workflow mastery



Kourosh Dini, MD


Workflow Mastery
Building from the Basics
Kourosh Dini, MD

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics

© 2009-2014 Kourosh Dini

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ISBN (PDF): 978-0-9860192-6-5 ; (ePub): 978-0-9860192-7-2; (mobi): 978-0-9860192-8-9

The Dini Group, Ltd., Chicago, IL 60603

Cover art, graphics art, art direction by Matt Strieby of New Leaf Design.

Editing by Alyse Aiello of Stormwood Editing Services.

This product uses Getting Things Done® or GTD® Principles. It is not affiliated with, approved or endorsed by David
Allen or the David Allen Company, which is the creator of the Getting Things Done® system for personal
productivity. GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. For more
information on the David Allen Company’s products the user may visit their website at

OmniFocus is a registered trademark and is used under license by the Omni Group. For more information on The
Omni Group’s products the user may visit their website at For OmniFocus, please visit

Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

It is not the purpose of this book to cover the full range of information that is otherwise available on this topic,
but instead to complement, amplify, and supplement other texts. You are urged to read all available material and
tailor the information to your individual needs.

Every effort has been made to make this book as accurate as possible. However, there may be mistakes, and with
all the rapid changes online, some details may be inaccurate by the time you read this. Therefore, this text should
be used only as a general guide and not as the ultimate source of information on the topic.

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for Badri and Morteza

thank you

This world is made of many things, but none are as important as its people. I could
not write books, create music, or conduct therapy without the education, support,
and inspiration of those around me.

Thank you ...

Don, Badri, and Morteza for your ever wonderful and continued support.

Barrie for helping me clear my head.

Brent and Essi for helping me stay on track.

Matt and Alyse for helping me realize the vision.

to my clients who continually teach me the meaning of strength.

to my mentors through the years—Al, Norm, Bonnie, Marie, Mark, Frank, Ed, Cliff,
and Lawrence—for your continual guidance.

to those who have enjoyed and supported my previous writings, allowing me a
confidence to continue writing.

to Antonio, Ben Broeckx, Dom Goucher, Michael Schechter, Michael Vardy, Tim
Stringer, and Jeff Zack for your helpful comments in developing the book.

to The Omni Group, David Allen, Merlin Mann, David Sparks, Brett Kelly, and all of
those who thrive in and contribute to a community about productivity and
meaningful work.

and, mostly, thank you to Teresa, Viviana, and Mila who continue to introduce me
to reality in the best possible way.



Beauty grows reaching for the sun.

- table of contents -

Introduction 9
Trust & Play 19
Acknowledgement 34
Organization 51
Workflows & Intentions 88
Sessions 132
Accommodating Sessions 141
Endings Sessions 163
Session Ideals 177
Regular Sessions & Habits 185
Stations & Task Management 212
Useful Station Workflows 239
Guides & Task Management 268
Silence 289
Agency 308
From Worry To Courage 325
Mastery 366
Error, Meaning, & Decision 426
Connection 458
An Example in Creating Music 484
Appendix A: Specific Examples Of Decision 526
Appendix B: Organizational Details 538
Appendix C: On Meditation 563
Appendix D: Glossary 567
Appendix E: Odds & Ends 579

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 8






dear reader

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics is a major revision from its predecessor
Workflow: Beyond Productivity. While making a video representation of the work, I
stumbled into new ideas that threw much of the original book into new light. It
was impossible to continue without returning to the source. Each adjustment
became a nidus of rippling effects. Each change created the need for others, which
in turn would create more. Therefore, I have revised, if not re-written, large portions
of the text.

Entire sections have been reworked. Acknowledgement, once considered nearly an
afterthought, now has a front and center role. Intentions are now only a type of
Workflow. The sections on Organization, the Session, Task Management, and more
have been completely redesigned. Many definitions have been updated. Exercises
and examples have been added to highlight principles both in context of simple
everyday matters and larger projects.

Interestingly, the more I explore, the more I find concepts that are well established.
Perhaps this means that Workflow Mastery has grown closer to at least some truths.
The concepts of the workflow must be timeless and universal.

Reworking the text has been an experience much like any creative work—a
combination of many wide-ranging emotions and thoughts. I’ve enjoyed it. There’s
something to be said about learning to enjoy a good problem.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 10


No prior reading is needed for this text. An early vision was that it would be a
companion piece to my work Creating Flow with OmniFocus: Mastering Productivity,
a book about task management and guiding one’s attention purposefully
throughout the day. Workflow Mastery still functions as a companion, though it has
since evolved to stand on its own.

My interests in psychoanalysis have most certainly influenced my writing. Concepts
of meaning and motivation are intricately woven throughout the discipline and
have clearly found their way into these words.

Among others, I am indebted to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, as his
work has been very useful to my development of thoughts about the workflow.
While familiarity with the Getting Things Done book is not necessary for reading this
book, I believe it would be beneficial.

Another source that has been quite helpful is Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery, a
book about learning to find mastery playing music. His work is not aimed at
productivity per se. However, it has been at least as influential to me as any other
work in the field. Mastery and productivity are, quite likely, facets of the same thing
I am trying to examine.

A listing of other influential books and their respective authors is included in the

- Kourosh

April 6, 2014

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 11

a quick start Learning workflow skills is simpler than the span of this text may suggest. Things that can wait have a place to wait. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 12 . preferably out of sight. However. • Write everything unrelated to the work that comes to mind. This is very important. ! If this is the first time you are doing this exercise. • Place the materials of the chosen work in front of you. Let us begin with a very practical exercise that distills several of its principles: ! • Choose something you would like to do. • Pause. When you can pause for several moments with little else coming to mind. • Move everything unrelated to your chosen work away from you. • Take out an empty piece of paper or prepare a blank computer document. consider this stage complete. having simply done this. the process may take some time. you now have the work in front of you and have reduced the potential of both internal and external distractions.

considering how well it will be off of your mind. begin wrapping up: ! • Write down an idea that will help you to remember where you left off. but be sure to at least place them individually where you believe they would be most useful. • Put the work somewhere that is easy to get to but also out of the way. • Return to the earlier list of ideas and tasks you had written. however that might appear. Write what is necessary. pause and put aside distractions. • As needed. • Allow the work to come to mind. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 13 . just as was done above. ! Done regularly and with some maintenance. • Pause again. • Place that task “on top” of the work. placing the tasks wherever needed. ! When you feel done with the work. Do not necessarily do them now. this simple set of habits can carve the channels of a powerful working system. until you honestly believe it will be off of your mind.

The more advanced follow: Trust & Play describes the conditions in which we think and the natural state of mind. Active reflection allows time for you to disagree. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 14 . highlighted as areas of exercise. however. but most fundamental are presented up front. come up with your own thoughts related to your own particular workflow. The most basic. I will define and re-define common terminology. to exclude any other areas in which you may find benefit to pause to try or test a technique or concept. Many of the concepts presented interrelate. in fact. or more importantly. We will consider several proposed components and definitions. agree. Several areas are. though ideas are presented in a building order. I encourage you to pause to try any of the principles described at any point. Acknowledgement describes our most fundamental skill of working with our thoughts. Organization presents how we might decide to arrange our environments for work and play. Workflows & Intentions describes how we can plan our paths of work and play. These are not meant. Throughout the writing. an overview There are any number of angles by which a workflow may be examined.

Regular Sessions & Habits describes the importance of regularity as well as various means of handling time. Meaning. I do hope that Workflow Mastery provides a strong foundation for you to develop whatever you decide to be mastery and meaningful work. Connection describes communicating with an audience. space. Finally. and attention. Mastery presents our fundamental components in arrangements conducive to developing mastery and meaningful work. Useful Station Workflows presents several examples of stations that can offer great benefit with regularity and maintenance. deadlines. and other odds & ends. An Example in Creating in Music presents many of the ideas presented in this text in a grand scheme. details about organization. the Appendices list specific examples of decision. From Worry to Courage begins the more advanced sections of internal work that can lead us to mastery. Error.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 15 . and other pressures. a glossary. thoughts on meditation. Stations & Task Management describes how we can store and arrange our work. Sessions introduces our intentions to the resources of time. & Decision describes guiding factors for agency. Silence describes the benefits of a practiced and matured capacity to acknowledge. Agency describes a major strength that our workflows can support. as we can only do one thing at a time.

.Heraclitus (535–475 BC)
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 16 . ! ! ! Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.

While his co-workers mill about in awe of his “work ethic”. much of our culture has considered the concepts as existing in mutual exclusion. without ever truly acknowledging their practice of harnessing and even delighting in play. His play is hidden or otherwise spent in creating the mask that pretends utility. Others think he is working hard and leave him alone. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 17 . “Working hard” is not a furrowed brow. play. though he has nothing about which to complain. & meaningful work A central theory upon which this text rests is: Mastery and meaningful work develop from guided play. the character himself does nothing of use. The sketch is quite funny while also speaking directly to the issue as humor so often does. He shows the world what he thinks it wants to see in exchange for money and perhaps a few empty looks of admiration from his peers. mastery. We raise our geniuses and champions upon our shoulders. An entertaining Seinfeld sketch shows a character pretending to work with precisely this technique. He deliberately scrunches his face and grunts. Play and work would seem to be at odds. touting their strength in work. thereby fulfilling his plan of avoidance. Somehow. His work is disconnected from his playful self.

which in turn supports us in our paths of maturing play. it must be this ability. What is lost in such broad-stroked attempts of prescribing a work ethic is that success may well be found in a fusion of play and work. It is in that they see the organization of others and believe it would not work for themselves that they are.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 18 . of course. And yet.The cost is extreme. While he may have earned sustenance to feed and clothe himself and a brief entertainment for his friends. In other words. Concepts of work and organization are often laden with a sense that they would stifle play rather than enhance it. right. routine. not engaging in meaningful conversations or truly creating meaningful work. appearing in the midst of otherwise tremendous feats. whenever we see a master at his or her craft. Those who deride habit. Masters of a field regularly dedicate time and attention to a path of practice. He is trapped within. be a continuously shifting flow where our play offers something to the world. creation. and careful arrangements of environment often do so from a sense that play could well be damaged or killed in these perceived iron maidens. success may. If there is a commonality to those who achieve productivity and mastery in work. We seek a simultaneous earning of a living and the support of the self in play so we may develop that play into mastery and meaningful work. His mask functions as would any wall. Organization must take the individual and his or her unique sense of play into account. study. instead. displays a clear beauty of play flowing through work. and organization. a quiet smile. the minutes of his life continue their steady march while he remains within a self-constructed cage.

! ! ! ! Trust & Play

too. perhaps to even empathize with us. is it important to our workflows. It is only when we trust our environments to support us. trust A Primary Stage Trust is a primary stage of infant development. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 20 . to engage trust us when it would be best. and to help us develop what we find to be meaningful. to not be intrusive. As adults. that we can be our best selves. we transition from wishing for such environments to designing and building those environments ourselves. So. Trust allows us to play and be creative in ways that may eventually help us to find mastery and meaningful work.

we will likely not have it on our mind now. We can instead focus on what we choose deliberately at the times we decide are optimal. they no longer intrude. desire. In a sense.What Comes To Mind Ideas and emotions can come to mind because something we find meaningful now demands maintenance or development. projects. Some sensation or thought arises or even intrudes. it will continue to call upon our attention. We become excited about that upcoming trip. This depends upon our trust in our own habit of regularly visiting the calendar and the calendar’s reliability itself. Attempts to suppress thoughts or otherwise distract ourselves in order to focus are a front of falsity to ourselves. provides an excellent example. We cannot focus on creating a nice vacation or preparing the meal without tasks of work intruding or a general sense of anxiety pervading our thoughts. tasks. If we have something scheduled in 3 weeks. Addressing Thoughts When we believe that our meaningful ideas. are being maintained or developed to some degree. experienced as a feeling of anxiety. We worry that we have deadlines. We worry about that phone call we need to make. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 21 . Getting Things Done author David Allen. addressed in whatever way we can fully acknowledge. creating a dissonance. we lose trust in our own experience. Without focusing on it and doing something to address it. or other charged emotion. etc.. We become interested in learning to prepare a new dish.

it will be off of the mind. developed over time. we use an honestly clear mind as the guiding principle of knowing that our environments can be trusted to help us continue developing whatever we find as meaningful. then design our environments and systems accordingly. we engage in a continual clearing of the mind. in fact. Trust is the foundation upon which we can build systems to develop and maintain whatever we find as meaningful. A trusted system allows us to maintain that sense without our direct attention. Examining trust: Trust is a belief. and creating paths for those meaningful things that are currently demanding our attention. that something will continue behaving as it has in the past. such that it may be relied upon. deciding. In other words. “a clear mind”. Our work then becomes considering. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 22 . We consider what it would take to honestly clear the mind. When we do so regularly and repeatedly. Trust & A Clear Mind The guiding principle in Getting Things Done is. Our theory then is: If we can truly and honestly trust something to be when and where it is needed.

we would hope such a state to be more of a desired end result than as an approach. We build our systems so that we can trust that they will optimally remind us of what we want to be reminded of.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 23 . we clear the mind of present concerns while uniquely creating and shaping the useful systems that surround us. what we can improve. and. But a solid organizational system develops in an iterative acknowledgement and addressing of the things that are on the mind. the process becomes more than only about our surroundings. we need to know what it would take of our environments and ourselves to honestly trust them. It is a developed sense of our own capacity to meaningfully decide and act. It may seem odd to consider a clear mind as a centerpiece in building our systems. what we cannot do. We learn what we can do. The process also builds a trust in our selves. so does a trust in our abilities. how we can improve. By regularly placing those things that cannot be done now in places where we honestly and truly believe they may be done. sometimes. only at those times where we would like to be reminded. Another term for this is “confidence”: Confidence is a trust in our ability. As our abilities develop. To build these systems. Trust In Self Further. In many ways. such that it may be relied upon. Plato (424-348 BC)1
 1 http://www.html Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 24 .! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Life must be lived as play.

p54.W.! ! ! ! ! It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality. Winnicott (1896-1971)2
 2 D. Playing and Reality.W. (Brunner-Routledge. D. and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. 2002). Winnicott. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 25 .

We are pulled out of this natural play mindset when something we find to be meaningful demands our attention. The better we can address whatever we find to be meaningful. play A Natural State Of Mind Play is our natural state of mind. or any of the myriad emotion that contribute to the mind’s milieu. be it by way of anxiety. the more readily our mind can return to play. exploring. thinking. We play with the world before us. desire. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 26 . attempting. Play appears when the mind is clear. and retrying.

Play Is Required For Mastery In fact. play is required for mastery. Mastery and meaningful work develop from guided play. Nurturing this gestational state of mind is very much the work of someone on a path of mastery and/or someone interested in creative work. As play is fundamental to our being. we cannot master anything without taking into account and even fully embracing the mind’s natural state of play. Mastery is a practice of play. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 27 .

where we discover both world and self and introduce them to each other. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 28 . and fulfillment when what we are doing right now is sensed as all there is to be doing. joy. In play. Play is the same focus. we interact with the world at its deepest and most meaningful levels. experimentation. 3 John Cleese gives an eloquent description of its needed components. The difference between play for the child and the adult is that the adult must actively dedicate time and space for play. It is both unconscious and conscious and is as much self-discovery as external exploration.3 Play itself can be a daily practice.Finding Play Play is the same for the adult as it is for the toddler.

Meaningful work and mastery are often a byproduct of a journey. perhaps even tangential to our original intentions. for example. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 29 . That cultivation is the process of organization over time. also known as “practice”. As adults. purchase milk. The profoundly complicated actions required to travel to the store. and bring it home could once only be considered a hazy impossibility. we may master writing by having things to say. Take. Conversely. it now is easily accomplished as a result of our individual mastery. formed in some type of play guided and developed in time. Just as we master walking by having places to go. getting milk from the store. we must consider and cultivate the development of our own play towards maturity. just as we may find places to go when we master walking. we may find we have things to say as we learn to speak more clearly. interact with others. handle money.Mastery & Meaningful Work The fulfillment of even the simplest of workflows is the result of many playful intentions developed through infancy and childhood. To find new paths of mastery and meaningful work.

creative. Play is a state we enter when exercising or when performing music. if we have mastered the basics of a craft and learned how to bring this state of mind into its details. play is an actively engaged. “Wayne Gretzky-Style ‘Field Sense’ May Be Teachable.wired.Play Defined Play is the essence of creativity. It can also be achieved while at work. When cultivated well. Winnicott.4 Play is a connection and exploration between self and world. (Brunner-Routledge. It is profoundly meaningful. it is a form of development. Whether as an athlete. and sometimes bold.” Wired. optimal state of learning and creating. Playing and Reality. as a meditative state of mind. It appears most often when conditions are favorable. laughing. sometimes timid. it is a moment that comes about when we feel safe to be ourselves.D. Play is in no way passive. and it is exciting. business person. but when it arrives. It is in no way a consumption without meaning.W. http:// www. p53. we seek a flow where a singular. it carries a sense of fulfillment. 5 Jennifer Khan. Flow is both evidence and manifestation of the play needed for meaningful Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 30 . and perhaps only in playing. fully engaging the experience of the moment. play is reactive. It is a state some professional sports players call the “zone”5. Throughout it all. or artist. cohesive experience imbues the moment. Play is an intense focus. the child or adult is free to be creative” . it is a bringing forth of the self to interact with the environment. We may define play in detail as follows: 4 “… in playing. it fights for its existence and brings a needed vitality to genuinely engage our surroundings. 2002).

