Wednesday, September 27, 2006

GTD - The Five Steps

Okay, here is my version of the most common way to explain GTD -- the five steps.

1. Collect. This is the phase where you gather all stuff into inboxes of various kinds. "Stuff" is any item there is yet to make a decision about. Things that aren't yet neatly organized into your system and life, like mails in your inbox or papers lying around. Internal things also goes into this category, stuff on your mind. Just write it on a paper and put it into the inbox.

2. Process. Everything in your inbox should be put through a certain series of questions in order to decide where it belongs. There is a useful flowchart to aid this process. Where does an item belong? Well, it can go into a filing system if it's reference material, or a calendar if it's an appointment. (There are more categories.)

3. Organize. Actually, a big chunk of the organizing was done in step two when you decided where every item belongs. But I guess some organizing can still be done within each category.

4. Review. For the system to work, you need to review it regularly. All your projects and "to do"s are in the system, and you need to be reminded of them often enough. So, some part of the system should be review daily, and some part weekly.

5. Act. It's not enough to keep track of your projects, you need to work on them too. D. Allen has some useful advice on how to choose what to do, which I won't go into here.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

GTD, psycho-epistemology, trusted system

One of the great benefits of GTD is that it is based on, and teaches, sound psycho-epistemological principles, although David Allen doesn't word it as such.

An example would be the idea behind the use of the 'trusted external system'. The idea is that it is bad to store "open loops" (as he calls it) only in your mind. (What's an open loop? Basically, it's a yet unfulfilled purpose. Things you need to get done.) Why? The mind just isn't very good at handling that task, and what follows is pressure, stress and possibly failure. What pressure? The pressure of having to keep track of everything, having to remind yourself what needs to be done, having to worry about forgetting, having to remember stuff that relates to your purpose, and so on. But that's not, some would say, how people do handle stuff - after all, people already use external helpers such as calendars and "to-do"-lists. That's true, and to that extent the mind is relieved from some pressure, but most systems people use are incomplete in many ways. GTD is the system to end all systems. It basically works as an extension of your mind. (It wasn't that long ago I begun doing it, but I'm already a cultist.)


Saturday, September 09, 2006

GTD - Order out of Chaos?

I've started to use the GTD (Getting Things Done) system. It is a system to organize the activities required to fulfill your projects (whichever they may be).

It includes things such as getting all important information into an external system you trust (such as a suitable computer program), filing everything appropriately, having a system for reminding you of important events, and so on.

The best thing about GTD isn't perhaps any specific idea it contains, but the way it all fits of them together into a nice closed system that covers all the activities in your life (in an overview-ish kind of way). And that it is fairly simple in its principles (always a good thing). It also leaves a lot of room for tweaking and personalizing.

It has helped me realize (again?) that a big reason for my own disorganization is indecision (which itself isn't news to me or my readers - indecision is my nemesis. One of them. Yes, I have many - ha! Ten point to whomever gets that reference!)

Indecision, how? Well, I let things pile up with the idea that I decide what to do about it later (e.g. should I answer this email? Let's decide later. Should I print out that info, or just throw the file way? I'll keep the file for now and decide later. Etc). And I used the same place for different purposes (the mails in my inbox would serve as reminders, containers of information - such as addresses needed in a few days, or reference material I might sometime need - and so on.) A similar pattern was/is present in other areas than my inbox.

And then new stuff arrives all the time, and it gets worse and worse until you force yourself to re-organize some (or all) of it. However, then the process of disorganization starts again, and chaos starts to build up. The secret is to organize it once and for all and then see to it that it never gets out of hand again. And that's what GTD will help you with.

GTD helps you establish a system which you then can apply to every new stuff that arrives in your life (whether it comes from within or without).

A funny detail - I don't think I really understood until now the crucial part incoming stuff plays in the creation of chaos.

To learn more, just search on GTD - Getting Things Done - and the author of the book, David Allen.


Thursday, July 13, 2006


The spiritual need of externalization represents an interesting contrast (and similarity) to the need of visibility (written about elsewhere).

But first things first. What is externalization? Simply put: it's expressing oneself, in one form or the other. So the need for externalization is then the need for an expression of mental content.

