The Smugness of the Organized

October 25, 2006 at 9:09 am | Posted in Attention Management | Leave a comment

In talking about attention management, as with any topic that involves becoming self-aware of dysfunctional behavior and organizing your way out of it, there is often a tone of smugness.  The organized people brag about their systems and how easy and stress free everyone would be if their system was universally adopted.  As a non-technology example, I was just forwarded an article on mail organizers – not e-mail, but snail mail.  They contain all sorts of attachments for stamps, file folders, and sorting along with advice on discarding junk mail right away and such.

This is useful, but the “isn’t it easy!” tone of the articles may be inappropriate.  Everyone reacts differently to excessive stimuli of differing types and uses their abilities to best effect, whether they are morning/night people, whether they keep mental track of document piles versus using file folders, or whether they are sort-now pruners versus sort-later keepers.

Everyone has to find what works for them, with emphasis on the word “works.”  If an information worker’s system for managing all the demands on their attention is not working, it needs to be tuned.  Linda Stone’s response to my posting on Continuous Full Attention said as much, positing that “we typically rely on many different attention strategies and match the best attention strategy to our goals and activities … There is no one answer. There is no right or wrong.”

I hope that what I am doing with Attention Management is raising awareness of the issue so that people caught up in the daily grind can notice certain symptoms and behaviors that could indicate a problem.  And, once this awareness is created, I hope to provide some useful ways to think about the problem and find personal and enterprise solutions.

As for the mail sorter, my wife will be happy to know I have created plans for building a wooden one myself (maple, with 5 labeled compartments!) and will be starting it as soon as I can organize some free time to do it …


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