Someone reminded me recently, entropy is the natural state of things. It’s the state toward which things are inclined, so it is, in fact, inevitable. Thus, taking from the old standby, the Serenity Prayer, we know that we need the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Assuming we can apply that wisdom, and have figured out which things we can’t change, what about those things that entropy affects but that we CAN change? What do we do then?
It’s a factor of modern life that things have sped up beyond all reasonableness. Sometimes I think this is due, in part, to the ubiquitousness of computers and the internet – in fact, it’s hard to remember that it’s not even half the population of the world who has regular access to broadband! So, I guess I should say that in the small corner of my world, which is so all-encompassing to me and seems to reach to the horizon in every direction, what tools can help further productivity when the task list stretches off the desk and the clock points to fifteen-minutes-to-zero?
First, focus during entropy is critical. Our own ability to laser-think is underrated, but powerful. Like the force contained in two atoms that is released during fusion, when they are brought together, our laser thinking can bring us in alignment with our goals and actually bring those goals to actuality. Unlike fission, which provides energy by ripping things apart, laser thinking can bring order to the chaos that entropy creates.
While all of that is easy to write, it’s sometimes nearly impossible to put into practice. I’ve ruminated in these pages during prior Wileys about productivity tools, so the calmer, more focused tools have been discussed. But what do we do when the… well, it hits the fan? We can’t stop and breathe, we can’t take thirty minutes to do pages, we can’t run around the block? We all have those moments when we must sink or swim and we really don’t feel like breathing underwater, thank you.
I use a tool I came across from Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. She suggested using what she called a “Spatter Pad” to ‘bucket’ all the tasks that you need, want, or think you should do. I use it at work as a sort of chronological running journal of stuff that comes at me. Some days, it’s one page and very neatly-written (i.e., legible to someone other than a specialist in dead languages and cuneiform). Other days, it would make a surgeon laugh and squint.
But the point is not pretty, the point is productivity.
The spatter pad is literally all the day’s thoughts, spattered on the page like a Jackson Pollack painting. Can you do that lunch order? Did you get the car for my trip tomorrow? I need the figures for the Jackson Pollack family estate. Where’s the performance for Tim’s book? Did I do the passport renewal forms? Do we have eggs? What do I get my grandmother for her birthday in – gasp – a week – AND she’s out of state, so I need to send it by tomorrow or pay through the nose for Fedex…
All of that goes on the pad. That way, when the calmer times do come (and let’s face it, if you have time to surf the ‘net for news of the weird, you have time to sort out your spatters), you haven’t lost anything.
And THEN, you can impress your friends and confound your enemies, because you’ll gain a reputation as someone who forgets nothing. “How do you get all that done?”
Thank you, Spatter Pad. You make me look good.
Now, do we have eggs at home? And when is Mom-Mom’s birthday? o.O…