But how can that need be explained? What is it we get out of expression things? Certainly what I have in mind isn't practical values such as, say, the need to tell someone you love her to let her know so that she can decide whether she feels the same. Now, that's a reason to express oneself too, but that aspect isn't an example of satisfying the need for externalization.

Rather, I think the reason is the same as with visibility (and the need for art). That which only exists in our mind isn't completely real to us. We don't fully experience it until there is some physical expression of it. And this is something that is very central to everyone's life. Every spoken and written word is a physical expression of something, as is how you decorate your home and a million other things (needless to say, a specific form of expression may not interest a given person. We all have our own priorities in regard to what to express and how and when, and so on.)

It's central and broad, but not everything can be said to be externalization. For example, consuming art or trying to understand something (by thinking) is not examples of it.

Both visibility and externalization are central in proper human relationships, and that's a big part of why the relationships are so valuable and irreplaceable. Although, while visibility is heavily dependent on human relations, externalization can be exercised without it (though some content of the mind is easier to express in interaction with someone)

If that which you express isn't really you but a faked you, you won't satisfy the need to externalization, and likewise you won't get the right things back from others. They won't mirror you. So you'll leave both those needs unfulfilled. That's one reason why it is so stupid and painful to be a criminal - you can never be open with decent people, because they will despise you. You will either have to lie massively, or spend time with other criminals. Two very unattractive options.

A large part of all human activity can be explained in terms of visibility and externalization.

Interesting integrations can be made to creating art, which happens to be externalization per excellence.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Been doing some UML lately, for a course. Interesting stuff. An UML designer is to the implementer (programmer) what an architect is to a construction worker.

What's interesting is that you get a better understanding of the to-be system even without creating any diagrams, just by learning and using the different views. The specific diagrams are irrelevant. You could have had the exact same views (use case, class, state, etc) but (somewhat) different looking diagrams.

One idea that I find interesting and fascinating is to create a similar system to deal with humans and human relations. Not so much as an architect trying to build something (though some things perhaps, like a good relationship?), but for understanding (which affects your actions). It should be possible to create similar theoretical models of humans and relations, a set of different views with corresponding diagrams. Where each view in some way helps you understand a person and/or relationship. I'm sure there are some attempts in that direction being made, but I'm also pretty sure that it's not very well done. In a more rational world, there would be well developed systems like that and we would all run around diagramming each other.

Monday, July 03, 2006


No two games of chess are the same. The first moves may be the same, but for each new move fewer identical games have been played, and eventually each game is unique (with the exception of short games between bad players). Yet, despite that all games are different the principles describing the games are the same. So despite the uniqueness of each game, to an experienced player much is familiar and similar to other games. Principles such as "open lines" and "control of the center" etc always applies (though in different degrees depending on the details of each game). And there are not that many principles either. I think it was Kotov and Keres that suggested that to understand a position, four different areas need to be considered (that is, four principles, each containing a few sub-principles).

The same is true for all human areas, whether you are trying to understand how to act, how to think, how a government should be governed, how to explain star systems or our own biology, and so on. Without principles there is no such thing as understanding.

Humans understand the world by conceptualizing it, and principles are the result of that process. (Note to self: is applying principles also best described as an act of conceptualization?) .

The world is immensely complex, and without principles we are completely lost in that complexity. Some old (and young) fools claim that for a theory to be really true, it has to "mirror" the complexity of reality, and be as complex itself. That's just stupid. The exact opposite should be the goal: to let as few principles as possible explain as much as possible. For example, the principle (or law) or gravity explains both falling apples and planets rotation the sun. One single principle explains an infinite amount of complex stuff in the universe. Imagine trying to understand all those things that gravity explains through a theory that "mirrored" the complexity of that which it is trying to explain (which I assume would a mean a unique theory for each unique object - and every single object in the universe in unique, no two things are identical -, instead of the same principle/theory/law explaining an endless series of different objects).

All areas in life should be conceptualized. Hey, a principle.

