When, after repairing the range hood in my kitchen, the field service engineer left me a handful of papers, I decided to act immediately on them, instead of neglecting them on the kitchen counter top, transferring them at some point in the future to my home office and then – what exactly? Stuff them in a folder and try to remember them, when the next issue arises?
I could go on and apply Marie Kondo’s principles as described in her first book “the life Changing Magic of Tidying” – because, after all, I have a wonderfully “konmaried” bathroom – and simply discard all this paper. Marie Kondo recommends tossing all operation manuals because when you truly “can’t figure it out on yourself try fiddling with the machine, look it up on the internet or take it back to the place of purchase.” Hmm, did you ever try to take a range hood back to the place of purchase?
I am aware of the fact that Marie Kondo’s method is all the rage and for a lot of papers accumulating in dusty corners I totally agree with her. Nevertheless, I decided to try a more sustainable approach: I made the experiment to process this handful of papers based on what David Allen describes in his book “getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity” as the five steps to mastering workflow.
So first, I have to do Capture, identify the stuff: I only have that handful of awkward papers, so I grab them as well as my smartphone and a cup of coffee.
Then I have to master Clarify: Looking at the material, I quickly realize that the service engineer has given me doubles, everything in an original and a translated version. This may be company policy, but a total waste and I can toss half the papers in my recycling bin immediately. Then I scan the remaining ones with Allen’s question “what is it?” in mind. Defining, what we have in hand, what the information means, is the bothersome yet critical question we so often try to avoid answering because we think we just do not have the time to engage with the matter at hand. We feel torn in all kind of directions, too distracted to decide on our preferred outcome of the matter at hand and the very next action step towards this outcome. Sounds familiar, no? Allan says “most people make those decisions when things blow up instead of when they show up.”