Or more simply: Play is the essence of creativity. and action. and reality. question. emotion. often in a relaxed state of heightened attention. logic. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 31 .! Play is a flow between thought. conscious and unconscious. between world and self. It is a connection and movement between intuition. intention.

overwhelm. While the bursting of ideas can mesmerize us into a sense that a project could readily complete itself. an inkling of an interesting character becomes an interaction with an odd environment. Its juxtaposition alongside previously written passages gives the phrase new meanings whereby tracks previously collecting digital dust are now called upon for an eventual collection or album. Strong work requires some organization for its guidance. promising the potential of a novel.The Need To Guide Play It is the guidance of play. an off-hand flourish of notes yields a series of variations. from the original plot. more flood than flow. Play becomes reactive and pushes boundaries. and a growing plot hints at a short story. We must guide the natural playful tendency of mind to and through the knowledge of some craft to grow into mastery and meaningful work. perhaps naturally. albeit buffered by the intervening years. Thoughts and their associations bloom and quicken under the simple light of observation. Sitting at the piano. somewhere we anticipate the moment when creative Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 32 . It is this same play that we seek to cultivate within ourselves. We cannot simply function as an unguided river. Any toddler’s parent can say as much. Initial ideas give way to a series of characters. and carry intermingling feelings eluding description. Paths branch. however. These explosive phases excite. The demand to guide play emerges in the lull beyond the burst of ideas found when meaningful projects begin: While writing. that brings about some mastery.

But it occurs. all the while continuously creating.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 33 . We seek for a means by which play may be guided. We attempt to guide the path of play towards the visions we hold dear. We would find neither nourishment nor shelter. what has been repeated. floodgates having been opened. Each of these details and facts would seemingly detract from the moment in play. and the initial pressures of excitement spent. there would be no structure. The sounds ultimately manifest as a piece of work that we. is an arrangement of notes. the fear of a disheartening disillusion may drive us to look towards other current or past-considered projects. hoping that an alternative may offer an easier chance of bearing fruit. we practice creativity: Creativity is a guidance of play in resolving a vision. he or she holds in intrinsic memory the years of practice and studied theory. Projects may take hold or be abandoned in this crucial time when thought and feeling resolve into trickling brooks. the final product of many decisions. made in the moment yet imbued by an intrinsic memory developed over years. for instance. as ideas held somewhere in mind. In addition to the moment’s sounds. Music. as audience. Without the sense that these rapidly formed ideas can be ultimately actualized. A musician remembers what has been played. and more. We know it when we hear that amazing performance that gives us pause.considerations slow. both instant and pre-considered. Achieving a flow seems to be a paradox if we are to both engage in some freeform state of thought and emotion while also holding the many requirements for work in mind. can hear the power and majestic beauty of play flowing behind. what variations there have been. By guiding play. If all we had were play.

! ! ! ! Acknowledgement

At its simplest. strong. It is a developed skill. acknowledgement is only about considering something until we are done. let us begin with the concept of acknowledgement. Acknowledgement is simultaneously a most subtle and important component of the workflow. The following sections examine its development from attention. In actuality. and be built. or how we might like to direct our work. it is the foundation of any viable system. The boundaries of our ideas. the movements of thought from unconscious to conscious and back are all shaped and influenced by the power of acknowledgement. But I suspect that the strengths of its deliberate use are often missed by its veil of plain sight. acknowledgement is a practice. It is where every aspect can begin. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 35 . enhanced by patience. but I believe its fundamental importance will reveal itself as we progress throughout the text. be measured. through consideration. acknowledgement Gateway To Mastery Acknowledgement is the process by which we create and define the very objects of our worlds. the recognition of our feelings. it is a powerful source for guiding play into forms of work that we may consider flowing. It may seem to be an obvious practice. end. and into a number of benefits that the practice of acknowledgement can provide us. our tasks. So before we think about organization. and even elegant. The concept may seem trivial.

and push ideas together and apart. 2nd edition. The worktable is a temporary station. whether in external observation or introspection. adjust views and perspectives. so we may find work and play.6 It is here where we may actively consider and construct. stretch. Your Memory : How It Works and How to Improve It. the self. for around 30 seconds without active upkeep.Attention & Mind As Worktable Attention is our primary tool and resource: Attention is an active observation of the contents of consciousness. said to have capacity for roughly between five and nine units of information. its reflection arrives in “active” memory. 2001) Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 36 . is the worktable of the mind. and the interactions in between via attention. By utilizing attention to focus upon present experience. we may cater to and adjust for the mind’s worktable as it is. When we consciously place our attention upon some object. an area very much subject to the climates of emotion and concern. also known as short-term memory. It is delicate and subject to major disruptions by any whimsical distraction. We direct the mind to perceive the world. 6 Kenneth Higbee. pull. It is this worktable upon which we work and play. (Da Capo Press. Active memory.

Without doing so. Consideration is simply the process of focusing attention upon an experience. we need to see our experiences clearly. and have a means of restoring ourselves when confused. however. At every moment. We need to be able to say to ourselves that we understand an experience as far as we reasonably can. It could be a concrete concept. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 37 . We do not give our naturally playful selves access to the work and therefore cannot master it. an experience exists in our scope of attention. a workflow. Before we go about organizing our worlds. the thoughts and emotions that appear are the demands of the meaningful for maintenance or development. know when we are done. need to consider our experiences: Consideration is the resting of attention upon an experience.From Consideration To Acknowledgement We have attention and some ability to direct it. We. We need to be able to understand our work. It may be an idea. an emotion. know what we need to do the work. We do not design our environments so that they may be trusted. therefore. As noted earlier. or a vague thought. or simply an enjoyable cup of coffee in the morning. we do not act from our own individual nature. is not always clear. What is meaningful about an experience.

Associations are the ideas and emotions that present themselves as attention rests upon an experience. even approach acknowledgement meditatively. many do not. They either repeat or fade. however. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 38 . other ideas come to mind. introduces perturbations throughout our work. At some point. we may feel a natural inclination to suppress or avoid these associations. without suppression or judgment. We can. Consideration brings associations to mind: Associations are the thoughts and emotions that appear when considering an experience. Doing so. Some seem related. at least to the degree that we reasonably can. As we focus on some idea. When we actively and consciously decide we are done. How they are or are not related only becomes apparent with continued attention and time. however. For example. we have acknowledged the experience: Acknowledgement is the consideration of an experience to the degree that it is accessible to conscious awareness. a sense of needing to get work done can easily have us stop doing one task before it is completed in order to move on to the next. The better we can recognize and appreciate the natural ebbs and flows of attention as they exist.The process does not end there. the associations that come to mind are no longer new. Consideration is complete. therefore. For any number of reasons. gently returning attention to the experience considered. allowing feelings and ideas about it to appear. the better we can navigate the mind’s waters.

having a means of addressing them also gives us a means of clearing the mind. and handle the objects in our minds. It allows us to see. The process imparts clarity to an experience to the degree we are capable. create. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 39 .Essentially. we sit and wait to be done with our thoughts about something. In addition. We continue to sit there until nothing else comes to mind.

We can nearly always pause whatever we are doing. we need only to perform a very simple.The Power Of A Pause To begin acknowledging an experience. a pause begins the vital process of acknowledgement. Whether taken before we start something. this would be it. or as we end. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 40 . but oft-forgotten. step: Pause If there is a single tip that I hope you can take from the entirety of this text. Pausing is key to beginning any survey of experience. as we work.

be that of directed thought or play. however. We could discuss something until the minutia of detail becomes atomic. Allowing the process of any experience to develop. At some point. if left to simply be. we could consider some idea in endless rumination.The Moment Of Acknowledgement Of special note. So what does this mean to “do something until we’re done?” We are done when no further or new thoughts come to mind even while focused upon something. is a practice. Pausing is a deliberate act of allowing the mind the time it needs to settle upon present experience. That is the moment of acknowledgement. a pond may never be totally free of waves. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 41 . etc. And. there is an infinite nature to everything. To use a metaphor. But even more definitively. acknowledgement takes time. the sediments and waves still to the degree that we can see both into its depths and the reflected surroundings upon its surface quite well. we could observe a good piece of art without ever truly grasping all it has to offer within a lifetime. while I say that we do these things until they are done. we are done when we consciously decide we are done. Attention. after all. does not exist without time.

I can now either make the call or write a corresponding task where I know I will see it to remind me to make the call before it is too late to do so. but I will not do so with the focus I could otherwise bring to the task at hand. If I stop my work and focus on the feeling. Nor do I particularly want to feel worried. while I am working.An Example Of Acknowledging a Worry As an example. I notice I feel worried. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 42 . I might continue working. I realize that there is an important phone call that I have to make. but something is bothering me. frees my mind of worry. It is a clear decision only enabled by a clear view of the object. I do not know about what. The process of acknowledgement. at least momentarily. allowing it to be.

allowing us to better settle into our work. and we have a hold on it. creating this very distinction between what we know and don’t know helps us to dispel a great deal of anxiety. The pause of acknowledgement allows a moment to consider —What am I anxious about? What do I know? What do I not know? And sometimes. In this same way. the list is by no means exhaustive. Examples include when we: ! • Look at something until we feel we have seen all there is to be seen about it • Think about something until nothing more comes to mind • Discuss an idea until all opinions are fully presented • Study a page in a textbook until we feel we have understood that page as well as we can for the moment • Observe a work of art or scene of nature until nothing else about it comes to mind ! There are many benefits found in taking the time to fully acknowledge something. Acknowledgement gives us handles for our experiences. acknowledgement helps us clarify the lines between what we know and what we don’t know. we can work with something in ways we may not have thought of before. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 43 . While I present several here. When we have observed something in mind to the degree that is possible. Often the first signal of lacking this distinction is only a vague anxiety.Benefits Of Acknowledgement We acknowledge experiences regularly. or had only a momentary flash about but never really examined. Suddenly. we understand it better.

our processes of organizing. We will examine such considerations in depth in the later sections of this text. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 44 . by adjusting a task management system. and therefore the choices we genuinely have. Whether we consider our intentions. or our sessions of work. at least as far as we can see from the moment in which we stand. and even by clearing time to work. We can avoid work by organizing. It can be found insidiously in any of the components of our workflows. The better we can recognize conditions as they exist. Without this recognition. Acknowledgment then becomes our main tool to counter procrastination. We can use acknowledgement to regularly define and refine the components of our workflows. the better we can recognize what we can and cannot change. we risk perpetuating frustrations further than necessary. And it is this silence which forms the most elegant frames to our experiences. Finally.Procrastination is primarily fueled by anxiety and any other negative emotions related to unwanted experiences. acknowledgement is our means and measure of mastering every component and the monuments we construct with them. the silence of a clear mind can only be found when we have acknowledged all that can be acknowledged.

I have acknowledged my own mastery of the skill to the degree that is meaningful to me. We use acknowledgement in mastery when we know that some simple. I know how to ride a bike. I can feel that I have mastered it when it is effortless to play. Examples Of Measuring Mastery As an example. we know we’ve mastered it. While I do not know how to bike as well as a professional cyclist. we can measure for ourselves the experiential sense of having completed something.Measuring Mastery Using silence. effortlessly. When we know that has happened at a very experiential level. for example. basic component of a craft has become effortless: when we’ve done something small until it is absolutely completed. I know I have acknowledged it. When no further thoughts come to mind about how I can improve the playing of the passage. the improvement of skill is off of my mind. a job done well. or when some skill or piece of knowledge extremely fundamental to the practice now flows within and through us. As another example. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 45 . Our truest means of measuring that moment is by acknowledgement. when I practice a short passage of music at the piano.

such as when discovering deficit. touching so much of the rest of the skill of music. As an example. it is. By being a basic element of the craft. However. improving it slowly. It is a sense that my skill with scales is wanting. I recognize the impaired play. Namely. while playing a passage on the piano. I can now design a specific practice to address it. In addition. I feel a vague negative sense. I begin to recognize the feeling. In that pause. I can pause. too. It may seem that this is an obvious course of events. I notice it is not going well. By acknowledging this deficit. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 46 .An Example Discovering Deficit Acknowledgement is very useful when attempting to improve one’s skills. doing so improves more than my playing of scales or of a specific piece of music. and in one sense. I can also allow the negative feeling to rest in attention. I had paused to allow the experience to sit and rest in attention. the practice can improve the work of other pieces of music. Or. it can only become so in the time that I have dedicated for it to occur. I can try to play it again and again.

as the mind naturally wanders. or really any experience that can be observed. in an un- pressured. an issue. However. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 47 . Throughout this exercise. until nothing else does. During this time. Consider: “What is on my mind?” or “What is on my mind about this?” “This” in the question above may be a problem. non-judgmental way as much as possible. do not move on to anything else.Exercise With Paper Acknowledgement begins with a simple pause. allow the answers to simply come to mind. we may also wish to aid the process by writing our thoughts down. a simple intention. return it to the experience until you feel ready to make the active decision of being done. In other words.

allowing a silent stillness of the moment to truly signal that we are done. Here. Processing involves addressing and placing those items into projects. We let thoughts come to mind. then. and put it into an Inbox. we can extend the process further. Doing so helps to “unburden” our psyche from simply holding onto things like remembering to buy milk at the store. aiming for an honest trust that they will show us what is important at the time that it is important to see the items they contain. It is a process of acknowledging everything that is on the mind. and can be done several times during the day. When we believe we are done. The “mind sweep” is a part of a collection phase. That extra 5% can easily take a lot of processing power.Exercise With An Inbox For those already practicing Getting Things Done or another system of work that involves an Inbox. too. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 48 . We take everything that is on the mind and sitting around unaddressed. rather than just hold things. that there is a significant difference between capturing 95% and 100% of the things on the mind. used in building the entire system itself or even before a single session of work. for instance. An important component of GTD. is the idea of capture. We arrange those in turn. Particularly when we have a solid task management system. acknowledging what is on the mind can help guide our attention throughout the day. too. it is important to allow the process of acknowledgement to have its time. The practice is quite useful. We then “process” the Inbox. The mind is free to actually process information. and continue to write them down. and storage bins. we pause. action lists. It is important to note.

etc. “What is on my mind?” • Allow thoughts to come to mind: things that need to be done.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 49 . • Continue to write.Exercise: ! • Sit at the Inbox. until thoughts no longer come to mind. … • Write these thoughts as they come to mind in the Inbox. without suppression or avoidance and without going off to do the work. • Consider present experience by asking. interesting ideas.

! Pause to restore the moment. ! Pause to end the moment.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 50 .! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Pause to plan the moment.

! ! ! ! Organization .

I may decide to get milk. and even elegantly arrive at the places we wish to be and do the things we wish to do. introducing organization Easing What We Do From our experiences come our intentions. paths Intentions are what we want to do. Organizing supports and clears the path for some flow or development. If clear & I have various ideas about workflows. what we want to do is not always so readily done. or enhance some continued flow by organizing: Organization is a process of clearing or supporting a path for a flow or development. We create and sustain a motion of work or play. almost allowing them to happen. Meanwhile. it is by deliberately designing our surroundings that we can actually. If I see in the refrigerator that there is no milk. However. We can near-reflexively organize our environments. develop some intention. hoping we’ll “just figure it out”. powerfully. We then organize in hopes of easing and supporting these paths. move towards a goal. I may decide to write supported a book. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 52 .

