Thursday, April 03, 2003

The clutter in my house is ganging up on me again. So of course, I am at my computer. I need to put the laundry away and clean the house. And we might want to eat later on, so I should think about that too. But not right now. Right now I’m going to explain why I think it’s so hard to tackle all of this stuff, because it’s easier than tackling all of this stuff.

STAY WITH ME HERE because I think I may have hit on something. This is the best way I can explain it: Draw three dots, but not in a row. Now draw as many lines as you can between the three dots.

OK, so you’ve drawn three lines, unless you’ve cheated. NOW, draw a fourth dot and you will notice that now, even though you’ve only added one dot, you can draw a total of six lines. If you think of each line as a “relationship”, they could be compared to “synergy”. My dictionary defines synergy as "the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects." In the scenario where you only have 3 dots, there are 3 relationships. With 4 dots, you have 6 relationships. This, I believe, is a simple way to explain the concept of “overwhelm” to people who just don’t get it.

Don’t get me wrong, I like synergy as much as the next guy does. It’s just that there is “positive synergy” and “negative synergy”, depending on the situation. In business, or creative situations, synergy can be positive. You may have noticed how many businesses have 4 or more partners. That’s because it works with people too – it optimizes what each of them brings to that business, or how a business really seemed to take off after reaching a total of 4 partners. With 4 (or more) you get synergy.

Now, back to the subject of “overwhelm”. People who tend to think in “straight lines” aren’t worried about what comes next, because the dots can only be connected in one way when you have a straight line. If something unexpected comes up, they can usually fit it into their schedule, perhaps by eliminating or rescheduling something else, and proceed with their day. People who don’t have their “dots in a row” see all kinds of relationships and possibilities. It can be an advantage - this is how things are invented! But, while it's great if you're trying to invent something, it does not really help you do laundry.

With so many relationships, on a list of six chores, we see much more than those six chores. I don't know how much more we see, but it’s more than I have fingers. Just trying to figure out THE ORDER in which to do those things can drive a person to play video games! And you don’t even want to get me started on the matter of changing plans and “picking up where you left off.” There is no such thing! If plans are changed once the day is in motion, the momentum is completely lost. “Picking up where we left off” is actually starting over from the beginning, except that now there is less time.

If you are wondering what the solution is, try changing your approach, and as much as possible, have other people do the things you have difficulty with. You’ve got to find WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, whether it’s “normal” or not. And remember that momentum overcomes “negative synergy”. Keeping up is easier than starting over. But I’m one to talk: what do I have on my to-do list today? Burn the house down. It works for me, and I think I can get it done in 3 steps.


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