Embrace Your Inner Race Horse

By January 16, 2007Getting Things Done

I’m not a big horse guy. I don’t know much about them because, well, they don’t excite me; I’m a geek, I like science fiction and video games! But, as I was thinking through my practice of GTD, looking for the reasons I’ve strayed from the path, I was struck with a horse analogy. Strange, right?

The Value of Blinders

Horse with BlindersAs a race horse speeds down the track, apparently they’re easily distracted. I’ve never seen what happens when something catches their eye, but I imagine it could be funny. (Haha, just kidding.) Humor aside, they certainly won’t win the race. It’s their ability to keep their eye on the track, moving forward at break-neck speed, that makes the difference.

Anyway, Wikipedia defines blinders as:

a set of leather straps attached to the bridle of a horse to prevent it from seeing to its side. They are used to keep horses from being distracted or spooked, especially on crowded city streets.

This little device keeps the horses’ peripheral vision from clouding their judgement as they speed down the track, moving towards their goal. Why am I telling you this? I need those!

Announcement: Jeff Needs Blinders!

It doesn’t hurt my pride to admit it. As I’m chugging through my day, I’m always referring back to my action list. But, I wasn’t doing a very good job at separating the things that are truly important, on my immediate radar, from the other minutia of my life.

So, every time I referred back to my list, like the horse that catches a glint in his eye, something stupid catches my attention. One of the many not-very-important things on my list jumps out and I think, “Oh yah! I do need to make a foil hat!”

If you find this happening to you, you might benefit from blinders, too.

Blinders in GTD

The key, for me anyways, is to make sure I have one place to look that is tactically designed for the short term (a few days.) Through judicious use of your Someday/Maybe list, you can keep your Projects list and your Context lists much more focused. If you’re not REALLY going to try and do that action before your next review, keep it on Someday/Maybe where it’s out of site. Then, bring it back when you’re ready.

There are so many things that I need to get out of my head to feel like I’ve truly captured it all. As I began practicing GTD, I kept the bulk of that in my Projects and Next Action (context) lists. I used my Someday/Maybe for things like, “One day, I want to build a deck.”

But, by having so many things staring at me every time I went to look at my lists, I was always off to make another damn foil hat! As my practice has matured, I’ve learned to push most of the bulk into my Someday/Maybe list, and keep my Projects and Next Action lists more streamlined.

On a good day, I feel like that horse barreling down the race track with my blinders on… focused… moving forward with no distraction. That’s the good stuff; that’s why I love GTD. Plus, how many foil hats does one guy need?

  • Great post Jeff. Really illustrates one of the most important parts of GTD, especially in today’s distraction rich environment.

    For me I probably go overboard with my blinders. When I need to focus I shut everything else down and I meticulously set up my lists so that I can easily hide what I don’t want to look at. I need to remember that sometimes it helps to see the big picture and that too many micro-lists can be a distraction all their own.