The clarity of our ideas informs and directs organization. To compare: Creativity is a guidance of play in resolving a vision. for example.Organizing For Intentions A flow we wish to develop may be that of an intention7. 7 In fact. “ However. frees the term from our own intentions to work better for the relationship between parts of a system. It is for these reasons that organizing cannot be readily delegated. we discover new ideas and items. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 53 . new skills. In organizing. In such cases. while the act of organizing also helps provide a path to that clarity. Organizing is both an act of self-reflection as well as a process of identifying homes for items and placing items into those homes. etc. we can use the following definition: Organization is a process of supporting and clearing a path for an intention’s development. Organizing aids the crafting of our settings of work and play and is. and raise barriers to that which would otherwise lead us astray. at times. new objects. We see an overlap between creativity and organization. we add catalysts and lower thresholds towards doing consciously intended work. using the concept of some flow or development. As we organize. the definition for organization in the first edition of Workflow: Beyond Productivity was: “Organization is a process of clearing and supporting paths for an intention’s development. It is in the support and clearing of paths by which we attempt to improve conditions for the work we favor to develop. the work itself.

Brief Examples Of Organization Examples of everyday organization include: ! • Adjusting something on our desk to make reaching for it just a bit easier. therefore. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 54 . the other is riverbed. couch. They are each. types of organization. Organization is a process of supporting and clearing a path for an intention’s development. and end tables to enhance a sense of immersion in the entertainment experience. One is river. ! While some of these may not appear to be what we would conventionally consider acts of organization. each is an attempt at clearing and supporting some desired path. • Practicing the piano to pave paths for its mastery. • Arranging the television. • Budgeting our finances to allow for a major purchase. speakers.

I may come across two ideas nearly simultaneously. large or small. As our text progresses. we will also examine the unique nature that organization takes for the various components of the workflow. If I have a large report to write. For example. I can think about a useful next clear and doable action. It is the primary process of organization which will now be our focus. and mastery. as well as plot paths for future study and exploration. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 55 . during a course of study. Either skills or knowledge are forms of storage or utility. Sessions organize how we bring attention to our work. We attempt to find a flow of attention and resources for a dedicated time of work or play. and perhaps design a course of exercises. sessions. including intentions. We can organize our intentions themselves. or space. I would also like to let others know that I do not wish to be interrupted for a period of time. I may wish to dedicate a time for daily sessions at the keys. while studying. developed in the medium of mind. while playing at the piano. and how we might break down the workflow into individual components. Stations store our intentions. The ideas presented in the section of mastery rest upon those developed throughout the other sections that come before it. For example. we can consider what we envision. As an example. I can write a task in the margin where I know I will see it later. I would like to focus on one and return to the other later. For example. where we are now. I would like to have my study materials nearby with quick access to relevant websites or programs at the ready.A Primary Process The primary process of organizing spans various media be that of attention. time. mastery is about organizing the paths of play to flow into and through a craft so that it may become skills and knowledge. honed and channeled types of objects and flow. and occurs at all scales. stations. Finally. whether of digital or physical nature. To handle the situation.

acknowledgement & organization Seed Of Organization Organization is best nourished by acknowledgement. The inspiration to organize is a response to some frustration or desire. Even if it seems we do nothing differently. Acknowledging that frustration or desire may be all we need to do. We discover something to be “out of place” or otherwise in our way. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 56 . Something we want to do is blocked or slowed. or we want things to go better than they are. acknowledgement is still fundamental to the work.

doing either without thought is the mistake. then we look to organize. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 57 . we may be tempted to dive in without thought or avoid the feeling by looking away. We can only know what that sensation is about via conscious attention. including those of a better organizational system. perhaps barely perceptible desire or irritation. In other words. and I would just like to continue my work.Benefits Why we are frustrated or why we may want to do something are not often apparent at first glance. While in one scenario. First. Acknowledgement may then crystallize either frustration or desire into useful next actions. And because of this. allowing thoughts to settle. not the action chosen. should we wish to do either. More often. in the other. I do something else. pausing to acknowledge the experience. Perhaps I am anxious. we are greeted by some nameless. we acknowledge frustration or desire. and then how it may be unblocked or supported. I continue work and. Or perhaps I have a sudden impulse to check a social networking site. provides us with the moments necessary to discover where flow may be blocked or supported.

I continue writing. we can see the role of acknowledgement in organization when we decide to do nothing. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 58 .An Example Of Acknowledgement At its simplest. I see various odds and ends unrelated to my present work sitting nearby: a charging cable presently charging nothing. and an orange I have no interest in eating at the moment. I decide to clear the workspace after I write. I acknowledge the irritation of not having a perfectly clear workspace. As an example. a stray book from a research project finished last week. I pause and acknowledge their presence. Surrounding me. I am writing.

Exercise 2 . Again. Another example would be a craft you wish to master. and the place where you might decide to do that work. acknowledge some errant object nearby. Perhaps choose a point along its path — a workstation could be an example.Acknowledgement In Organization For our second exercise.Acknowledgement In Organization Consider a flow to improve. Simply acknowledge it as an area you wish to organize more effectively. Just note that its location could be better than where it is now. perhaps within the flow that you chose for the last exercise. do not begin to organize yet.Exercise 1 .
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 59 . Do not begin to organize yet.

we change the state of something from one to another to make it somehow “more” organized. We move some thing or things from one place or state to another. grouped. We do something to make things more organized. 8 More generally. Regardless of medium. refined and redefined in regular acknowledgement. When we move things. physical. pillars & states of organization Changing States & Relationships Organization is an action. However. characteristics are altered. by using the words object and flow. objects are aligned. or mental in nature. etc. though. we highlight that one moves. maintained. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 60 . They are in another spot in relationship to something else. organization describes a relationship between two bounded experiences. relative to the other. Objects may be digital. in whatever way that might be unique to its nature and medium.Locations are changed. We could even consider two flows as they relate to each other. object and flow becoming relative terms. More truly we are organizing experiences. it is not that they are just in some other spot. sorted. organizing is about changing the relationships between objects and flows8. As we are looking to clear or support a developing flow.

The papers were moved out of the way of the work to be done. and better learning.Examples Of Organizing As an example. there are files that would be useful or even required for my work. I decide to move them closer so I can reach them more easily. As another example. an unrelated pile of papers is in my way when I decide to sit down to write. we often realize the possibility for better settings. Reasons For Organizing The inspiration to organize appears most often in the context of an active workflow. When we try to get to or use something in a better way than we are now 3. The relationship between the papers and flow of work was changed. I again have in mind the relationship between my work and the files. When something is in our way. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 61 . a stumbled flourish of piano keys reveals an opportunity for practice. a jumbled set of ideas beckon to find new meanings in order. A stymied search for a book suggests a new arrangement. There are essentially three conditions that can suggest a better state of organization: ! 1. When we would like something useful for whatever it is that we are doing 2. better practice. I move the pile of papers to get the work done. By moving the files. By recognizing an unclear path.

the term awareness better accommodates the converse of realizing that something is in our way. and they may even provide clues as to how a better state of organization may be achieved. An object’s Organizational State is the degree to which: ! 1. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 62 . the term “awareness” in this edition of Workflow: Beyond Productivity stands in for “available” from the first edition. We are Aware10 of it and its relevance to our workflows 2. digital. 10 Please note. In other words. Organizational State These experiences are the three pillars which form the organizational state of an object9. 9 An object may be physical. However. These experiences indicate some area of the workflow that can be cleared or supported. Each scenario can occur independently or simultaneously. either term refers to knowing that something useful exists to what we are doing. It is Avoidable when it would otherwise impede our workflows ! The degree to which these criteria are met for some object is the degree to which that object is organized. The meaning is essentially the same. They ask for a better state of organization. It is Accessible when supportive to our workflows 3. or mental.

These characteristics: ! • Function to guide projects of learning. or creation • Allow for a central focus of understanding and a means to plan a workflow • Provide a rapid means of assessment of an already organized system or workflow ! Additionally. it is useful to note that the enhancement of any single pillar often enhances the others. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 63 . space arrangements.

that something is in our way. in this sense. While we may just barely remember it. on-off type of characteristic. therefore. It either exists. or conversely. refers to knowing something relevant: ! 1. ! When we are aware of something. I would like to catch the bus. have it almost crest into consciousness. unaware of the application. It is. We either remember something. Awareness.The First Pillar & Awareness The first pillar. if it is not enough. We are Aware of an object and its relevance to our workflows. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 64 . not organized. We understand that it relates to our workflow. we know it exists. whatever that threshold might look like. or we do not. I would like to know the bus schedule. Awareness is essentially a true-false. we are not aware.I will simply refer to it as a mental object and let the curious take it from there. ! Considering “awareness”: ! Awareness is knowledge11 appearing at a threshold of consideration. we have an idea of something useful. I am. or it does not. In terms of organization. I do not know that there is an application that lists bus schedules. if it does not meet some threshold. 11 We can further define “knowledge” .

the greater our awareness of what may be relevant. However. I do agree with the statement. The same concept also works for either the mundane or the creative. The more fully we allow the process. While learning the bus schedule is a simple example. We then use that knowledge to better frame the next experiences we encounter and wish to present. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 65 . The parts of the workflow that I recognized to write this book developed from a series of regular and carefully considered pauses. For example. consider asking a friend for her knowledge of the schedule. alternatively. the same process can be found with large and complex examples. we become aware of how we had inadvertently obscured the experiences we had once attempted to frame. as brief as it may be. a common saying in artistic creation is that much of our work is to get out of our own way. It is in a pause.The role of acknowledgement is clear. In the time of practice. I could. how we are standing in our own way is often not apparent and only found through experience. where I may come up with the idea that a useful application may exist for which I can now search. We consider an experience and allow associations to come to mind.

Recognizing relevance refers to the recognition of how an object is connected to an experience. As another example. I do not wish to see my list of phone calls. Is it useful? Is it not? How is it useful or in the way? It is an understanding of a relationship. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 66 .The First Pillar . among other criteria. It is therefore a characteristic in flux for any particular item or idea. If I am writing. Attention’s stream can be threatened by turbulence introduced from mislaid tasks.Relevance Considering “relevance”: Relevance is an object’s connection or relationship to an intention in meaning. space. in organizing a task management system. Relevance is the association or connection of an object to a flow in both time and space. addressing my momentary state of indecision. When completing one task and considering a next step. It is otherwise irrelevant to my intentions. and time. a well-designed system will present a selection of next relevant tasks based on present input. The presentation of tasks are optimized by timing. as we only wish for a task to appear when relevant. I attempt to recognize and respect the flow of attention. As an example. an umbrella is relevant when I wish to go outside while it is raining.

When something is accessible. we can improve accessibility by degrees. we can get to and use it when it would be useful to do so.The Second Pillar .Accessibility Our second pillar refers to accessibility: Accessibility is the existence and clarity of a path between an object and a relevant intention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 67 . a written task. Sometimes we do so over time. a tool. etc. In other words. a reference item. such as when we develop a skill with regular practice. Something can be more or less reachable or useful than at other times. This may be knowledge. Accessibility is measured in degrees.

and the inevitable compromises between are not insignificant. and Labeling • Ease of Maintenance Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 68 . or walking down a hallway. The development of accessibility. Suffice it to say here that we may consider: ! • Storage • Ease of Use & Clarity • Grouping. avoidability can measured and developed in degrees. Whether reaching for a mug of coffee sitting nearby. Again. It should be noted that an object’s avoidability when irrelevant enhances the accessibility of other objects more relevant to our present work. Avoidability refers to how well something can be out of our way when we do not want it to be there. there should be no objects strewn across the path. While “knowing is half the battle. similar to accessibility. There should be nothing in the way when wanting something useful. Its details are presented in the appendix.Avoidability Our third pillar refers to avoidability: Avoidability is the absence of an object or a path to an object irrelevant to an intention. opening a computer file. Sorting. avoidability." we still have half the battle to go.The Third Pillar .

I would. I recognize that the flow to which the umbrella is most relevant is when I am walking out of the door and it is raining. It will not stand up on its own. however. The umbrella. I then move the umbrella to the bin. therefore. I would.An Example Of An Umbrella It is raining outside. and other odds and ends behind a closet door. I also realize another flow—that I would like to easily put it back when I return home. However. Restated again. like the umbrella closer to the door. also like to keep it out of the way of foot traffic. I decide that a good place would be by the door. I believe it will hold the umbrella upright and catch the water dripping from it. it is also relevant to the flow of foot traffic. and I wish to have my umbrella. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 69 . It will drip onto the floor if I just place it next to the door. therefore. jackets. is buried under various shoes. My solution is to place a stable bin by the door. we organize something by enhancing: ! • Our awareness of its existence when relevant • Its accessibility when relevant • Its avoidability when not relevant ! I am secure knowing I am aware of the umbrella’s existence and utility when it rains.

While the closet itself remains in disarray. the umbrella now rests in a greater state of organization by more readily supporting the intention of keeping dry during a rain.Organize From Object For the object acknowledged in the earlier exercise: ! 1. Ask 3 questions to determine its relevant flows: ! • Where is this presently useful? • Where is this in the way? • Where might this be useful? ! 2. Exercise . ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 70 . ask 3 questions per flow to improve relationships: ! • How is this presently useful? • Where could this be easier to get to and use? • Where could this be more out of the way? ! 3. Write the tasks that would help to bring the object to a higher organizational state by addressing your answers to the previous questions. Then.

write the tasks that address your answers. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 71 . Then ask 3 questions per object to consider how those relationships may be improved: ! • How is this presently useful? • Where could this be easier to get to and use? • Where could this remain/be more out of the way? ! 3.Exercise . ! • What is presently useful? • What is in the way? • What else might be useful? ! 2. Finally.Organize By Flow For the flow acknowledged in the earlier exercise: ! 1. Ask 3 questions to determine its relevant objects.

we seek for objects supporting a flow to immediately come to mind when useful. Ideally. and otherwise be invisible. goals & ideals of organization Ideal Of Organization The degree to which the criteria of these pillars are met is the degree to which an object is organized. be effortless to reach and use when useful. We seek: ! • A Trusted Return (Ideal awareness of relevance) • Effortless Immediacy (Ideal accessibility) • Invisibility (Ideal avoidability) ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 72 . Enhancing these pillars improves any workflow.

• Certain uses of a program or application do not come to mind as possibilities until reaching a deftness with the program’s associated commands. we are much more inclined to write a letter than otherwise. Examples of thresholds in organization appear in many different media: ! • When able to reach for a pen. thoughts. • The skill of playing a piano piece does not appear until the individual notes and sections have been learned and worked through. • Knowledge and learning of some central principle in a craft may only occur when a threshold of details are memorized and therefore directly available to attention. tools. I could consider the program’s installation as the organizational work required to do the work of writing. or other objects can appear when a threshold of organization has been met.Awareness & Thresholds Of Organization Some intentions are much more likely to actualize by virtue of their support in organization. ! In fact. The awareness of some ideas. and envelope with minimal effort. there are times when work cannot be developed at all until certain organizational conditions are met. For example. I cannot use a particular program on the computer until I have actually installed it. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 73 . stamp. paper.

This same principle may be reframed as a component of mastery: Much of mastery is a mastery of the basics. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 74 .The general concept of thresholds may be stated as: The awareness and accessibility of some objects may not appear until a threshold of organization is reached for one or several other objects.

As noted earlier. Further. but our ability to develop other workflows is enhanced further when it can be rendered invisible. it can better remain off of the mind. such as our own skills and knowledge. If I know that I can perform a piece of music well.Invisibility & A Trusted Return Invisibility is not necessarily an object’s absence from sight. I can readily use it to develop projects I may not otherwise consider. or internal to us. when we want it. Trust is therefore the foundation upon which we can build a system that allows for invisibility. We often find that those things that were once believed as only subtly affecting us. or otherwise adversely affecting attention. consciously and unconsciously. Witness the strain that suddenly becomes apparent when a fan is turned off in a lecture room. If I know that I can use a program well. so much as it is absence from mind. unaddressed and often unacknowledged. interrupting. schedule a performance. I can readily. This is true whether we are considering items external to us. were not so subtle after all. Considering an object’s invisibility is profoundly different from ignoring it. We deliberately acknowledge those aspects of the environment or things on our mind that are occupying. Invisibility enhances the power or strength inherent to an object as it appears when relevant and to the degree that it is relevant. While we can “tune out” that which is not relevant to present attention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 75 . our ability to use those items grow exponentially. even when the words could be heard with the fan on. such as reference items and tools. create turbulence. Objects resting in the periphery. An object may be avoidable. when we can fully and honestly trust that something will be where we want it. there is still an effort involved that may better be utilized by the moment. and even confidently. with genuine trust.

