If there is anything to be admired about modern man’s brain, it is its uncanny ability to create order from chaos.
We see this sort of behavior daily. Traffic lights, filesystems, smartphones, and (even more simply) our written and spoken language. While the evolutionary benefit may have passed its time, the concept of getting one’s life “in order” still sits at the forefront even into the 21st century.
Even in the world of knowledge workers, we tend to put systems in place which make us assume that everything is optimized.
I believe that simply attempting to create order out of the chaos of modern life leads me further down the path to chaos.
The Early Systems
At an early age, I became aware that the world around me was a chaotic place full of disappointment in its mundane nature. Though things happen randomly, I still felt the need to see a pattern in even the most unrelated phenomena.
I have a distinct memory of poring over facts about presidential assassinations, spreading out a National Geographic United States map and plotting each location. I then attempted to connect these points together with a ruler and pen in the hopes that I would discover something that had been overlooked by conspiracy theorists three times my age.
All that came of this intellectual pursuit was a bruised ego and yet another ruined map.
This early example of my innate need to produce order out of chaos was one of many that has pushed me further away from that mentality, and further toward the chaos I was previously attempting to correct.
After many failed attempts at producing order–whether the subject material mattered to my continued adolescence or my adult skill set–produced a numbing sensation toward similar problem sets in the future.
Fifteen or more years have passed since I tried to ascertain the lynchpin answer to the assassination pattern, and I have become comfortably numb to the chaotic circumstances of my life.
I still feel that spark of energy to organize and file away life’s experiences, but the spark has been quelled by the overwhelming “wisdom” that all of my past attempts have failed spectacularly.
Consequently, I find myself surrounded by chaos–in my workspace, my financial situation, and my habits. But even worse than consciously surrounding myself with this chaos, I find that my subconscious now strives to destroy any semblance of order that crops up in my life.
For instance, when I am taking a particularly undemanding course load in school, I find myself procrastinating to the point of no return. My subconscious seems bent on forcing my conscious mind into a bind, so that it will have something to do during the crunch time that inevitably follows.
We all experience a bout of procrastination once in a while, but a select few of us have been using it as a way of life well into our adult years.
This procrastination seems to come mostly from places of fear which dwell deep within us. Fear of change, fear of success, fear of order, fear of boredom. All are valid fears to our conscious minds, but it is the subconscious that decides whether we should act upon these fears, or to completely disregard that which we fear.
Putting off assignments and taking out the trash is one thing, but I find that the worst kind of procrastination comes from avoiding other responsibilities. Responsibilities to ourselves as well as to the people who rely on us to provide entertainment, knowledge or any other form of experience we can provide.
This is where we not only harm ourselves, but those we love and care about. Putting off that blog post might seem to be a relatively small issue, but it becomes a model for life. Not pursuing that blog post can lead to a downward spiral of disappointment from not following our passions.
When one ignores his passion long enough, it begins to wilt, and the energy that was once present and directed toward that passion must be passed somewhere else. It seems that my energy is pushed aside until needed at the final moment when the project at hand is almost due, or even past due.
The lesson that I gain from thinking through these personality attributes, as it applies to a productivity system, is that the system needs to work without me having to put too much energy into it.
The more energy I put into the system, the more energy that is taken away from that which I should be doing. This misplaced energy holds no meaning when it comes to getting things done, and must truly be refocused on the task at hand.
In order to work, the system must be logical and contain all the needed elements which will keep me doing the right thing at the right time.