Thinking is Unnatural

 Recently, while listening to a David Allen podcast, I was struck by a simple and profound statement.

“Thinking is an unnatural act”

At first blush it is easy to recoil from this statement in sheer disbelief.  But when you actually start to think about it, it starts to make sense.

  • Slow drivers in the left lane
  • Absorbed shoppers blocking the grocery store isles with their carts
  • Rampant credit card debt
  • Car Loans
  • Paris Hilton’s popularity
  • The government’s Cash for Clunkers program

Evidence of “not thinking” is everywhere you look.

That this statement would flow so seamlessly from the mouth of the renowned time management expert and author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is further evidence.  Allen’s constituency after all is not the numbed masses gorging themselves on cigarettes and Big Macs while simultaneously complaining about the high cost of healthcare.  Rather, David and is Company work with successful corporate leaders, executives, and business owners around the country if not around the world.

His premise, as the rest of the podcast unfurls, is largely that people react rather than think about their next steps in advance.  As the rushed reaction replaces even just a few minutes of ‘next step’ planning we create unnecessary stress, forget important steps or events, and frequently deliver less than our best – if we even deliver at all.

I’m sold on his idea as I can see elements of this in my own life.  Exploitation of the last minute was certainly a habit in college and it presents itself even today.

But breaking the cycle is relatively easy – even without absorbing the full contents of Allen’s book – stop, breath, and take time to think. 

  • What am I working on or do I need to be working on
  • For each unique effort or project, what are the next steps
  • Write it all down, track, and revisit it

Investing (not spending) even just a few minutes on each item will at once engage and clear your mind allowing you to be more creative, worry-free, intentional, effective, and successful.

What more could you ask for, if you really think about it?

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Trent at Simple Dollar is fan of David Allen and has shared his thoughts here and here.