Answering the question of trust is a reflection of not only an object’s reliability. as a practice of honesty with oneself. good or bad. It is a consideration of our present habits. make them more avoidable. that something will continue behaving as it has in the past. Dishonesty with the self in its myriad forms. If I believe that I can depend on my daily habit to look at my calendar. developed over time. such that it may be relied upon. therefore. by ignoring. becomes one of the most mature aspects of organization. and how they may be relied upon when placing objects about ourselves. trust is not something we have because we want it. Again.In addition. The development of habit will be explored later in this text. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 76 . It is developed by consistent experience: Trust is a belief. a strong trust allows us to further remove objects from sight and. Useful questions to consider when organizing are: How will this be off of my mind when irrelevant? or How may I place this object so I may trust it will return to my attention when relevant? Invisibility. but also our own. I can schedule things and not look or even think about them when away from the calendar.

but of removing the iterative nature needed to maintain the working system. often enhanced by simplicity. If invisibility impairs our access to a system’s workings. we may realize that the system and its objects are not truly invisible. Invisibility can also refer to a low or negligible degree of maintenance for any organizational structure or system. In such cases. is the root of decay in many organizational systems and structures. we risk not only losing an item. and setting false due dates. at least in this sense: they may have been removed from sight.12 12 A caution to consider with invisibility is that it may remove important considerations of a system from view. however. but not from mind. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 77 .

" positioned in patterns of simple geometry. Also. Even if their influence composes only a faint hue. or that there is an artistic inspiration to be found in an environment that only the individual finds organized and others would term “messy”. However. Each may be considered to have some effect upon our attention and bring to mind thoughts. clean does not necessarily mean “free of dirt. The degree to which we do this is the degree to which we practice cleanliness: Cleanliness is the degree to which we arrange the environment to allow and promote agency. and every aspect of our environments may be reflected consciously or unconsciously in our momentary experience. both subtly and not so subtly.13 These characteristics may relate and support the concept at times. 13 That something is free of bacteria. or the like. By maintaining a clutter-free environment. the decorations on a desk. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 78 . The color of the walls. the contours of a walkway. we keep extraneous and unplanned triggers of thought away from attention. and then doing something about it. our ability to choose non- reactively. we must be wary that what appears as messy is not simply a result of lacking attention. does relate in that it removes the loss of agency posed by illness or even the fear of illness as may manifest by the emotion of disgust.Cleanliness Cleanliness is about freeing and supporting agency. though. This may well be true. having an influence. for instance. There are an infinite number of objects in our environment. Some feel they rely on a certain “disorganization” to do well. We actively consider how we want our environments to effect us. it is still there.

However. mastery. In this case. I design a program snippet to block my access to email. I measure accessibility and avoidability to my experience of how I check email. The sign introduces a pause during which I have a moment to think. It is the continual work of freeing and supporting agency. when we believe it would be meaningful and useful to do so. the experience of disgust is impacting us and might otherwise have been avoided. what is the difference? The difference is the reminder of agency where it was not before. “Do I want to check email?” ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 79 . refers to the degree to which we can readily reach any aspect of our work. An Example Of Impulsive Email Checking I have a tendency to check email more often than I might like. This may seem redundant. If I can turn it off. more accurately. instant accessibility at two specific times of the day and avoidability at other times is useful. a sign appears noting that it is presently turned off. In this sense. For example. In other words. with minimal adversity posed by the environment. and meaningful work. Cleanliness. cleanliness is about designing our most favorable workspaces and playgrounds. and to remain out of our way otherwise. when I make an unthinking attempt to open the email client. Now. not necessarily getting to the email itself. and therefore also about supporting our ability to design our environments to promote the development of play. However. Instant accessibility of the program would be detrimental. I can turn this snippet on or off. if grime triggers a feeling of disgust.

Yet it is in our approximations where we begin to organize. we may yet discover a process that would have significantly benefited the entire endeavor had it been known in the beginning. and live our lives. It is not possible to know the “perfect” positioning of an item or idea. Play becomes meaningful work. Organization is a continual clearing of a path or a “cleaning as we go” with an intent to bring and maintain focus upon present experience. I’d like to have a reminder to buy something while I’m at the store. building systems.A Practice Organization is a practice. Even towards a project’s end. Achieving this balance can be a matter of practice. Accessibility and avoidability are a balance reflected by meaning and relevance. We can only know how an object or task is useful now and use that information to build a system that approximates our future needs and wants. for example. Carrying tasks forward while considering their present and future optimization is an unending act of living. I’d like to remember something I mean to say to a friend when we next meet. not as a perfection. but as an iteration. plan. organizing in the present moment to support our workflows as they develop and as we predict they may develop. To know when something will be in demand is a prediction. We iterate. the past is memory distorted by fallibility and bias. a best guess. Every intention can incorporate some level of improvement for the future. Blemishes upon work are an aspect of beauty reminding and better connecting us with reality. Meanwhile. and the future is simply unknown. the present is subject to oddities of perception. a regular dedication of time and attention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 80 . It is in an iteration of work where optimal organizational frameworks form. An aspect of organization is hoping we will be aware of something useful when it would be useful.

and we may begin to plan a new setting. often alongside the project’s end itself. new ideas for the placement of furniture become apparent.There is no complete state of being “organized”. For an individual project. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 81 . the work becomes a flow which itself more strongly dictates paths towards optimizing its environment. After starting to clean a room. upon reaching some threshold state of organization. though it may taper off. In other cases. the pursuit of organizing does not end.

I might try to think about how I could have my umbrella both quickly available and easily avoidable at the same time. I might acknowledge the sense that there are many. the formalization of any of these processes is unnecessary. effortlessness. We may see that flows do not always readily accommodate each other and decisions of compromise are often necessary. but having some idea of how we may choose to organize helps the decision as to whether to do so. and then start with what was on top.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 82 . but find that doing so conflicts with my coat rack’s organized state. We may not consider trusted return. we can practice the pillars so that. Even without the ability to reach an ideal. they coalesce into an intrinsic memory to support our unique voice of the moment.An Ideal Organization is an ideal. like a practice of the myriad musical theories. Or. I wouldn’t name off every object before I started to work on it. I might see my worktable with many items from various projects on it. In other words. New ideas might come to mind as we organize or do our work. As always. Or I might realize that I simply do not have time to organize it now. and invisibility with every experience. we can often realize that what we once considered an object is not well delineated. processing each in turn. we measure and decide by acknowledgement. In many cases. what we once considered “right” really wasn’t. Even further. Instead. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 83 .! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! A poem should not mean But be ! Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982)14
 14 Ars Poetica .

the visual beauty inherent in the shape of a musical instrument presents the years of thought and work poured into its design. We must be wary that a simple alignment by color. Beauty may also be a hallmark of a matured organizational system. A pleasing and attractive environment. a system’s grace and elegance appearing from a strength of meaning manifest in its contours. unless enhancing access to items when relevant. can welcome the relaxing conditions often useful for creative endeavors. a design evolved to make as accessible as possible a musician’s ability to present play in sound. may do little beyond create an aesthetic without utility. more than simply nice to see. with an aesthetic projecting an inner visage. In other words. Such aesthetics may not always be pretty in some conventional sense. recall that invisibility is an enhancement of an object’s presence and power by its appearing only when relevant. but often reflect a beauty related to a meaning unique to the individual and the system. The aesthetic considerations of an organizational structure can range from minimal. Organizing brings forms to the functions of meaning. or the simplicity of a well designed tool all present some form of beauty. Without the development of the details Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 84 . the settings of a dinner table. The inner workings of an analog watch. such as an alphabetic arrangement of books on a shelf.Aesthetics Beauty may directly result from the development of the organizational pillars. size. This may seem to be a paradox . a beauty of the instrument is even perceived in a medium for which it was not originally designed. to quite invisibility has been noted as a hallmark. However. or other concrete characteristic. Fine aesthetics inspire us to find new play in work. such as an arrangement of notes in a musical work. As an example.

an aesthetic becomes hollow. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 85 . a forced development. Two questions that can be helpful in working to improve the beauty of an environment or piece of work may be: If it is ugly.and pillars grounded in experience. by considering the actual use of the materials and the experiences they present. a fruit grown large but without taste. However. We also find a potential to enhance beauty. what makes it ugly? If it is beautiful. we discover more than better blueprints for designing a solidly supportive system. what makes it beautiful? I find that either question tends to make things more beautiful.

Elegance Organization is an attempt to clear and support paths for an intention’s development. Together. organization can become a riverbed. beauty and strength comprise elegance …
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 86 . When organizing well. In this way. an evolving system tracing the contours of creativity. a system may even form a beauty and strength that directly reflects creativity’s inherent beauty and strength.

 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 87 . 
 Elegance marks organizational maturity. 
 Often simple in nature.! ! ! ! ! ! Elegance is beauty and strength. 
 Highlighted in a relief of invisibility.

! ! ! Workflows & Intentions

time. middle. if I am performing a service of car repair. workflow A workflow consists of the paths and components involved in moving an object or objects from one state to another in space. or experience. when we work. I create paths in which at least two components move—the money and the item. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 89 . we need to define them and their components. Every workflow has a beginning. I change the state of the car from broken to fixed. practiced again and again. For example. If I create applications for computers. A workflow may be established in habit. we move things from one place or state to another. as might be exemplified by creating art or designing a new business venture. Similarly to organizing. I change the state of an application from nonexistent to existent. It may also be a journey into the unknown such as the creative intention. such as the preparation of the morning’s coffee. workflows Workflows Considered If we wish to improve our workflows. and end. If I sell an item.

Components Of An Organized Workflow A workflow is organized when its paths and components are organized. Each path and component can be optimized for its awareness. accessibility. We may consider the components as an organizational structure: An organizational structure (also called organizational framework) is an object or system of objects designed to support or clear a path for a flow or development. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 90 . and avoidability as they relate to each other and as a whole.

whether memory or skill. On the other is product. On one end is raw material. In between. we may call it “flux” .Developing Individual Points The greater detail to which we can imagine the workflow. In terms of time. or some flow passes. These paths and components.the movement of a flow through an area. movement occurs. the work takes shape. in turn. A workflow is composed of a path and its components. every thought or emotion. we picture: ! • The beginning state • The transitional points between beginning and end • The ending ! Each point is where work happens. In imagining the workflow. and experience. space. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 91 . we can consider each major point along its path as we might a factory conveyer belt. 15 15 To borrow a physics term. exists within these dimensions. the greater our ability to develop it. are composed of materials spanning: ! • Space • Time • Experience/Attention ! Every object whether digital or physical.

a review. how we may: ! • Be aware of relevant objects and other flows • Improve their accessibility when relevant • Improve their avoidability when irrelevant Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 92 . we can consider the flow. To organize and improve our workflows. can be considered a workstation of multiple paths. for example. we can imagine at one end is the typing of material. but that end may have some. and finally. involves the flow of people walking from one end to the other. at the other end. The laptop. Any number of projects can move through its window. At any one point of that hallway. we can then imagine for each recognized point of flow.A hallway. This end of the hallway may be free of clutter. its passing onto an editing phase. In writing a blog post. Further. each point can carry multiple workflows. for instance. publishing. onward to posting.

What else might be useful? ! Answers may include objects or even other workflows. What is in the way? 3. For any particular point of workflow. For any objects or other workflows. How is this presently useful? 2. Where can this be easier to get to and use? 3. Where can this be more out of the way? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 93 . we can then consider: ! 1. What is useful at this point? 2.Establish Related Flows Let us translate the organizational pillars into questions that may be helpful. we may consider: ! 1.

availability. space. Invest time. For example. entire systems and chains of organizational paths may become apparent. Acknowledge the paths and components of the workflow 5. and attention into organizing 4. The following suggested stages should be understood as overlapping and in continual flux: ! 1. While moving a piece of clutter from the kitchen to the living room. as we organize. Acknowledge the frustration or desire inspiring organization 2. Acknowledge the organizational intention ! Upon deciding to organize: ! 3. For example. I may acknowledge “clean the kitchen” as my organizational intention. Do I continue cleaning in the kitchen or start in the living room? However. by acknowledging a target object or flow to organize. and accessibility for each path and component Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 94 . we do not get carried away.Potential Ordering Of Steps Before we begin an organizational process. we may discover additional clutter in the way. we do well to have an organizational intention and to consider the conditions in which the intention will be developed. Optimize and acknowledge awareness.

is it usually on? How can the energy and environmental costs best be balanced? (Avoidability) ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 95 . it does not make the entire system. each of which may be considered: ! Mail enters • How easily is mail entered into the mailbox? (Accessibility) • How easily is the mail retrieved from the mailbox? (Accessibility) • Is the mail overflowing such that no more can be entered? (Accessibility) • Is it sturdy? Is it secure? (Accessibility) ! Path from mailbox to scanner • How far is the scanner from the mail box? (Accessibility) ! At scanner • How easy is it to open the scanner? Is there anything sitting on top of it or in the way? (Accessibility) • How easy is it to scan? (Accessibility) • Does the scanner require a running program? Does the computer need to be running?  If so. While a good scanner aids the process. such as we would find in a paperless office.An Example In Going Paperless Let us consider a system by which incoming mail is scanned into a computer. There are several components and transitions between components that make the system.

the question of backing up files may result in coming up with an automatic backup solution that effectively eliminates the step from attention-load. these questions actually aid in reducing the attention-load of the system. thereby making it more avoidable. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 96 . too. also improves functioning. The reduction in anxiety over losing files. when the backup system is genuinely trusted.At the computer • How easy is it to name files? (Avoidability) • How easy is it to place the files into their appropriate folders? (Avoidability)  • How secure are the files? (Accessibility) • How easily are the files backed up? (Avoidability) ! To shredder • How far is the shredder? (Accessibility) ! At shredder • Is the shredder safe and sturdy? (Accessibility) • Is it easy to use/empty? (Accessibility) ! While it may seem to be quite a lot of trouble to go through to reduce paper and file things digitally. For example.

An Example Of The Coat Rack An example of a working system may be found in something as simple as a coat rack. A maintained coat rack sitting by the door ready for an easy toss of the jacket shows an ease of entry. I am aware of the jacket’s existence. It is accessible when needed and avoidable (though perhaps not invisible) when not needed. stability. accessibility. Let us examine an example of a detailed organizational process using the coat rack. and possible beauty. we may trade ease of entry and retrieval for invisibility by placing the jacket in a maintained closet by the door. If not considered aesthetically pleasing. but it is presented for illustration. Maintenance is a matter of periodically keeping the rack clear by removing and storing jackets unrelated to the season. Clearly the detail necessary for the process described is more than necessary. ! Discovery of need for organization • Difficulty accessing coat as it is buried under 2 other coats ! Define Intentions • Organizational intention: Set coat rack for easy coat access • Primary intention: Stay warm Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 97 . I will take the opportunity to describe an adjustment of workflow in the process of its development. In addition. Entering and retrieving a jacket from the system can occur nearly without thought. The longevity of a wrought-iron coat rack is longer than one’s lifetime. This highlights the trade-offs between organizational details that we may consider in an ongoing act of organization. maintenance.

Intentions as stated • Adjust for primary pillars and details • Remove all other coats that are covering my coat from hook. • Place offending coats on other hooks. thereby increasing availability and accessibility of my coat. Coat Rack. and may even be worse off now that I have covered them under further layers of clothing. ! Readjust or create new organizational intention • Set coat rack for easy access to all its items ! Create/consider space & session • Consider couch for area onto which clothes heaped upon coat rack may be tossed while making arrangements • 8 individual hooks available on coatrack • Anticipate a single session of work ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 98 . the coats of others in the family are likely less so. ! Now I realize that while my coat is better organized.! Create/consider space & session • Use other hooks on the coat rack while arranging for my coat • Anticipate a moment or two of work ! Consider Objects • Coats.

creating agenda tasks for family members as needed. in task management system. scarves. ! Each hook does well to have a single item. • Clothing relevant to the season is placed on hooks • Other clothes placed in closet • Create. a task repeating every 3 months to exchange clothes on the coat rack appropriate to the season Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 99 . ! Adjust for primary pillars and details • Decide upon and address unneeded clothing.Consider Objects • 15 items including coats. etc. There are therefore 7 extra items of clothing.

changed. The same may be said for diets. Choose a simple daily flow. ground. The gradual improvement of conditions is better established by habit than by sudden decisions to organize everything. Another day. etc. The regular examination of the flow made for a good playground to develop and understand these ideas. 2. an errant book might be your target.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 100 . ! One day. things that need to be rinsed. The coffee machine has several parts. I refined much of my own thinking about organization by looking at how I make coffee every morning. projects. Consciously organize it or its components. you might look at a pile of papers that has been sitting there for some time. Coffee beans need to be purchased. Choose a different object or flow daily. ! As an example. stored. Daily Flow Exercise 2 1. Consciously organize its components daily. 2.Daily Flow Exercise 1 1. and practice. exercise. adjusted.

