My workspace is a “wilderness of free association” that leaves me surrounded by projects in process that in many cases represent insurmountable opportunities. My desktop is also a matrix of files that makes some people intensely uncomfortable when they see it.
In a Wilderness of Free Association
Surrounded by Insurmountable Opportunities
“I’m always jotting things down on pieces of paper. I’ve got pieces of paper all over my house.”
I have books, 3×5 cards, graph paper, and ripped out magazine articles scattered all over my house. Many are written on, some are in file folders or sealed into clear plastic bags, or piled in book cases or book boxes stacked in closets. Under a consent decree I have negotiated with other members of the household, I can still buy books, but I have to give one away for every one that I do buy. I got a Kindle for Christmas a few years back but never really took to it. I have purchased a few dozen e-books that I read using the Amazon cloud reader in my browser but I still find books easy to read for long periods of time compared to a screen or tablet.
For client work we are still standardized on Central Desktop as our primary repository, each client gets their own private workspace. But don’t know that a small consulting firm is viewed as a desirable customer any longer by Central Desktop and we have been searching for several years for a viable alternative that would give us the ability to create multiple independent workspaces with the power of a wiki for organization and the ability to clone a new workspace from a template.
Suggestions I have not followed up on…yet:
- Use a sketch on a 3×5 card to illustrate an individual blog post with one of the principles we follow or a diagram of a common challenge.
- Create a useful subject index for the blog, there are more than 1200 posts now and it’s a challenge to navigate.
- Collect a dozen or so posts into an e-book or series of e-books. I am collaborating on one about finding a co-founder but it’s taking longer than we planned.
- Publish a list of good ideas for products that I won’t have time to follow up on.
Six things that I recommitted to this year that are making a difference:
- Getting to bed by 11pm and getting up at 6am–and many days I come close.
- Meditating morning and evening.
- Reading two books a week.
- Low carb (and alternate day fasting when possible).
- Counting my blessings, writing thank you notes, writing LinkedIn endorsements for people I have enjoyed working with.
- “Playing our own game” by continuing to focus on bootstrappers who leverage expertise or innovative technology to attack niche markets .
“Unhealthy people have more time than energy.
Healthy people have more energy than time.
Postscript: I realized that my sense of being overwhelmed with ideas and the terrible feeling of too many promising things either unstarted or unfinished gives me a fair amount of empathy for the engineers and scientists we work with who often express the same frustrations. Of course their problems are easy and mine are hard, or I am at least able to gain a better perspective on their challenges than mine. One of the things that may have made Churchill a great leader in Britain when things were at their darkest in WW2 was that he had suffered from recurring bouts of depression and knew the way back from a sense of bleak hopelessness. I understand what it means to have too many ideas and not enough time, and while I can’t say I have come up with a system to master it I know a lot of things that don’t work and have some sense of how to prioritize.
A note on the title: I remixed two quotes, one from the movie “First Monday in October” and other from Walt Kelly (Pogo).
“Dan: Mess? To you it’s a mess, to me it’s a wilderness of free association. Don’t ever straighten up my desk, Mason–I’d never be able to find anything.”
Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee “First Monday in October(1979)”
It’s funny how a phrase can stick with you from a movie.
“We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”
Walt Kelly, “Pogo” (comic strip)
I used this in my “Quotes For Entrepreneurs–November 2011” blog post