In my current wave of extroversion and interest in politics (especially some areas) I see a lot of lack of principles. The conclusions people (including politicians and journalists) come to and the decisions they make are completely irrational.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

altruism, egoism, purpose

I have a confession to make. When I was younger, I was in some contexts terribly altruistic. Actually, it was a combination of thinking that sacrifice is right (which is altruism) and a feeling of fear of asserting my own (barely developed) will with others. And I suffered the consequences, among them mental passivity. If you don't have your own goals there isn't much to think about. It is virtually impossible to think about things that don't interest you, such as others goals. So you don't even succeed in being particularly valuable to others, instead you get pretty boring to hang out with. The most interesting people are always people who primarily act in their self-interest (even if many who act in their own self-interest of course are boring as well).

It is important for all involved to use other people for you own interest. To always have some sort of purpose with them, though it may not be any remarkable (it doesn't have to be more than "it's nice to have a cup of coffee with this person". An altruist on the other hand may agree to that coffee without even wanting it, if it is that other person's will.)

Of course, it has to be made in a moral context, as a trader. I'm actually less manipulative and "advantage-taking" than most. I don't try to get value from people without having their agreement, or without having something to offer myself. And that's how I prefer others by be also, rational egoists. So I practice what I advocate, which is more than many advocaters of altruism can say. They advocate altruism and then collect the sacrifices themselves, acting like egoists of the bad, predatory kind. Always be suspicious of people who ask you to sacrifice something.

Of course, always having a purpose in your dealings with other people is just an instance of the broader principle to always have a purpose. Purpose is a fundamental need for us humans. People who are completely adrift (and the Lord knows I've been there) is at odds with their nature and the requirements of life, and suffers accordingly. (Todays philosophical question: can't the purpose be an altruistic one? Stay tuned for the surprising answer...)

Sunday, June 11, 2006


One interesting and useful concept is stability.

What is it? It is measurement of change of conditions. The conditions can be of various kinds, psychological, societal (economical, cultural etc), relational (a stable/unstable relationship).

A few comments on psychological stability (that's always an interesting topic, no?)

What is psychological stability? I have no formal definition, but a stable person is someone who in some ways doesn't change too much or fast. Obviously I'm not talking about someone who is stagnated. It is possible to develop oneself while at the same time being stable. Someone with a firm character is stable, but that person might very well keep learning stuff and develop in various ways, though it's likely that the basic philosophy remains the same.

How is stability achieved? I think one precondition is having that stable philosophy. Is that enough? No, it is necessary but not sufficient. I'd also add specifically that it needs to be integrated deeply. And I think the need for integration goes deeper than that, not only needs the philosophy be deeply integrated, but all ideas and values. I think that's the basic psycho-epistemological principle that brings stability, being integrated.

Being disintegrated means (among other things) having lots a disconnected ideas (possibly islands of ideas - that is, ideas that are locally but not globally integrated). Not integrating ideas inevitably means holding contradictory ideas. It is almost like these people are different persons depending on which of these disconnected ideas that are operating at any given moment. Or it could be like the so called "seekers". Those who may seem stable and certain when they currently are into some new thing, but then suddenly they abandon it in favor of something else... they never really believed that earlier stuff, it just seemed that way (even to them).

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I'm growing increasingly tired of my country and have begun thinking about leaving it. That's not something I'll do in the near future, but perhaps in a couple of years or so. Maybe it's just a daydream and something that'll never happen. I don't know. Given all my fears, changing country is about the most frightening thing I can imagine doing. Next after having my eyes cut out and getting jail-raped and burning in hell and about a million other things. But right after those million other things, leaving this nation is the worst. But the thought of it also excites me. A daydream only? Only time can tell.

Since I'm not moving next week, I got plenty of time to consider different places to live in. Let's try to outline things to consider. I don't know at this time exactly want I want in each area, or the relative importance of each area (or whether I have identified all areas.)

Climate. I want the right temperature and 'precipitation' (that's how my dictionary translates it into. You know, the amount of rain and snow, if any.) Well, I like it fairly cool, but perhaps slightly warmer than here. Some rain would be nice, snow doesn't matter.

Geography. Do I want to live near the ocean? Near mountains? Forest? Stuff like that. Well, living near the ocean is nice. I think. I don't take much advantage of that here though. Do I care for forests? I don't know.

Population. Do I want it sparsely populated or more crowded? Relatively sparsely, no doubt., yet I absolutely don't want an "everyone knows everyone" type of situation. Actually, I like the population density here. Enough people so that no one knows anyone, but not so much it feels crowded (like I imagine that New York would feel, although that's a great city in other ways.)