William Blake (1757-1827) ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 101 . It is the human existence itself. . ! ! ! The imagination is not a state.

presently. the simplest of which is represented by the well-known “task. intention Intention Defined While we may decide to drift along with the world’s currents. one Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 102 . As grand as this sounds. intentions exist everywhere. we cannot develop play. is a set of instructions to fulfill a wish of having milk in the home whereas.” “Get milk”. create work. or address desire and anxiety without the ability to consider: intention ! • Where we are • Where we might like to go • A next step between here and there ! The consolidation of these ideas comprises our intentions: An intention is the potential created between a present state and a proposed reality. for instance.

Another example may be “Clean desk” which envisions a clear desk whereas presently objects are strewn about. is grounded in the development of intentions. While it may seem trivial to consider intentions. and pressures on the mind would do well to be addressed. organize the realities in which we live. Our ability to create and manage intentions is therefore of great import. The joy and fulfillment we may find in any endeavor. albeit unknown in nature for the time being. and create the realities we may wish to see. Presently it does not exist. responsibilities. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 103 . and perhaps other unrelated ideas. whether maintaining the home or writing a piece of music. the skills for creating the piece may need to be honed. does not. A larger example may be “Write a piece of music” which imagines a new piece of music. they are the conscious and unconscious building blocks by which we learn our crafts.

gradually discharged by the next actions and tasks we design and implement. an intention defines the mental space from which a reality may form. placed in a river. • A water wheel. When it falls off the ledge. its potential energy converts into a kinetic energy. • Batteries carry a certain potential energy (called a "voltage potential") that can go through a circuit to do the electronic things we want of it during its discharge. the battery has the positive and negative ends. Using the analogy of the battery. the discharge is what becomes reality.Creating Potential The practice and art of designing our intentions is 
 the practice and art of defining the desired moment. We can see the ball has the shelf and the floor. Invoking several analogies: ! • A ball sitting on a ledge has a potential energy.   ! Intentions carry the same potential to guide a vision into a reality. the river has upstream and downstream. In this way. converts some of the potential energy created by gravity into a kinetic energy which can then be used. The intention has present experience and vision. The potential energy of the intention is marked at two ends just as the potential energy is in the cases described above. It is actualized in action. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 104 .

More practically speaking for our purposes.The Power of Outcome Focusing” relates to developing vision 16 David Allen. and more aid the reduction of resistance. Note that the three components strongly parallel Getting Things Done’s Part 3: The Power of Key Principles.The Power of the Next-Action Decision” relates to the acknowledging and addressing the potential between present experience and vision • “Chapter 13 . p223-56. To extend the analogy even further. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 105 . organizing. as the resistance goes down. 2002). the current (or flow) goes up. we can visit what is called Ohm’s law: V=I*R What it amounts to is that the potential energy equals the current multiplied by the resistance. defining and refining next actions. First Thus edition. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. (Penguin Books. As we will explore throughout this text.16: ! • “Chapter 11 .The Power of the Collection Habit” relates to acknowledging present experience • “Chapter 12 .

though its states are measured by our experience and fueled by our attention. A workflow is the paths and components involved in moving an object or objects from one state to another in space. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 106 . An intention marks the movement of something from one state to another. time. Recall. or experience. At the other end is a vision which gradually resolves. At one end is present experience.Intention As Workflow An intention reflects a particular type of workflow.

An experience’s associations include the intentions that come to mind. fully acknowledging an experience also acknowledges its related intentions. we address experiences in the act of acknowledging them. Meaning: Among other things. ! Perception: I see no milk. Therefore. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 107 . Addressing an experience is the process of acknowledging its associated intentions. In other words. the intention “get milk” comes to mind.Addressing & The Role Of Acknowledgement Intentions are formed in the midst of our experiences. If I look in the refrigerator and see that there is no milk. Motivation: I want milk. meaning. and motivation. born of perception. ! The intention forms as the experience is acknowledged. the experience means I will not be able to have milk when I want it.

Anatomy Of An Intention While perception. and motivation give us the intentions themselves. and calls upon the individual to at least consider a next step in creating one. organize. an intention most broadly consolidates the following questions: ! • Where am I now? or Where is this now? • Where would I like to be? or Where would I like this to be? • How might I get there? or How might I get it there? ! As noted earlier. or create. even “Get milk” supposes a state in which there is no milk. Whether born of a desire to learn. depending upon the individual’s present circumstances and experience with writing music. “Write a piece of music” supposes a state in which there is no piece. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 108 . directing and guiding them is another matter. envisions a state in which one does exist. Similarly. and calls upon the individual to act in order to travel a path between. one person’s next action may be quite different from another’s. meaning. Of course. envisions a state in which there is milk.

vision.g. a proposed outcome. a next action or step that would begin resolving the vision
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 109 . If we are trying to know what to do next to the greatest degree of acknowledgement.e. condition.e. our present situation. The questions above construct an intention by consolidating: ! • A sense of present state — i. we can envision these individual components of our intentions. or destination • A sense of a potential path between — e. or experience • A proposed reality — i.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 110 . 
 The more clearly we frame an intention. ! ! ! ! ! ! As a general rule. 
 The better we may accommodate and develop it.

When sitting down to work. anything that makes it difficult to answer one of these questions may trigger another next question/action of: ! • What needs to happen so I may more readily answer this? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 111 .Practical Application ! We can use this anatomy of intention as points of consideration and acknowledgement. consider: ! • What is my intention? or What would I like to do? • What is the present state of the work? • What do I envision the work to become? • What is a next step there? ! Further.

Acknowledge the present state of conditions. Consider a small. perhaps something you might not normally write as a task. this may end up being a simple re-write. As it is a small easy task. Acknowledge what you imagine to be the end state of conditions to be by developing the intention. emotions.Exercise .
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 112 . including situation. 2. or otherwise that you believe help inspire the intention.Writing An Intention ! 1. 4. thoughts. easy intention. Write a next small doable step that would be required to complete the intention’s development. 3.

and often do. the answers may. vision & types of intentions Vision Defined The three components of present state. change on the path towards completion. However. such as whether one traffic light will be green or red on the way there. but the general process is still well understood. forces the realization that end goals are often beyond any form of future sight we may have. besides their obvious content. “Get milk” may have details which differ. what direction would be meaningful for the musician. vision “Write a piece of music”. a more vague vision of. is their clarity of vision: A vision is a developing proposed reality different than present state or experience. even for the seasoned musician. what an audience may want. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 113 . are unknown. for example. glosses over many details. The difference between the intentions “Get milk” and “Write a piece of music”. What the style will be. and next action for a simple intention such as “Get milk” are obvious. proposed vision. “Write a piece of music”. In addition. however. etc.

Even the path itself can often be in the way. Vision is influenced by the myriad experiences and ecologies of thought and emotion evolved throughout our lifetime. We see an object’s projection upon the mind as a representation. writing a business proposal. repeated practice. our work. not to mention present circumstances. creating a report. Many intentions often have paths and ends that are unclear. It is the same as with our literal vision. In fact. Drafting a letter to a friend. as we cannot see the future. To continue our analogy. Vision and its resolution is. or other synthesis of information. at least until they have been started and usually not until getting near the end. we are never truly certain of any vision or end goal. Some element must arrive by way of generation of thought. programming code. we may not see a goal because there are things in the way. what we see may not be entirely accurate. but its resolution improves the closer its distance. We can only see so far. nonetheless. or writing a piece of music are all composed of intentions in which all of the parts are not yet known. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 114 .

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 115 . On the one end. Creative intentions are then. such as “Write a piece of music”. As creative intentions have unclear ends and are unknown in nature until processed and completed. there are intentions which are readily completed. optimally nurtured. while on the other they are those with less clarity. and material needed to develop. given the resources of time. The utility of the distinction appears in the very process of handling intentions. The spectrum of these intentions are marked on either end by the concrete and the creative: A concrete intention is an intention with a clear vision. The difference between concrete and creative intentions is a matter of degree in clarity of destination. such as “Get milk”. when possible. A creative intention is an intention with an unclear vision. a majority of our work is to craft the conditions for their development.A Spectrum Of Visions & Intentions Visions rest in a spectrum of clarity. attention.

asking again and again “What is the intention?”. We develop a creative intention and its vision in an iteration. as a continual consolidation of: ! • What is the present state or experience? • What is the vision? • What is a next step on a path there? ! In regularly bringing these thoughts into a single phrase for action. we engage in creativity. and more importantly into a single flow of mind. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 116 . gradually guiding the development of our creative intentions.

a development occurs as its details gather together in a creative reactivity. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 117 . When we do not understand something. Whether art. We may only find that which is not already known. through delving into the unknown. The act of creating something is the process by which a vision is both clarified and brought into being. I believe this to be wrong. when we do not know even exactly what it is we want. we move towards an end whether in the mind. We do not know the specifics of what is being made except in the process of its being made. or both as a part of clarifying vision. Whether something may or may not be found can only be answered in the creative attempt. business report. The desired unknown may be gleaned internally. by definition. Beyond simply defining an end.Creativity Defined Creativity is often thought of as something elusive. we are creating: Creativity is the process of resolving a vision. or travel to an unknown destination. but have started some path there. only in the purview of some chosen few. in the world. when we do not know how to get somewhere. Creativity is the means by which we resolve unclear vision.

Its concrete nature is only now the manifestation of many creative steps mastered in time. We have all made things that were once creative into the simple and concrete by learning how to resolve unclear visions. While we may feel that new learning and new mastery is unavailable. from the unconscious mind. Were the path to the synthesis of something new clear at the outset. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 118 . this assumption misses the ready path of play found in ourselves since infancy. pay for milk. As daunting as this may sound. the process would not be one of creativity. including even the ability to walk. by learning something new from a source outside ourselves. or both. and return was once very far from any certainty of vision. perhaps by the very nature of their being unconscious. we have all been creative. or externally. that the unconscious worlds cannot be accessed. The ability to arrange all the steps needed to go to the store.

Creativity is a vision’s iterative resolution. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 119 . It is in this sense of guiding play’s development that we can best decide how to organize. That the end is presently unclear is simply a matter of fact. Refining our definition of creativity: Creativity is a guidance of play in resolving a vision.

Exercise .Clarifying An Intention ! 1. developing mastery at tennis may involve envisioning a weekly practice regimen.” and then writes “the very next physical action required to move the situation forward”. First Thus edition. consider writing these thoughts to the point of acknowledgement. For example. 2. Envision a proposed outcome of the intention. ! * Note. including situation. this exercise parallels both the small intention exercise done earlier and the exercise provided in pages 13-14 of Getting Things Done in which one considers what is most on the mind at the moment. emotions. Consider writing these thoughts. Perhaps some stop on the journey there would suffice. or otherwise that you believe help inspire the intention. Acknowledge the present state of conditions. potentially large in nature. Write a next small doable step that would aid developing the intention. Consider an intention without a clear end. thoughts. as blurry as it may be. 2002). 17
 17 David Allen. writes an “intended successful outcome. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Again. 4. (Penguin Books. 3. A craft or field in which one may wish to develop mastery would work well. 13-14 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 120 .

a cliche which I have now become guilty of writing myself. enhanced in time and repetition: Designing intentions is a practice and art 
 of defining the desired moment. It is the same feeling that one somehow cannot be creative. The result is discouragement for those who cannot see pictures in the mind’s eye. crafting an intention is a practiced skill. As many of us do not visualize with images. one may assume an inability to envision. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 121 . intentions in practice Guidelines As with many aspects of a workflow. A common refrain for finding success is that one must have vision. It is a simplistic statement which does a disservice. The refrain presupposes existence of an ability or gift without which one is left floundering.

• The ability to envision is practiced. knowing full well that the vision is unclear. it does not. How that potential comes to form is then a guided process. even the trivial “get milk” includes vision of a home in which milk exists. It is not that there is a “picture” in the mind that appears as would a photograph. Every task theorizes a world which does not presently exist. These statements miss at least two important considerations: ! • A vision need not be an image. The ability to create a vision is instead the ability to consider a reality which presently does not exist. it is a representation. whereas presently. More practically. ! It is not that one has a vision or does not. Writing even a simple task is evidence of the ability to have vision. As noted earlier. marking a potential. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 122 .

Pursuing clarity in writing intentions is an attempt to clear a path for the development of a vision. This is not to say that we can only do work without fear. then. Often they are not. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 123 . as it provides a more realistic sense of the ability to complete a particular intention or that it cannot be completed as it stands and would benefit from change. One may or may not have confidence that one’s visions may really be possible. We. meet reality. 
 The better we are able to accommodate and develop it. By dispelling the unknown.Clarity The practice of writing an intention with clarity aids the process of understanding. 
 The more clearly we frame an intention. if ever. is the practice of clarity: As a general rule. instead. We learn both as best as we can as they continue to grow and evolve. When the end of an intention is easily seen. We will address the concepts of courage and confidence in their own time. Intentions are perhaps best viewed as iterations towards clarity. But clarity does help develop confidence. a clear intention reduces the archaic fears that may confound play and work. repeatedly introduce desires and reality as children and world. It is a type of organization. An important skill of writing tasks. Desires rarely. its accomplishment is more easily achieved.

Consider clarity when storing intentions by way of: ! • Maintaining simplicity where possible • Being as specific as 2007/09/24/dear-me-get-work Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 124 .com . Towards this end. intentions do well when cared for.43folders.http://www. a "call" task and an agenda item of "get coffee". 19 As suggested by guest author Ethan Schoonover at 43folders. this may be better expressed as two separate actions. but not more so • Avoiding compounding multiple tasks (being wary of the words “and” and “for)18 • Writing tasks with the thought that it is a delegation to one’s future self19 • Starting tasks with a verb to encourage their transformation into action 18 An example of "for" may be "Call Bob for coffee".

or is otherwise impeded. either by way of moving it forward or detecting a need for readjusting course. The next action is a task which is the very next simple doable intention towards actualizing a vision. it is important to focus upon the “next action”. notoriously short-sighted planners. rather than brute force our way through. When we run into a task that we do not wish to do.Next Actions In practicing the art of defining intention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 125 . in general. The next action of any project is the most “visible” and doable task towards advancing a project. We are. we consider: What is preventing this intention from developing? The answer becomes the next action. which then itself becomes the next action. cannot do.

Breaking Down Next Actions Tasks may be difficult for any number of reasons. Some are downright onerous. the question may again be asked. A means of handling a difficult task is to “break it down”. A gentle means of doing so is to ask: What is stopping me from doing this? or What is preventing this from developing? The answer points to a next action. Some are sizable in nature. Some are fraught with anxiety. If there is something preventing that action. or at least an action that can precede the problematic one. in turn. What is stopping me from doing this? or What is preventing this from developing? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 126 .

perhaps even regardless of direction. we do so until we reach the threshold of confidence. Each step informs the next. We do not continue to break things down ad infinitum. until we discover a simple. doable next step. Its answer becomes another preceding step. we may begin resolving the vision by taking a single step forward. the question may be asked. Even when we begin to realize the vision of our work to be so large that it essentially forces us to take pause. We find where we feel we can trust ourselves to actually be able to do something. Again and again. Instead. and so on. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 127 . repeatedly turning the answers into preceding actions.

we practice the art of the next action. concrete. doable step towards fulfilling an intention. an intention is composed of the components: ! • Where am I now? • Where would I like to be? • How might I get there? ! For a next action. a series of next actions. the components encapsulated within an intention become: ! • Where am I now? • Where would I like to be? • What is a next step on the path there? ! Every vision fulfilled has been. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 128 . Unclear emotions and thoughts relating to a craft are brought into a focus of the moment where reality and intention may best meet in actualization.Anatomy Of A Next Action To review. By creating a task reflecting the next. in its development.

each ranging from about 10-20 pages apiece.An Example Studying for an Exam While I do not break down every intention into its component present experience. and the potential that lies between them. Considering Vision • I do well on the exam. Considering Present Experience • I know a considerable amount of my own work. I do find that the distinctions can be very helpful when planning larger projects. as well as my own interpretation of the readings. I've been given 12 readings. For the exam. but it has been quite some time since I've really read them well. vision. ! I have a major exam coming up in two months. For example. • I am able to present each of the readings with a clear understanding of what is conveyed. I need to present the readings and how I understand their relationship to my work to two people over the course of a two-hour meeting. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 129 . • I have read some of the papers.

