remember what we’re like- we just do it unthinkingly. Obviously though, there is a downside. It makes change more difficult.

So, in my experience, the very first step to improving classroom behaviour or your task management skills or just about any change really, is to imagine exactly how you’d like it to look. If you have the same experience as me, you’ll then be surprised at the ideas and levels of motivation you have when you imagine your future in the present tense.

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