When the Mind Sweep Flags Too Much and Bombs

by Chris McGinty

I’ve brought up David “not that David Allen, and not that David Allen, nor that David Allen” Allen in a few posts over the last year or so. He is the creator of the “Getting Things Done” system. The basic idea of GTD is just to get everything out of your head into a system you can trust. In some ways we all have a system like this. Nathan at one point, and maybe he still does it, would send himself a quick note to his email to remember to do something. Nathan checks his email way more than I do. In fact, the last time that I checked it was… oh, about two hours ago. But before that it was a long time… well, actually before that time it was a long time. I promise you I’m way more disorganized about my email than the last couple of days suggest.

There are so many facets of the GTD system that it’s easy to misrepresent it in a blog post that’s only around eight hundred words, so I would suggest looking into it along with the works of “Lord” Brian Tracy. The main things are capturing any idea you have as you have it, and processing those ideas. When you first use the system and usually once a week after that you’re supposed to do a “mind sweep.” This is where you try to find flags while avoiding bombs… it’s not. I just couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t make that joke at least once. So you try to find flags while… or twice.

Yeah, this is pretty much what I feel like my To Do Lists would look like to outside observers.

When you mind sweep, you write down everything that is on your mind. You get it all down and it presumably clears your mind to focus on the more important things knowing that you’ll always have everything else captured for review later, usually during a weekly review. I do a weekly review about once every month or so… Oh, I see. I’m screwing that up entirely.

This is the book in question, apparently the audio book cover. You know how sometimes you say I read this book, but them you realize you actually listened to the book being read to you? Well, I actually read this one, so this picture is misleading to my experience. This blurb has nothing to do with anything, so I’m going to move on.

The problem I’m running into is the same problem I run into with ideas. I have too many of them. I was telling Nathan about the insane number of board game and card game ideas that I have. Where these came from is that while delivering I will often brainstorm by either turning on the voice recorder or the dictation app that I have. It’s not much of an exaggeration, if it’s an exaggeration at all, to say that I probably have around 100 game ideas at this point. I don’t know if any of them work or would be any fun, I just have the ideas. I somewhat wonder if this is what happens with Steve Jackson Games. Yeah, I totally had some teatime in the shade AF, or whatever it is the kids say these days.

My mind sweeps end up being their own source of stress because I feel like I’m supposed to get to everything on those lists, even though reasonably I know that I’m not. I was doing a mind sweep before I wrote this, and I had a realization. I listed 26 things in around as many minutes. I was cooking and eating lunch while I was at it, or I might have written more. If I only focused on these 26 items for the next seven days, I don’t think I would have enough time to finish everything I wrote down.

I’m not saying that I’ve never heard of prioritization before, or that I’m unaware of why it’s important. I’m just saying that my brain has a hard time with actually measuring the amount of time that something will take and I make this odd presumption that I definitely have time to do it all. The problem is that two of the things I wrote down might take all week. One is to schedule three weeks worth of blog posts and the other is to go through all of my recent dictation files and divvy up each individual idea to the appropriate file. Just doing these two things would be huge for me, but then there are 24 other things that have to be put off, and somehow that bothers me.

I’ll likely just have to get over all of this in some way. I’ll have to really start using a “someday maybe” list that’s way longer than my current projects lists, which is something that I think I’m worried about doing just because I’m somewhat delusional about how much I can get done. There are only so many flags you can find… or three times.

Chris McGinty is a blogger with a lot on his mind.

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