• I create space in my task system by reducing work spent in other areas. As additional tasks came to mind. (For readers of Creating Flow with OmniFocus. • I create tasks to file each of the 12 readings on my iPad where I can read them most easily. ! As a result. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 130 . I checked off the primary task. Considering the Potential/Writing Tasks • I create tasks to download each of the 12 readings.) • I create a file where I can write and edit my thoughts. they could be added to the mix. • I create tasks to read each of the 12 readings. I had a single task that reliably appeared in my constellation of daily tasks that said: "Study for exam" The task linked to all materials necessary and presented the individual concrete. When I felt as though I studied enough for the day. • I add a link to the file where I write and edit my thoughts. knowing it would appear again the next day. • I create a single repeating task that is flagged to appear in my daily set of tasks. • I add a link to the project's tasks. bite-sized tasks. this included reducing the number of active projects in the "Running Projects" project in OmniFocus.

An Example With The Moonlight Sonata As an example.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 131 . The questions comprising the next action may then be: Where am I now? What next step might provide a clearer vision of where I would like to be? An answer may even be the same next action of “Perform the Moonlight Sonata” as a step on the path. if one is pursuing the intention of: • “Perform the Moonlight Sonata” one may even begin with next action of: • “Master playing one of the very first notes” For the creative intention that has even less clear of a vision such as: • “Become a musician” the answer to the second question of intention “Where would I like to be?” requires clarification.

! ! ! ! Sessions

space. and attention. is best nurtured by acknowledging its needs for time. These resources are discovered. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 133 . be it small or large. whether by careful session calculation or by the displacements they inadvertently create. and attention. the session introduced The Session Defined A workflow’s very existence depends upon the resources of time. Whatever we intend to do. freed. space. and attention used developing a workflow. space. The concept of the session is useful for this purpose: A session is the time. and consumed by a workflow.

It is our means of introducing our time.20 In short: ! • Time refers to the length of time we anticipate for our work to develop and the time that will no longer be available to other tasks. 2002). the attention of others. though likely with its own peaks. • Attention refers to the thoughts on our mind. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. and more contribute to this overarching organizational structure. Ideally. and even other tasks of the day and whether they are supportive or disruptive to the work at hand. space. a session is a time of a relatively continuous mindset. (Penguin Books. plateaus. ourselves. The session is the organizational support that clears a path for a workflow to grow. The session is an organizational structure. and attention to an intention. and valleys. and bring what we want into fruition. First Thus edition. • Space refers to the materials and contexts that relate to our intended work and how they may be optimized or adjusted.” . 20 Those who use GTD may notice a strong parallel to the “Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment. others.David Allen. develop. Our physical settings. our demands upon time. p192-5 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 134 .

takes some processing power. but added up beyond some threshold. They can also be our most demanding of workflows. Any block. we will now consider its characteristics for creative intentions. Sometimes a threshold of ease needs to be met before an action may unfold smoothly. we can simply know that the pause of acknowledgement is crucial to determining when procrastination is taking hold as a futile attempt to achieve a mythical perfection. They demand not only our attention. Some degree of adversity may be exciting when we have done the groundwork of learning the basics. these impediments to attention and an intention’s development can make the difference between accomplishing something and not. We seek to minimize the resistance between thought and action in a consciously guided manner. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 135 . no matter how small. without which we cannot find a meaningful flow. Certainly this can be a runway for procrastination. specifically. we are looking for a reduction of impediments to attaining a mental state of creativity. For now. as they are the building blocks of mastery and meaningful work. As a general principle.Sessions Of Creative Intentions While the concept of the session works for any workflow. Knowing how to gather resources for creative work generalizes to gathering resources for most any workflow. but an attention characterized by the attunement of play and agency. Such matters will be discussed in the later section of worry.

We can use a task list or not. Our interaction with the work gradually draws us in by way of both stimulation and security. While sitting regularly at the piano. or whatever the medium and sense the project’s direction. thought and strategy may be built from the surrounding information. If they are not.A Threshold Of Conditions When conditions are optimized to allow play to flow into the work at hand. Context and project unite. for example. next steps become obvious as they are encountered. Similar to the environment of a video game. At this stage. We find focus: Focus is a process of aligning and sustaining attention upon an object. we begin to react with the environment. notes. The years of practice provide the channels in which the sounds now improvised inspire their own continued play and creation in a flow of experience. It is in these stages where drifting waters of mind channel into a reactive play fueling the work. code. instead reacting to the world and building useful reminders within the work and context itself. we can stare at paper. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 136 . optimal for the individual. I find a focus in the moment.

Play is the essence of creativity.Playgrounds Recall. a creative space: ! • Is a relatively self-contained environment • Allows and encourages free exploration within the bounds set • Carries a sense of both safety and stimulation Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 137 . Let us define a place fostering play: A creative space or playground is a designed set of conditions fostering play.Conditions For Play . Considered as components.

refraining from doing something else ! Essentially.Building Trust Into The Workspace Play is fostered by the feeling that we can trust the environment. we show up and either: ! • Guide play in the development of an intention • Remain in silence. build. safety is a given. and feel that we will not be intruded upon in that time. ! When in a session of play or work. taking breaks as often as desired so long as we do not do something else. For the child in play. iterate. We trust it to not intrude. and even play with being wrong. The subsequent relaxation allows a type of freedom for both child and parent. we cannot easily engage in the creative process. if at all. We need to be able to use silence. we pause. We find a place to try new things. be it made of people or things. reconstruct and throw things against the figurative walls. break. If we do not trust our environments. We need to be able to trust that we can take time to acknowledge our experiences. to allow us the ability to experiment. hardly requiring a thought. The same is true for the adult’s playful mind. We design our environments so our work may become a simple ease or even an enjoyable challenge. A creative space stimulates by providing a place to experiment. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 138 . The work remains in front of us and we in front of it. A parent trusted as one who balances guidance with the opportunity for exploration delivers conditions favorable and inviting of play. the ability to be wrong.

security. These conditions may include items as critical as a word processing program for writing. We are less inclined to search for external stimulation as that found within the space holds a zone of interest. and reference files needed within arm's reach of a project. By aligning an intention with a creative space. and aid the manifestation of work from play. tools. When organizing.Workspaces As play only appears under certain conditions and tends to head in undesired directions when unguided. maintain a creative silence when needed. We aim to have the resources. We seek a combination of play and our intentions of work. the workspace is a creative space. or as simple as a glass of water to aid comfort. and ease Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 139 . Having a system which simultaneously meets the criteria of accessibility. It is a context specifically designed to stimulate and invite responses. It is a place to encourage the alignment of intention with attention to foster the best conditions for play to emerge in and as work. we must then consider the conditions in which play may best manifest in work.Conditions For Work . we foster the opportunity for play to emerge as a flow into meaningful work and mastery: A workspace is a creative space organized for an intention’s development. Gathering all the materials needed into one location can be helpful. We aim to design a place where we can focus our attention and react within that environment in pursuit of an intended purpose. we enhance the catalysts of our work by improving access to tools and resources. To emphasize. neither lacking for nor excessive in stimulation.

if not invisible
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 140 . we also minimize the possibility of frustrating search tasks. and sustain attention on our work • Has its materials readily accessible • Has anything unrelated readily avoidable. of maintenance for reference items can make a tremendous difference in doing the work. the workspace: ! • Helps to attract. As the workspace includes a creative space. align. we may restate. In the process. a creative space or playground: ! • Is a relatively self-contained environment • Allows and encourages free exploration within the bounds set • Carries a sense of both safety and stimulation ! In addition.

! ! ! ! Accommodating Sessions

we learn them in the interest of developing our intrinsic memory to support the unique voice of the moment. We will examine task management later in this text. there are times when it is better to simply begin work. In fact. and ultimately create the grounds that support the silence in which play may grow into work. resource. Before beginning a session of work. we can at least study what is possible. Again. we measure the decision in acknowledgement. As always. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 142 . we can then improve our focus for the present moment. We will focus on the former in this section. for purposes of context. When we have a firm sense that our obligations are met. the session in practice Overview Our workflows may be enhanced either in the moment or by the regularities of habit. However. While we cannot realistically consider every potential component. or idea that follows. we can recognize the latter as exemplified by task management. we observe the landscape. both internally and externally. acknowledge what we can and cannot do about our contexts. that our other meaningful work is being developed to some acknowledged degree. similar to the multitude of theories of music. We settle into the work.

We decide upon the intention we wish to develop and consider related objects. Most importantly. and tasks rest in our periphery that might better be placed elsewhere. We even consider how to handle the attention of others to prevent unwanted disruptions. We consider what unrelated materials. and space in terms of the organizational pillars: ! • Awareness of the intention and related items.General Process We accommodate attention. time. • Avoidability of other work. • Accessibility of the intention’s materials. triggers.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 143 . guides. directly aligning time. space. and our attention. we must place the material of the work in front of us.

Start as soon as possible 4. Set a timer to limit involvement and heighten concentration 21 The sense of other work to be done is tremendously supported by a task management system. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 144 . accommodating attention A General Scheme The following is a general scheme for structuring our thoughts to enhance attention for a session of work. Place the work directly in line of sight 3. The order reflects a general increasing degree of support. Acknowledge present experience including: ⁃ The intention ⁃ The associated emotional sense ⁃ The meaning of the work ⁃ The sense of other work to be done21 ⁃ Any obstructions including ideas and items in the way 2. not necessarily by order of importance or completion. Close lines of communication as indicated 5. to be explored later in this text. 1.

We will explore its use later in this text. Pause & Acknowledge As always. continuing until all that remains is silence and our work resting before us. It is a period during which we may reflect to delegate thoughts as a development of the silent intention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 145 . wordlessly asking. the entry to a session may be a session in itself. we continually and patiently store them. As intentions and ideas come to mind. What is on my mind? In a sense. A nearby Inbox can also powerfully augment the session. quietly awaiting our freed attention. preferably to the point of silence. we optimally begin with acknowledgement. We survey the landscape. allowing the associations to settle.

craft conditions for some mythical perfection. reflect upon its meaning to us. there is work we wish to do immediately upon inspiration. or tiredness when considering the task. The best evidence of this is the sudden desire to find play elsewhere. we cannot readily predict inspiration’s arrival. For such work. the risk of organizational misalignment is high. We often prefer to avoid intentions sensed as bereft of play. We may feel worry. On the other hand. or look to do other work in the name of clearing more time. and therefore better know when the work itself is our adversity. recognize the contours of any emotions with which it is associated.The Emotionally Charged When our work is emotionally charged in particular. Many of the arrangements of our environment and task systems are geared towards building this favorably creative climate. We want to delve into the work and forget about everything else as much as possible. boredom. On the one hand. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 146 . there are those intentions we would rather not begin. often in the name of “relaxing”. Whether using the metaphor of muse or spark. acknowledgement plays a crucial role as it allows us to better clarify the work.

We also avoid the heightened risk of organizational misalignments associated with many constructive intentions. 
 The more clearly we frame an intention. By being clear. We attempt to make the vision as accessible as possible. having addressed the mental climate as it presently stands. Acknowledgement also helps to clarify it. perhaps the very minute or day it is assigned. Adjacent In Attention & Time Placing the work in front of us as soon as possible. we can often sustain a workflow quite well. with unrelated intentions out of its path. The degree to which we may avoid derailment by using this simple step can be profound. we help to define what we are doing and what we are not doing. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 147 .Decide & Define The Intention In the process of acknowledgement. 
 The better we are able to accommodate and develop it. helps to dispel the anxieties that relate to anything unknown by making it known. we consider and decide upon some intention. By setting an intention clearly in our minds. Recall: As a general rule.

the default notification settings of new applications are not useful or even conducive to our workflows. we may decide to move elsewhere or ask those nearby to kindly avoid interrupting us before beginning our work. Often. Our coworkers or children. Recognizing our paths of communication. doing so often allows us to be more fully. turning off access to mail and internet programs can also be useful. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 148 . We can anticipate interruption if we are to sit in a busy area of the office.Attention Of Others The attention of others often impacts our own attention. available to have conversations with them at a later time. It can be useful. perhaps as its own session. well-meaning or otherwise. and even enjoyably. to spend time familiarizing oneself with the notification center of the computers and mobile devices we use regularly. can certainly jump into the midst of what was once a flowing session of work. If we find ourselves easily distracted. Interestingly. “Notifications” in the digital realm are signals from some program or person asking for your attention.

I can then examine the tasks of the day to determine how much further time I can devote to the session. After the work gains momentum. I can then be relaxed enough to pull my attention momentarily from the work. I stand in front of it. I pull out one hanger.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 149 . I may only need to jot down a few words or sentences until I feel the pressure of needing to write begin to pass. and the sense that the task manager awaits. To place the work in line of sight. including an examination of the task manager for the tasks of the day.An Example Of Inspiration I wake up with an interesting idea that I’d like to write. reflect upon the importance of immediate work. I then start writing. Rather than consider every aspect of the environment. Meanwhile. Or if I do not have the time. I have a project of rearranging the closet ahead of me. I pull out another. I am in the flow of the work. A rather enticing video game seems to be beckoning from the other corner of the room. and have a better sense as to how long it will take. I don’t particularly want to do it. how to store the work. I can then decide when and how to stop. An Example Of The Mundane As another example. I acknowledge the dread. I acknowledge the work. Soon. I have not considered the day’s work. I do not want to lose the idea while it is still fresh. and perhaps set a timer. I can begin closing the session in order to store the work as well as possible. I instead just pause. What I worried would be lost from short-term memory is now safely written.

The decision to make a phone call may be limited by a meeting starting in 5 minutes. projects. an estimation. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 150 . even if in the form of a general feeling. Perhaps particularly for works associated with strong emotion. may provide a useful sense of boundedness to the intention. accommodating time Accommodating Time Each intention has its own natural lifespan. or reading a chapter of a story are limited by the tasks themselves and any natural breaks they may contain. Doing so allows us to focus on present work without worry that other work will be lost as we have already factored this decision into the environment. a walk around the block. For example. Having a calendar and task management system provides a means of at least guessing a reasonable amount of time to invest in an individual session. Some settings may be adjusted while others cannot. While we do not know the length of time for any creative workflow. processing a list of tasks. It can also help to get us into the difficult work as we know we only plan to spend a short time in it. and meetings there are to visit that day. we can benefit from setting a reminder to close the session. The decision to read a book until other family members are ready to go out to a dinner is limited by the time of others. How much time we may wish to devote to the present session will be influenced by how many other tasks.

such as the end of a chapter • A defined time using the clock. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 151 . Both are techniques of buffering the time useful to develop an intention against the world's demands. such as exhaustion or chance environmental stimulus ! We will examine two techniques of using a timer: the Pomodoro Technique and the Closing Technique. such as 20 minutes • An interruption external to the intention. We can: ! • Estimate time useful to develop an intention • Estimate the time available in the environment • Accommodate the time of the intention by arranging the environment ! using the following: ! • A sense of natural break in the intention.

the Pomodoro Technique is briefly described as setting a timer for 25 minutes and dedicating oneself to a task or project for that time. During this time. The pause provides a period of relaxation and reflection. consciously assigning an end point better allows other intentions and concerns to wait. As the present intention does indeed have an end point. It also allows for one intention to end and the next to begin without interference. When the mind wanders. we are reminded of the intention set throughout the session. it cues the formalization of intention. • Second. we do not do other distracting things. • Fifth. These sessions alternate with 5 minute rest periods. • Third. • Fourth. having set a timer. we reduce the risk that it will run over the time or attention of other intentions. as we know it will end shortly. gently helps return attention to the intention. the pause can be a formalized space for acknowledgement. There are several benefits proposed by the structure of the Pomodoro Technique: ! • First.The Pomodoro Technique Designed by Francesco Cirillo. the sound or sight of a timer nearby. we pause between sessions. as it often does. We state what will be accomplished in the set time. we can more easily start work we might otherwise wish to avoid. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 152 . After every fourth session. or even the recollection of the timer being set. In some ways. such as check email or browse the internet. one takes a longer break of 20 minutes.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 153 . and I have written about its use elsewhere. the Pomodoro Technique is a formalized construction of the session accommodating: ! • The intention • Time • Attention • A clean break between sessions ! The Pomodoro Technique has been very useful to my own workflow. Together.

