The stuff on my desk is beyond organizing. I have not cleared my email inbox for weeks. I have not done a Weekly Review for months – sorry David Allen. I am a lapsed Getting Things Done-er, and it kind of scares me. I lurch from deadline to deadline, mainly for my weekly Kindle Chronicles podcast, put to bed yesterday afternoon. I’m enjoying the Day After Deadline Reprieve when a long week stretches out before me, full of opportunities to “get organized.” Instead, today I took a photo of the pile of stuff and TwitPic-ed it to Twitter. Next I will blog about it. It’s all I can think to do at this point. The pile is too overwhelming. It does look pretty, though, with sunlight cast upon it from the tall windows. The Yorkie Claire just hopped up on my leather chair, looking for food I might have dropped. I’m listening to Norah Jones-like songs on Pandora. I’ve got a warm dose of Starbucks Christmas Blend in my mug, next to a bowl of little carrots. The carrots have a suspicious white covering, because they’ve been in the refrigerator for weeks, ready for that day when I decide to replace cookies and potato chips with healthy snacks. Today might be that day.
But what about the pile of Stuff? How about if I reach over there and pull out a plum, a representative sample? And it’s….
A pie chart of proposed investments optimistically labeled “Growth with Moderate Income.” That would be nice! It all looks so orderly. The pie has geometrically perfect wedges for fixed income, alternatives, emerging markets, international equities, US equities, and cash. I need to file it somewhere. The David Allen method is coming back to me, like a religion that I once believed in. I bought the labeler for neatly printed file folder labels. I know the drill. But should I file this pretty pie here or in Denver? I have no idea. I eat a carrot. I told my financial wizard that it looks fine, so he will implement the strategy. He will send me emails, and we’ll have an in-person meeting in a few months to see how the “growth” part of the strategy is doing. So I’m done with this piece of paper. Into the wastebasket it goes. Next!
I look the other way and reach for the pile, as if I’m drawing a winning lottery number. It feels like, yes it is…
…a piece of mail, and it hasn’t even been opened yet! I slice the top with a wooden opener that my sister gave me for Christmas or a birthday. The smooth wood feels good, and all of a sudden I am channeling Nicholson Baker, observing my life at a granular level where everything, if you catch it right, which he always seems to do–it all seems literary and amazing. Take this zen-like swoop of wood that someone carved and sanded and stained with care and attention, with letter opening in mind. I’ve never really noticed it before. What a nice gift. It does the job, delivering to my view information from my bank about my finances, a “snapshot” with tables and bar graphs – no pies and no color. I can find all this information online, so it nicely follows the pie chart into the trash.
But what would David Allen do with this vague prompting that I feel to tell the bank they can quit sending me paper reports? I’m not ready for that, actually. It feels more responsible to deal with paper on a regular basis, scanning the reports with a knowing eye, the way I remember my father poring over green budget paper at his desk after work. I always assumed he could see into those numbers all the way to the next market turn, up or down. So I want to keep getting paper; it connects me with Dad, whose desk in his office in Harvard Square always has lots of piles on it. He loves plowing through them, throwing things away, getting his desk clean once in a while. At 82, he always seems happy when he’s working at his desk, leaning toward his big Mac screen, his hand on a mouse and his mind looking into numbers to see things before they happen. Next!
Here’s a good one, a book by Jay Berkowitz that he emailed me, because I was the first one to send him a Direct Message on Twitter in response to a question. I met Jay at a Podcamp Boston and loved his enthusiasm and kindness as he presented a session about podcasting. This book is The Ten Golden Rules of Online Marketing Workbook: Turn Your Website into a Profit Center. I started reading it this morning, which makes it the first paper book I’ve read in months. I even found an orange highlighter and enjoyed the tactile pleasure of marking the paper with it, something I guess I miss from my Kindle reading. Highlighting on the Kindle is cool, too, and there’s the advantage that I can go to kindle.amazon.com and see all the passages of books I’ve highlighted. I don’t ever really do that, but I could. I’d like to read Jay’s book and use it to strategize what might be ahead for the Kindle Chronicles. It’s enough of a challenge to maintain my rock-solid commitment to posting the podcast every single Friday. To consider changing its focus, or how to keep up with the wonderful flow of comments I receive from listeners–those are tasks which I sometimes ponder for a couple of days after the last episode is safely posted on the Internet, when the week feels long and unhurried. But by Tuesday it’s time to plan the next interview, to paw through my Google Reader feed for news stories, to figure out the Tech Tip. I’ll put Jay’s book on the round extension from my leather chair (Claire’s left, having found nothing to eat there), which means it will be handy to reach for in the coming days. … I just tweeted Jay to thank him. He actually sent me two copies of the book, so if you’d like one, let me know somehow. It’s even got a free CD featuring past episodes of his good podcast. Next!
I touch rough fabric, and find my “Life is Good” bag beneath a layer of paper. I love this bag. It’s where I carry my Kindle, or nook, or MacBook Air when I’m out and about. This morning it contains my Olympus LS-10 recorder, which I realize contains the last recording I did of my father in our “Decades” project. We sit down once a week with the Olympus, and he speaks into my Edirol CS-15 microphone, referring to careful notes he’s prepared with help from his journals. Each session covers 10 years. We began with zero to 10, and the one I have not yet transferred to GarageBand covers 60 to 70. He talks without interruption for about 20 minutes, and then we take a short break before I take the mic for another 20-minute recording of questions about things he’s mentioned. It’s one of the most satisfying projects I’ve been doing during this long stay in Cambridge, and Dad seems to be enjoying it, too. The result will be available only for family. I love the idea of my three-year-old grandson someday being able to listen to “Decades” as a young man, perhaps in the middle of his career, wondering where to turn. These recordings will give him the opportunity to learn what his great-grandfather did at a similar time in his life, and he’ll hear the resonant, strong voice of that man, preserved for many decades to come. Action: Connect the Olympus to the MacBook Pro with a black USB cable (remembering Nicholson Baker’s engaging rant about how come they designed that damn USB connection so you only have a 50-50 chance of ever having it right-side-up when you press it into the port). I move the two audio files to the laptop, with a copy up in my MobileMe cloud, where I assume they will be safe as a backup. Next?
Well, I think I’ll end the game here. I have figured out a way to make some progress on my Stuff while scratching the itch to post to my blog. Nice. Darlene is getting ready for our planned Boston outing, to see a craft fair somewhere, and maybe catch George Clooney’s latest hit, “Up in the Air.” All of this grand Stuff will be waiting for me when I return. It’s the stuff of my life, is all. No need to let it torture and torment me. Thank goodness I’m not done with it yet…. Next?