Because Every Part of Your Life Matters
I’ve started back up with David Allen’s Getting Things Done recently, and the horizons of focus metaphor is proving outrageously helpful. David argues one shouldn’t just focus on work on the horizontal dimension (What do I have to do right now?) but on the vertical (What will I have to or want to do, today, next month, next year, and in the future?) as well.
Not surprisingly, this creates a kind of fungible definition of work. On a basic level, it means that getting the kind of job you want is part of your work, whether or not this job can deliver on that promise. Go deeper, and the principle suggests that every aspect of your life is part of your work, and everything you want your life to be can and should be considered together and in context.
So, discard your Protestant work ethic for a moment and consider your purpose for being on the planet. No, really. GTD suggests such considerations aren’t inherently New Agey or abstract: if you’ve got a goal, even if its culmination is 20 or 30 years in the future, that goal is a project, and that project has a next action today. That teaches persistence.
Or,for the myriad of my goals where I’m too young or I haven’t met the right person yet, there isn’t a next action. The project’s a Waiting For, in the most abstract sense. But writing it down on a list forces me to confront the fact that there really isn’t anything I can do about that right now, and it’s probably not worth worrying about. That teaches patience, and peace.
Either way, what’s really crucial here is treating your job, your family and your soul on a level playing field. GTD isn’t a substitute for your faith or your gut or your upbringing or whatever else will tell you which one of those you should care about the most right now. But it does provide, I think, a way to get beyond some bullshit cultural narratives about work and put those values to use.