Each type of work has its own unique time period of closing. It evolved from my experience that certain depths of immersion do not develop until a threshold of uninterrupted time and attention is crossed. This distinction is more than trivial and hence creates the name of the technique. therefore. The closing of a session is a time to wrap up. and not "end". During the closing phase of a session. we optimally place relevant objects for the next encounter with the intention. therefore. we simply decide when we would like to close a session. is much better accomplished when accommodated. such as closing down a session of musical Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 154 . Some session endings take a brief moment. especially. such as placing a bookmark in a book. Some benefit from a much longer period of closing. Setting the 25 minute timer. can be impaired by interruption. did not do well for many such intentions. Rather than have specific repeated intervals. Note that I say "close" the session. often unclear until achieved. bounding the end of a session helps tremendously with the attention we can decide to devote to present work. whether we anticipate that it will be a few minutes or a few days from now. The closing phase takes time and. The alterations for the Closing Technique are as follows: ! • The session’s length is variable • An alarm is set for the close of a session • Pauses occur as needed ! A session may last for several minutes or several hours. We will examine its importance in the following section: Endings.The Closing Technique The Closing Technique is a modulation of the Pomodoro Technique. Creative intentions. Either way.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 155 . Making a conscious estimate of how long we may need to close a session provides this accommodation. composition. ! As an example. perhaps we would like some time to think about what was just read. however. I set an alarm for 40 minutes. Rather than rely on a formalized pause. I know I will need to leave my work space in 45 minutes. How we wish to accommodate the work and its importance can be directly affected by the time of closing. we would like additional pauses to occur as happens with the every-25-minute nature of the Pomodoro Technique. • Closing Technique: I estimate 5 minutes for the session’s closing. we may consider silence for any range of time and at any moment that we feel an intention’s development dictates. In addition to timing the end of a session. However. ! • Pomodoro Technique: The Pomodoro Technique would allow a single 25-minute session within these parameters. I decide to write. A longer period to close than simply the time to place the bookmark would be useful. In the example of reading a book. allowing for 5 minutes of closing.

When carefully organized for an anticipated time of relevance. in fact. Should we decide that our waiting work may.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 156 . Despite proceeding with the same work. and consequently the work that results from that mindset. In addition.Adjustments The timer reminds us of agency. We can pause in silence to reassess. We believed at one point that it would be important to interrupt any play that may have developed at this particular time. we may decide that we are in a state of flow and do not wish to stop. we must reevaluate that decision in the context of the present. as the timer had been set earlier by some decision process. Note. We continue our work with deliberation. is tremendous. As our timer rings. we can then deliberately and calculatedly reset the clock. we are not hitting a snooze button without regard. the difference of mindset. we may: ! • Decide to review our waiting list of day’s tasks • Consider where the work stands now ! … and acknowledge whatever else comes to mind. In the pause. it can be a powerful tool. continue waiting. Some may even be lost in the present pause. But the time we spend to ground ourselves is often well worth it. We do not wish to lose the present momentum.

and what materials are irrelevant so they can be rendered avoidable and possibly even invisible. • Remove the irrelevant from sight. we consider what materials are relevant and can be made accessible for our work. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 157 . accommodating space Considerations In the moment. • Estimate the space available in the environment. We can: ! • Estimate the space useful for our work. • Accommodate the space of the intention by arranging the environment.

as a regrouping and resorting of files by their relations to other files and their utility. the materials of our work take up some form of space. The difficulty is often inflamed by over-encumbered areas that need some degree of restructuring themselves. Simple organization can occur without acknowledging the step. Yet it is a most important. step. in fact. we are often bombarded by seemingly disparate objects. for more complex efforts. such as when creating a single folder into which similar items may be grouped. we consider. But. grouped. is a process often requiring at least 15% of empty drive space. Using the metaphor of painting. if we are not consciously attentive to creating space that allows us to Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 158 . it is often not. When organizing or first approaching a new project. The dimensions of space may be physical and/or digital in nature. Finding room to pull the items out of the stuffed closet is made more difficult when there is no room to place those items. Be it an overstuffed closet or a new area of study. Designing space may. Ideas and items need room to be compared with one another so the relevance of any individual object may be understood. discerning how its objects may be understood.Define Space Whether it is a laptop and the use of an associated application or the materials for arrangement in a closet. pose the most significant hurdles for the development of an organizational intention. and perhaps least acknowledged. and sorted is most easily done when they are given their own time and space for observation. What is the canvas? Though it sounds simple and obvious. Even the defragmenting of a hard drive.

hardware. papers from another project. even methodologies—without ever creating a meaningful organizational structure to support our workflows. Our workspaces can be enhanced by removing items and paths to items that are irrelevant. may all rest in the periphery. When sitting to work at the laptop. develop our own structure. perhaps not fully organized themselves. multiple windows and icons strewn across the screen can easily detract from the work at hand. a cell phone sitting nearby. etc.22 22 napkin excluded. we may get caught up in repeatedly falling for external solutions—software. Even though they do not directly block access to the work. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 159 . Removing The Irrelevant We often find objects sitting around that are unrelated to present work. but at least placed into an Inbox for later organization. Within the laptop itself. they still do tug at the mind's attention. a crumpled napkin from lunch.. We may place them out of view.

too. they clearly support the focus upon the craft for that particular individual. consider that for another writer who thrives in a bustling atmosphere. While these details do not directly support the work of the content written. a coffee shop might be more suitable as a place to work. To emphasize the individual nature of the playground or workspace. The documents for work and its related references are easily reached.An Example Of The Writer For the distractible writer. an example may be creating a user account on the laptop with only the word processing program enabled and access to the internet disconnected. rather than the kitchen table. A secluded area. allows for better focus on the work and avoids potential interruptions from others. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 160 .

too.An Example At The Dinner Table We may even find a pleasant example at the dinner table. All aspects of the environment are arranged to heighten the attention placed upon the experience. thereby allowing our attention the time it needs to deepen within the intention. with an arrangement of pleasant lighting. with napkins placed. The lighting accentuates the visual aspects of enjoying a meal and the ability to see and speak with others about the table. with all necessary utensils. if we instead set the table. is at the ready for when we are thirsty. with drink nearby. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 161 . the same food may be experienced quite differently. The drink. The experiential difference is precisely due to the degree of attention involved. The napkin allows for ready clean up in case of spills. Enjoyment of eating and conversation need not be interrupted. The accessibility of the utensils allow for ready eating. Each of these allow the individuals to not need to get up from the table once the meal has begun. While we can eat directly from the pots and pans in which food has been prepared.

The Session in Practice Exercise Prior to beginning a session of work. consider the following: ! • What is the intention? • What is on your mind? Consider writing thoughts irrelevant to the work chosen. • Where is the attention of those nearby? • Would you like to set a timer? • What space and materials could be useful? • What materials may be in the way?
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 162 .

! ! ! ! Endings Sessions

or design a website. create a movie. We would then need to break attention to make a decision of either placing that idea into an Inbox or returning to the previous project. we may be excited to move on to the next big thing. we may feel a natural break in the work. fine." or simply walk away. care & relevance Care In Closing Sessions may end as we complete the work. The decision introduces a turbulence into the stream of attention which could otherwise have been avoided. Even if the work is entirely mental in nature. Were we to require ourselves to complete every piece of work from the moment it was begun. However. that does not mean that the work will take care of itself. More pressing matters may abound. For whatever the multitude of possible reasons. ideas and items may easily be lost and a wake of clutter follows. just because we decide to stop. "I'm done. say. If we end our current work without thought. hoping that we’ll “just remember” where we left off. This is. of course. our next intention may now be more subject to intrusive thoughts reverberating from the present intention. Our times of transitions are delicate. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 164 . we may be tired. it would be impossible to write a book. we end sessions though the work is not complete.

therefore. therefore. during a session and its end when we are best informed as to how to organize our resources and tools. We are clearly most directly involved with our work during the session and its end. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 165 . It is. be most fresh at these times. Reserving time and care for the closing of a session allows and improves this process. Relevant ideas will. we can bounce from one intention to the next without ever having a sense of developing much of anything. Organizing meaningfully takes time. Further. when our workspaces become particularly cluttered.

Am I done? The question suits at least several purposes including: ! • Bringing attention to the present moment • Reducing potential scattering of attention • Enhancing thoroughness of the present session • Presenting a starting point for organization and enhancement of conditions for future sessions • Reducing the propensity for thoughts of this session. from returning at inopportune times ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 166 . we bring attention to the process itself by consciously and actively asking. silence & trusted return A Decision To Close To begin closing a session. irrelevant to any next intentions.

Considering the impact of stopping: ! • What may suffer by ending the session now? • Would it be better to simply continue? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 167 . With agency. Acknowledgement of “Am I done?” best informs the decision to either complete the work or store it. Importantly. We may even find that it would take longer to end the session of work with care than it would to simply complete the work. “Am I done?” brings our attention to the moment. we consciously decide to begin disconnecting our attention from the intention.

our minds are given an honest permission to rest. When optimized. Retrieval of our mindset is about triggering memory. we consider what would be needed to retrieve or re-induce the state of mind we had while working. and essentially to completing a form of pattern recognition. more importantly. space. When we can consciously look at the work without any other ideas presenting themselves.The Use Of Acknowledgement Acknowledgement is an excellent tool and guide for marking. and ultimately the general state of mind to easily return to the momentum we had been developing while working. emotions. experience needed to end with integrity. it will much more likely be able to remain off of the mind and out of our way. what do I need to do to trust it will get and remain off of my mind? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 168 . and organizing a session’s end. preparing. By acknowledging the thoughts that come to mind that would form this trusted state. and. We organize by consciously guiding the experience of the session to fade from attention with honesty. Acknowledgement gives a session the time. If we truly and honestly believe that the work will wait well for us until the next time. We acknowledge at least: ! • What work have I done? • How may I trust that I will see what is important at the time that it is appropriate? • Will this work be off of my mind? • If not. to emotions. the context of the work will hopefully call forth the thoughts. To close a session well. It is linked to associations. the session’s closing itself has been acknowledged.

or both? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 169 .Organizational Questions To these ends. what is needed to complete it? (Consider awareness) • How may I store what is necessary to best foster its continued development? (Consider accessibility) • How may I store what is necessary so it may be avoided by unrelated intentions? (Consider avoidability) ! Even more detailed: • What would get this off of my mind? • What are useful next actions? • Where is the most relevant place to write next actions? • Would next actions be better embedded in a task management system. each component of our workflows may be organized by considering how the work and its materials will be: ! • Remembered • Easily accessed • Easily avoided ! by asking: ! • What work have I done? (Consider awareness) • Is the work complete? (Consider awareness) • If not. within the project itself.

can homes be designed? • What maintenance is required? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 170 . • When do I expect to return? • How well do I expect myself to remember the meaning of the materials in that time frame? • What is the state of return that would best help move the intention forward again? • Are all relevant objects of work and play returned to their homes? E. where would files best be stored.g. • If they do not have homes.

providing an indication as to where we are in the book. A task is an intention stored. It stores an intention. Other useful tools. It is also a task in that we assign it the purpose of suggesting we continue from that point. also covered later. include a task management system and even our habits. Placed within the material of the work.Placing Tasks & Guides Much of closing the session involves storing our intentions using tasks and guides. As an example. We will examine both in greater detail in the later section. and implicitly directs a next step forward in the vision of moving through the book. a bookmark acts as a guide by directing attention to a particular point in a book. tasks and guides effectively convert the project into its own area in which related intentions are stored. A guide is an object assigned the purpose of calling or directing attention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 171 . Suffice it to say here that we attempt to remind ourselves of what is important to continue our work by placing markers and writing thoughts down in places we believe will help us to remember how to continue the work. often in words. Stations.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 172 . We sit before the next decided intention or session in silence before beginning.Transition A depth of acknowledgement into silence provides the greatest agency to decide upon the next work most clearly. Upon decision. the process repeats. We take the moment to decide. be it another project. We then begin the next intention. an entry of Inbox tasks that await from earlier memorizations or visualizations. a review of lists and tasks awaiting perusal. or simply our thoughts. The silence of a completed session transitions to the silence in which a next potential course of action may present. then decide. Any thoughts irrelevant to the decided-upon intention are written and stored until the mind settles again.

the practice of thoroughness with our small intentions tends to generalize the skill to our larger intentions. appropriate location before closing a program. I know I will see it then to continue its work. than when a session was begun can become an overarching development of cleanliness. the cleanliness of our daily paths is gradually improved. if not cleaner. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 173 . we gradually improve thoroughness of our intentions and improve our spaces. In addition. In placing a coat on a hanger upon entering the home. I flag the task and set its date for tomorrow. Perhaps it is especially important to practice cleanliness in the closing of small sessions. I embed a link to the file in a task. or in saving a file to a consciously considered. I jot down several notes to jog my memory later. as long as it is done regularly. I save the file.A Useful Habit A habit of leaving a creative space as clean as. A Simple Example of Ending a Writing Session I am ending a session of writing. in making the bed in the morning. Even if done marginally.

I look at the clock and my task system. would be better than to write the tasks necessary to store the work. tired. I wish to end writing my thoughts and consider ending the session. I decide that completing my present thoughts. I continue writing. I am. also. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 174 .An Example Of Deciding To Continue I am writing. despite being tired. In the reflection of a pause.

I consider: What did I just read? What did I just learn? ! Both questions help to consolidate my thoughts so that they are more available to me when I might want them. In addition. if the answer to either is “I don’t know”. I can consider: What am I missing? Is there something problematic about the material? Does the material mean something useful to me? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 175 .An Example In Studying As I end a session of study.

• I do the tasks I could do at home now so that I do not have to look at the laptop when I get home. I write a note to myself that I know I will see at the office tomorrow. There are no errands. • I again give myself a few moments. They are completed.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 176 . • I examine my list of tasks for what may need to be done at home and any errands that need to be run. I would like to end the day’s session of work: ! • I examine my list of tasks for things that I can only do at the office. There are a few small things I can do either at the office or home. I remember a phone call to make. • I give myself a few moments to see what else comes to mind. Effectively. • I leave.An Example of Leaving the Office I would like to leave the office. Nothing else comes to mind.

! ! ! ! Session Ideals

 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 178 . Regularly and frequently. When unclear or confused. ! Or when it would simply be nice to pause. ! ! It is useful to pause. Or finding our way towards the end. When distracted by the inside or out. ! When beginning a session of work.

Time. Limits continue to exist. as. But we are limited. silence & agency as ideals There may seem to be no end to the stream of potential intentions. Conditions are never perfect. daydreams. and ideas for organizing that may come to mind when attempting to relax into a steady silence. But some reflection offers greater agency than none. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 179 . we must both begin and end regardless of condition. attention. responsibility. ultimately. and desire place their continual demands upon us. We cannot simply continue to wait for silence or continue a session forever.

I pause for silence … Keep working and be late? … ! Keep working until the last moment that I may still be on time (continuing present thought but sacrificing organization)? … ! Begin closing the session and be on time? … ! I consciously choose the latter. the clock tells me that I must leave for work. we find benefit in allowing for what silence we have: ! ! ! ! While in a stream of thought. I pack and go. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 180 . Even in the hard-and-fast limit of time. Its reminder of other realities interrupts the flow of present work.

and clients. While the achievement of perfect silence may prove impossible. As nice of a buffer as we have built for and amongst ourselves over the millennia. bosses. during. its hostility may yet be felt. when we begin and end tasks in silence. Silence buffers the play that may develop an intention by creating a vital space in which we can pause to not think. teachers. It is within the space of a pause that we gain or regain agency. that influence our every decision. By recognizing the power and importance of limits in time and the importance of space. to reduce the pressures of work. small and large. The attempt to find silence before. The universe is hostile. It is in pausing that we can observe the numerous forces. its attempt is still a fine compass point. we learn to say “no” to our loved ones. and that we can see the areas where we may find meaningful work to be done. when we accommodate attention to decide and restore ourselves. and after a session is often an unrealistic ideal. We must acknowledge the present conditions as they stand. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 181 . by sensing the strength and stability offered by momentary periods of silence. We learn to draw and re-draw lines. be they internal or external. We practice the ability to sit with desire and anxiety in their myriad constellations above the emotional landscapes and simply be—even for a moment. We learn to sit within and complete a session without running away from inevitable difficulties. amongst others. we begin to understand our reactivity to the world. and to allow a place for our own objectivity and observation. When we pause to acknowledge what we can.

