Swordlessness and the First Principle
Our current technologies – from sticky notes to personal computers, from email to video conferencing the Internet, the mobile phone, text messaging, etc. – can provide such immediate responsiveness to our actions that we can be caught up in responding to texts and tweets, thinking we are being productive, when in fact we are only being distracted.
Of greater concern, we may be missing the really important things like building strong relationships, collaborating on important problems, or doing some thoughtful and focused work.
Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that if we just have the right tool, the right software, the latest gadget and so on – then all our problems will be solved. No external device can replace our own minds.
When we embrace the idea that no tool will automatically save us, we act from what 16th-century Japanese sword master Yagyu Munenori called “first principle”, which is to be independent in every possible way and to keep your presence of mind in all circumstances. The notion is that when we get stuck on a particular tool, we create an attachment in our mind that keeps us from moving fluidly and responding appropriately to different circumstances as they arise.
This is important because the tools and technologies change all the time, but the first principle of conscious choice does not.
The first thing we need to do is to get all our information organised. There are four kinds of information you need to manage – two of them you can act on; the other two are information that you file away for future reference.
- Appointments: Things you need to do at specific times.
- Tasks: Things you need to do that are not yet scheduled.
- Contacts: Information about people you interact with.
- Notes/Documents: Other information you want to keep track of that does not fall into one of the other categories.
We call these the Core 4. The first task to bring order to the chaos is to learn to see incoming information so you know exactly where and how to access it anywhere, anytime. This means having one Master Task List, one calendar, one contacts list, and one system for your notes or documents. You can design your system to be all paper, all digital, or a combination of both.
The 3 Master Moves
There are 3 Master Moves that can help you leverage the features of your technology systems to dramatically increase their effectiveness as you deal with the incoming and organise your Core 4.
Master Move 1: Win Without Fighting
Based on the principle of automation, the goal is to confidently automate as many decisions as possible so that your brain does not have to use up energy on the mundane or unnecessary.
Master the rules or filter functions of your email programme to redirect and handle messages before they ever hit your inbox.
Master Move 2: Turn It Into What It Is
The goal of this move is to eliminate any additional Q3s and Q4s from your inbox that rules and filters did not handle, then effectively manage the Q1s and Q2s.
Every email is really only made up of one or more of the Core 4. When you look at each email through this lens, you realise that the information in the email already has a place set up in your Core 4 system where that information should go. Once you’ve identified each of the Core 4, then immediately Turn It Into What It Is, and get it out of your inbox. The basic rule here is to touch it once.
Master Move 3: Link to Locate
Have you ever been late for a meeting because you were scrambling to find all the resources you needed? When you are busy looking for stuff, which quadrant are you generally in? Generally, it’s a self-imposed Q1. We have higher-value uses for our time and that is what Master Move 3: Link to Locate helps you solve.
The paradigm shift for this move is to see the relatedness of information and to proactively connect resources among the Core 4 as much as you can ahead of time so you don’t have to search for them later.
Linking can be done by:
- Inserting the actual file.
- Inserting an active hyperlink.
- Creating a text-based link.
The number of links you add is entirely up to you. The point is not to get obsessed with links, turning this into a Q4 activity, but to proactively create some well-chosen cross-references that will help you connect different items ahead of time.