In the Flow...

life balance
I always find the human spirit's power of regeneration quite amazing. However I barely have time to examine the content of my briefcase, let alone analysis my journal. 'GTD', on the other hand, is great for turning normal human beings into highly effective productivity machines – or in my case a listing machine. ;) - and yet I find it lacking in depth. I find myself consistently seeking a roadmap to organisational happiness. Therefore the purpose of this article is to find a harmonious balance between productivity and humanist values, via paper and pen.

Note: this article will assume one already has a productivity methodology in place. If not please refer to the further read section below for suggestions.

First Steps on the Road to Freedom; An affirmation is simply a statement that something is true However research shows (Creswell et al, 2005) that personal affirmations act not only as a psychological buffer but can also reduce stress.

Take a sheet of paper and write down at least ten positive statements about yourself. All in the first person, present tense. For example: “I am a creative being” “I touch the hearts of those around me”. Add the ten favourites to your organiser or journal. Ideally, these should be reviewed at the same time as one's Next Actions or To-do list for the next three to five weeks. It is also advisable to review ones affirmations before any stressful event occurs. The reason for this is once the hormones are released no amount of personal affirmations will speed up it's removal. After the first five week, do not be afraid to add new affirmations or remove those that no longer reflect one's values. One's statements are not set in stone, they should be a visible manifestation of an 'inner-self'.

An alternative option is the 'Personal Mission Statement' (PMS) as described by Doug and inno

The “You are Here” Roadmap:; As Eliza states; “Before you set out for any journey, whether it's a family vacation or a spiritual quest, you first need to know where you are.“ However, I prefer to take a slightly different route. Take four pieces of paper. At the top of the first piece write 'Vocation'(1) followed by; Now, 'My life in two years', My life in five years' 'My life realised'. Do the same for 'Space', i.e. The place you live; 'Relationships' e.g. colleagues, acquaintances, family, friends. Anyone who is involved in your life. Finally 'Self'. This is the hardest and yet the most important page. It may help if one imagines being cast a drift on a desert island. Apart from one's D*I*Y planner and a packed lunch, what dreams will you pursue with no one to hinder them?

Take the four lists you made in the last exercise and select a 'destination' you want to reach. Can you get there in the next 5 minutes? Then do so. If not write each one down in your organiser or journal as an objective or as Allen (2001) puts it 'project'.

Fig1 Balancing the Wheel; Our personal objectives will have 'Next Actions'(2) in the same way as work based projects. These can also be classified by context For example: @Spiritual, @Physical, @Cognitive and @Social. If one is not sure which category a task or 'Next Action' should be listed in try this simple exercise: Take a sheet of quad-ruled (squared) paper and draw a cross on it (Fig. 1). Adding the titles as illustrated. Make some slips of paper and write an objective or project on each one. . As you place your slip of paper try to visualise each step as you go though your mental list of 'actions'. E.g.: Gardening is both physical task and a spiritual one (connecting with nature). Playing with one's D*I*Y planner *cough* is cognitive and can be spiritual too (as in the ritual aspect). Place your tasks where they feel most the most comfortable for you.

Fording the Stream of Consciousness; Journalling has been around, in various forms for hundreds of years. Although it is Progoff who first formalised it as an instrument for healing and self-development, More recent research tells us, expressive writing actually lessens stress and improves working memory capacity. (Klein 2001) While Journalling itself need be nothing more than random thoughts,scribbled down creating a framework will help with writing, processing and harvesting.

Free thinking - Just write down whatever comes into your mind.

Maintaining a dialogue – Starting a written conversation with one's self; with someone you admire, or a fictions character, can help one develop a clearer understanding of a problem. Writing down arguments then debating the points allows us to focus our 'verbal thoughts' and may help negate negative 'self-talk'.

Drawing on one's thoughts – Ideas, problems and solutions can all be represented in diagrammatic form. Start by visualising your thoughts then quickly sketch them down. There is no need for a masterpiece, simple interconnecting shapes will do. It is important to understand the human brain is not a computer, there is no need for elaborate algorithms, one's unconscious will fill the gaps. Combined with writing, this makes a powerful tool for processing one's mind.

Write your own biography – Start by choosing ten milestones from your life and write them down. There maybe happy times you wish to remember, or shadows lurking in the back of your consciousness that one feels a need to process. Closure and solace maybe found in the writing of unsent letters. Not only to those that have hurt us but loved ones too. (q.v. "Dear Me": Writing Letters to Yourself)

Review, harvest, process – unlike the essay, journals can be used as a doorway to one's inner self. Try to review you writing after a month, two months a year. How have you developed as a person? Are there any hidden dreams you wish to pursue? Ideas for a book or a research programme? The cathartic nature of journalling can release all of this.

No Man is an Island; Role theory suggests that rather than 'self-actualizing' individuals, the self is subjugated and we are merely social actors, playing a collection of pre-defined roles imposed on us by society. For example one's 'role set' may include 'Father', 'train driver' and 'friend'. However, as Goffman (1963) points out, so also can gender, race and 'criminal'. Although some would suggest we live our roles in a constant state of reflection (quietly or otherwise) (Giddens, 1991) they fail to provide a convincing argument. However according to Croucher (1995) “It is when the person has been able to fuse themselves with their role, that they will derive most satisfaction from their roles.” There is also evidence to suggest negative stress (role strain) may be reduced if one defines and compartmentalises their roles. With this in mind, D*I*Y Planner provides us with the Harmony Template. See Doug's article for further details.


1/(a) I use the word vocation instead of 'career' or 'work' to signify that in order to attain a 'will to self' one must have a feeling of suitability for the task, it should not be a labour.

(b) I include all tasks, from stay at home mothers to Chairman of the Board.

2/ Allen (2001) defines a Next Action. as the very next physical activity that needs to be engaged, in order to a move project forward.


* Creswell J D, Welch W T, Taylor S E, Sherman D K , Gruenewald TL, Mann T, (2005). Affirmation of Personal Values Buffers Neuroendocrine and Psychological Stress Responses. Journal of Psychological Science, 11. 846 - 851.

* Allen, David (2001) Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Penguin.

* Klein, K. and Boals, A. (2001). Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 520-533.

* Goffman, Erving (1963) Stigma Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Prentice-Hall Inc

* Giddens, Anthony (l991) Modernity and Self-Identity. Cambridge: Polity Press

* Croucher, Rowland (1995) Ex-pastors: what happens when clergy leave parish ministry? Role theory, role dissonance and the role exit process. [on-line] Priscilla's Friends Available from: [Cited 12 September 2006]

Further reading:

Syndicate content