Work. I want there to be computer-related jobs available, thanks.

Dwelling. I want to be able to get an apartment in a decent area.

Idea climate. What kind of philosophical ideas that are popular. Hey, I'm an Objectivist, so the nearer those ideas the culture is, the better. Also, I've had enough of this nation's rampant anti-Americanism (and anti-Israelism), and I want to escape that.

The people. How do I want them to be? This is going to be a tough one both to discover in myself what I want, and to discover how the people are in any given area.

High-Tech...iness. The cornerstone in my life is internet and my broadband connection. That has to be widely available so that wherever I get my apartment I'll have easy access to a cheap broadband connection.

I feel no pride at all being a citizen here. I want to live somewhere where I can feel I belong and be proud of. I've always assumed that the problem is just me and that things would feel the same wherever I live. But perhaps I feel this way partly because of where I live. I've become slightly more extrovert of late, been thinking more about how my environment affects me.

Thinking along these lines is exciting. Scary but potentially valuable. The place I have my eyes on right now is Auckland, New Zealand.

Friday, June 09, 2006


No, I'm not dead so stop celebrating. I'm here and I'm ready to terrorize you with more info from the evil side.

I have no really good reason for my absence, so I won't even try explain myself. Instead I'll just laugh evilly to distract you. Muhahaha.

But really. Writing here is high on my priority list. I just don't do it. I guess I'm weird. Perhaps I'm lying. Again with the evil laughter.

Monday, February 20, 2006

psychotherapy, the importance of actions

N. Branden on psychotherapy:
As I propose to make clear, psychotherapy is properly to be conceived as a process of education through which the patient is (a) led to understand the deficiencies in his method of thinking, and the errors in his values and premises, that underlie his problems; and (b) taught how to improve the efficacy of his thinking processes, and to replace irrational values and premises with rational ones.
And that's all there is to it. When I look at those words, I get a feeling of clarity, as if I'm on the verge of some breakthrough; that I'm close to making a brilliant mental connection that will solve my problems, or at least initiate a process that eventually leads there. That's never the case though (although it is helpful).

The problem is often that I read/hear something that makes perfect sense, while at the same time I have no idea how to use it to my advantage. The added knowledge has some value in itself, of course (it will help future though-processes in numerous ways).

Most of the time in past, though, I've been perfectly content with just stocking my subconscious with truths of various (relevant) kind, but now I've beginning to think more about how I can translate it into action.

From the same essay as above:

As we have discussed, many elements are involved in therapy: helping the patient to identify his feelings and desires, teaching him more effective ways of thinking, leading him to understand his conflicts, etc. Nevertheless, it is vital to keep the patient thinking of his problems in terms of action. By what actions (psycho-epistemological or existential) did he contribute to the creation of his problem? By what action can he move towards the attainment of the kind of life he wants?

Monday, February 13, 2006


I don't always realize the significance of motivation. I tend to think that motivation is nice, but not necessary. That work can be done even if I lack motivation, just that it's harder. However, that's probably not true. Lack of motivation is a barrier as real as a concrete wall. It makes work not only more difficult, but literally impossible.

Some interesting questions:

What kind of thing is motivation?

How can it be developed, long term?

How can it be increased short term?

How can one discover which motivations oneself has? (I mean all of it, some things are pretty clear.)

What is the relationship between motivation and values? (Except for the obvious, that values motivate.)

The relationship between motivation and feelings? (Again, except for the obvious...)

Okay, stop it. I can just go on and on with questions, and then feel that I have to work on all at once, and feel overwhelmed and kind of helpless, and give it all up. (This is the feeling of mental overload, which itself is an interesting topic for analysis, but not here and now.)

How can motivation be strengthened?

It helps to believe that you can reach your goals. First, that requires having goals. Second, you need self-confidence. And self-confidence can only be achieved by in fact being capable of achieving your goals, and knowing that you are. And to have that capacity, you need to be rational. Which means, having an active, reality-oriented mind.

I think the above reasoning holds, but it somehow feels empty and I'm not sure where to go from here. How does that apply to me and what do these abstractions mean concretely?

For starters, which are my existential goals, and what inner state do I hope to experience by achieving them?
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