In this case. Other Session Examples A Detailed Example Of A Writing Session I wish to write at the laptop: ! I acknowledge the intention. thereby improving its accessibility when relevant. I clear the unrelated files by placing them in a folder labeled “To Sort”. thereby improving its avoidability when irrelevant. I begin writing. ! Organizing.: ! I move the file to a specific dedicated folder. I had saved the file to the computer desktop. I add a link of the file to a task. When done writing. There are other programs open and unrelated files sitting on the desktop. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 182 . I acknowledge the adversity of the context. I save the file and close the application. clearing what I can. I then review the context in which I did the work.

if not identical. space. and attention that would be needed or helpful throughout the day. to: Think before acting. then act. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 183 . • As individual sessions of work are completed. I set a date of tomorrow and flag it to ensure my awareness of the task when I believe it will be relevant. including the tasks themselves. I consider how they may best be arranged and optimized. I clear contexts to the degree I can reasonably acknowledge. ! The process leaves a trail of cleanliness. ! Similarly. I review my list of the day’s tasks. • I consider the resources of time. An Example of the Day's Tasks • In the morning or perhaps the night before. ! The process is similar. • I work through the day. ! I process the files placed in the “To Sort” folder until it is emptied. then reflect.

! It would have been nice to have the previous work wrapped up well and out of my way so I could draft the email without needing to visit the Inbox first. I return to the laptop to see my previous work. I believe my work at the laptop can wait as it is. I want tea.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 184 . I get up from my laptop to make tea. the frustration of not having finished or stored it. I must now deal with both the thoughts returning to mind of the previous work. I acknowledge both that there is no perfection and the frustration that comes with that knowledge. without closing any programs. Some time later. and the ideas for the email. I could then decide upon one path of work while the other waited patiently in storage nearby. I am interrupted by an important family matter and forget about my work. I can resolve the issue by sitting with an Inbox to write all thoughts for both work matters. I decide to draft an email.An Example Of An Unattended Laptop I am writing.

! ! ! ! Regular Sessions & Habits

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)23 23 http://www.famousquotesabout. so that you may be violent and original in your ! ! ! Be regular and orderly in your life.-that-you- may-be-violent-and-original-in-your-work#ixzz0wtYjICH2 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 186 .

memorizing and re-memorizing passages. its sounds grow bitter. Much of practice is about creating the conditions whereby a piece may develop. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 187 . Practicing scales and chords. into some recognition of a natural beauty. When extended for too long. designing the environments conducive to even practice at all. These supports give a musical piece the guidance it needs to grow at its own pace. neither rushed. The same may be said of any creative work. nor stunted. providing it the time it needs. deadlines & pressures Life Of A Musical Piece A musical improvisation ended too early feels abrupt. are all a matter of clearing paths for music to be played well.

Demands Of Play & World The time needed for our work is often unclear. real deadlines persist. particularly without regular practice of the same tasks. by definition. have unclear visions. For creative works in particular. Creative intentions. Creativity often appears when the mind is provided an uninterrupted space and time. We do not know what is being made except in the process of its being made and often not fully until sometime after its completion. The paths by which its work can actualize are found and cleared in the act of working. and where its unseen motions beneath the waves may crest at the shore of consciousness. New ideas come to mind. and without guidance. whereby it may distill and consider concepts. matters become even murkier. where it can resolve confusion by the use of silence. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 188 . Meanwhile. our work will not complete itself. As people. we are notoriously poor at guessing the time most tasks will take. Play’s unconscious workings cannot be pressured without affecting the subsequent developments of whatever it is we are trying to build. What we once thought would take a moment becomes an idea which can take much longer.

However we modulate the pressure.americanpoems. or a novel environment are. it is best done consciously and thereby guided. the simple desire to complete the work is a pressure quite real enough. there are those who do not. types of pressures optimized for the individual at that time. While some degree of pressure can Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 189 . random in presentation. Waiting for deadlines does not take into account life’s penchant for throwing us sudden unanticipated new deadlines and adversities at the seemingly worst times. 24 http://www. in these cases. that impedance is a carefully crafted one. Either persons create sessions as a type of gestational space and time to do work well.Modulating Pressures Reality throws realistic and unrealistic deadlines at us all. Relying on random events to inspire our work is a risky gamble. Even the inspirations that are sparked from a chaotic surrounding. bring a dishonesty to the self that somehow permeates the workflow and seeps into the grounds of play. we must consider that for an instrument. in their own ways. Even waiting for ourselves to be “in the mood to work” is an easy recipe for avoidance. “the impeded stream is the one that sings”24. or find some other means to modulate pressure to a familiar setting. We may decide to study the night before an exam. There are those who do thrive under pressure. Meanwhile. a sudden deadline. the impositions of false deadlines or setting fake due dates. too. as is described eloquently by the phrase. though. draft a business report as the due date arrives. Besides.

is accomplished in the incompressible and un-expandable resource of time. and consistency. no matter how small or seemingly trivial. our work. space.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 190 . we must be able to find a means whereby play may be guided into work by our own-designed supports or pressures. and our environments the time needed or desired by beginning early and regularly. As the resource of time cannot be adjusted while real deadlines loom in front of us. Regular sessions give our work the space and time needed for play and the structure they need to become work: Regular sessions are the application of time.Guiding Time While resources such as money and even confidence may be increased and strengthened. We grant ourselves. frequency. Every intention. and attention to an intention with depth. time cannot be built up or gathered in the same way.

& agency within the work • Provide structure to the day allowing for stations. They: ! habit • Are seeds of meaningful habits • Provide a means of developing large projects • Are the path of practice. and therefore of mastery and meaningful work • Support silence. which in turn allow for larger projects • Build confidence • Allow us to recognize limits • Help to avoid procrastination. play. • Promote the practice of patience Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 191 . regular sessions & habits General Benefits Regular sessions provide many potential benefits to our workflows.

they are formed by observing and shaping habits.Meaningful Habits Whatever systems we build. or things we “should” do. “An object at rest tends to remain at rest.25 We can recognize regular sessions as the seeds of habit. an object in motion tends to remain in motion. reflect their reasons for existence and means of guidance. as acknowledged habits.” Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 192 . However. rather than view them as empty repetitions. I pose the following definition of habit: A habit is a repeating action with a tendency to continue repeating. note the similarity to Newton’s first law paraphrased as. 25 As an aside. we can see a meaningful purpose behind them. Regular sessions.

excitement. it is a space where we can always re-discover and re-learn the basics. Through repetition. Simply sitting in a session of work daily. Practice is only a type of regularity in a context defined by the piano and the score. Learning a piece of music requires practice. musical skills continue their development. Having a system of habits allows us to gracefully entertain the oddly and frustratingly simultaneous guests of excitement and despair. Much of creative work. where we can wonder and learn at our own pace. The creative session inspires and engages a flow of play. sadness. The sense that something must be completed in the same session as when it was started is minimized. Perhaps this is especially important for the unending creative intention developing towards the wide expanse of mastery. A rhythm of sessions is established. or otherwise. Each session becomes an opportunity for play to take root and grow. we are walking towards a destination. Each space in time clears the path for the next step. amongst a host of other nameless emotions. Whether designing a program. Especially when it is a repeating place and time. regardless of energy level or emotional state. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 193 . is a powerful method of building a large project. each visit becomes a step forward. By playing the piano every day. A creative session is a session developing a creative intention. and before we know it. fear. writing a book. sessions are given the opportunity to be more creative in nature. Much work cannot be completed in a single session. carries a mix of joy. composing an album of music.Single Steps A clear advantage of regular sessions is that huge leaps are no longer needed to do work. especially.

It can be excellent to find such times. and slowly we gather 10.” A frequency of visits to the craft is instead worked into the fabric of the days.27 Each visit is a new opportunity to cultivate a playful mindset within the work. for example. It is true that some things do not actualize without a certain frequency and depth of time and attention. we do not simply train all at once and say. and years. Adversity always exists. I believe that honoring the habit itself provides a much surer and stronger course. Ericsson. I doubt the utility of this approach. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 194 .org/ 2007/07/the-making-of-an-expert/ar/1 27 George Leonard. Some days are better and some days are worse." Harvard Business Review (2007): 1-8. Similar to exercising. Each day builds upon the last. 1992). Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. The development of the intention is allowed to spread from a single point to multiple events. the regularity of multiple sessions gives ideas the time they need to seep into knowledge. we may close the work to return again the next day. "The Making of an Expert. the regular development of play into something felt as meaningful generalizes and resonates throughout our workflows and our days. Even if. three sustained uninterrupted hours a day. 26 K. in the end. To deny ourselves the attempt because of this adversity is self-defeating. no book manifests. and to form into some cohesive thought. A well-supported workspace allows us to even be tired. weeks. months. 26 We practice. (Plume. http://hbr. and continue the day knowing the task will wait patiently for us tomorrow. Instead of skipping from one item to the next as learning curves begin to feel increasingly steep. If thoughts do not form or play does not appear at any particular session. Our work is to simply stay on the path. Still. While we may tell ourselves that a book cannot be written without. but it is not always possible. check off the task. to crystallize.000 hours towards mastery. “I’m done.

Exercise of Habit For a chosen field of mastery or meaningful work. create some form of the task: . Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 195 .Practice Set the task to repeat daily.

Therefore. While we may not have a perfect view of the future. For example.28 While this speaks more specifically to the enhancement of anticipation by way of practice. consider what a project will look like when it is done. 28 My aim is to get the process to a single keystroke. I know that I often wish to record the performance. we do benefit from its active consideration.Improved Anticipation Anticipation is the degree to which resources may be sensed and arranged as useful for a workflow’s future. we can always further enhance anticipation by pausing to assess present experience followed by actively considering an intention’s vision. we practice anticipation. envision its completed state. over time. As we revisit our work. I have reduced the number of steps required to have all the MIDI and audio channels ready for recording with very few keystrokes. or as GTD may phrase it. whether before or during an intention’s development. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 196 . When we take a moment to survey the potential landscape of our work. Practice aids anticipation. when I sit to play at the piano. In fact. before sitting to play. much like a tape recorder. I will run a digital audio workstation program and hit record. Consciously refining an intention’s vision aids our attempts to accommodate for resources and actions. we get better at anticipating its needs.

That trust supports our ability to develop supportive organizational intentions at other times of the day. So long as we acknowledge the pressure and deadlines of reality.Anchors & Branching Intentions Once habits are established. With a reduced pressure to complete work in a single session. I can think about looking up the definition of some term or how I might structure the material differently. Ideas for organizing. can improve settings for future sessions. later developed. The power of habit becomes more apparent. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 197 . Organizational misalignments are thus avoided. As an example. A series of blog posts can become a book. or at least minimized. instead of only considering a new desk arrangement at the time we plan to use it. that habit becomes the anchor upon which continued development may be measured. Habit provides a foundational structure around which we can build a depth to our organizational structures which in turn support our work. we can dedicate a period of time to optimizing the desk as separate from our primary work. we can also consider our ideas and either pursue them immediately within the session or write them down for later potential development. An interesting hobby can become a career. such as a daily regular session for some piece of work. ideas to improve the work come to mind more easily. We no longer worry about completing the work at every sitting because we trust we can come back. I can envision a larger end-goal for the work I am doing.

If I did not.An Example Of A Branched Intention While creating a presentation. As I use a task manager. I set a timer to both: ! • Allow me to continue the present work of developing the presentation • Provide enough time to allow me to develop the link and file structure ! After completing the present session of work. I notice that I am continually looking for a certain group of images buried in my computer file system. I could write the note where I know I would see it at the closing of the present session of work. I can place the note in the Inbox. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 198 . I write a note to myself to gather those images into a centralized location with a link ready for easy access from within the work of the presentation. I then develop the organizational idea. I know that the improved conditions will contribute to my next session of developing the presentation.

This grown confidence. the structure we build by habit is one of trust. As long I can honestly trust that I will see something when relevant. and more meaningful work. it is not structure itself that injures play. larger. cultivated. It is the loss of agency. Building Confidence If we know we will be somewhere at a certain time. this honest belief in our improving capabilities. Quite the contrary. a developed. we learn how and where we can trust ourselves. grown sense of trust in our own actions and abilities. the structure that habits provide can be tremendously supportive and actualizing of play. In this way. I can have it off of my mind.Beauty In Structure As we form habits. Habits then contribute to building a real confidence. if I know I will walk out the door in the morning. The same is true of our daily habits as it is in the play heard within the beautiful performance of a virtuoso. we begin to form a structure to our day. If a habit is found as unhelpful. In this case. there is no rhythm. leaving a reminder by the door can be useful29. However. it is our duty to change it to better support ourselves in our continued attempts to guide play into mastery and meaningful work. The fear may be that play would be lost to structure. lends to an enhanced ability to take on greater. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 199 . For example. 29 Cautions of using such notes will be examined in the section on stations and task management. we can use that knowledge to leave an important note to remind ourselves of something. Without repetition.

and worries of how to pay the next bill arise. Tasks of the day less often demand our attention at inopportune times. Our work settings evolve. When sitting down to study or practice a craft. The opportunities for finding flow grow exponentially. we can have improved means of handling such occurrences (see the use of the Inbox). where they may be considered with full attention in their own time. Habits form a structure in which we can maintain our responsibilities. and therefore more easily. The mindscape is better cleared. we find the tendency for play to be more readily available and even matured. by maintaining our responsibilities through habit. we build a buffer between the world’s demands and the development of a creative intention. we eliminate the need to regularly “put out fires”. we can then more honestly. The mind more readily settles. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 200 . let us say a concerning financial matter is present. Even when they do. Over time. An Example Of A Financial Project For example. We can create an ongoing project or habit of considering finances weekly.Managed Responsibilities In visiting an intention with regularity. place that thought as a task somewhere we know it will receive full focus in a timely manner. However. Anxieties of unmet responsibilities can easily permeate and even suffocate the play we would like to find in our sessions of work. Doing so gives those thoughts an honest home.

The mind itself becomes more inviting for those momentary inspirations in the midst of a conversation which then translate into better social development. if we have a habit of keeping a tidy home. and then putting it away so it will be ready for use again later. weekly and yearly life. cleaning it. setting it aside to dry. we might be more spontaneously inclined to invite friends over. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 201 .An Example Of Enjoying The Dishes Even doing the dishes can become enjoyable. by way of a weekly interval for instance. becomes a metaphor resonating throughout one's daily. The joy we find in the otherwise mundane routine appears when we find it to support what we find genuinely and deeply find meaningful. An Example Of Inviting Conditions As another example. The repeating process of taking an unclean object.

Their existence does not constitute weakness.” and hopefully be able to add. As an example. acknowledging what we can. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 202 . we may recognize that the work was simply incompatible with the demands placed upon it and ourselves. knowing we have done what we could with what we had. in turn. to the conversion of anxiety into fear. “but. Time could have been spent differently. we find a real limit. The process is analogous. we need to understand the limits of what can and cannot be done. here is an alternative thought. We do. Respect for our limits is one aspect of self-respect—which. we use our newfound knowledge to communicate with the forces imposing those demands for any potential report or exam. we study for an exam but are not prepared. In order to take care of ourselves.” In this sense. We write a report. “I cannot do that. We can confidently say to a boss or co-worker. The recognition and acknowledgement of limits then allows us better decisions as to where and how we can invest the precious resource of time in the future. But when we can reasonably sit. become weak when we do not acknowledge them. but it is not completed in time. Certainly. however.Strength In Acknowledged Limits We all have limits. the acknowledgement of limits becomes our strength. other decisions could have been made. if not identical. Regularity of sessions gives us a real sense of those limits. But when we start the work early and visit it regularly. allows for more solid interactions with those around us. Alternatively.

Using a task manager. are an excellent antidote to procrastination.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 203 . Subsequent decisions for the work’s further development may now also be made with greater confidence. we now have a familiarity with the work that we did not have earlier.Reduced Procrastination Regular sessions. started early and started small. regular sessions started early mean that we: ! • Do not need to complete the work in the same session that it is started • Begin the work with a much longer lead time before any due date ! Either of these reduces the anxiety and irritation that often fuel procrastination. we can also leave at any time. Particularly when we do not wish to do the work. After completing a session. it is useful to remind ourselves of the fact that the work need not be fully developed in the first session. whatever its length. Suffice it to say here. Such considerations will be examined in greater detail in a later section. While it is crucial that we show up to the work early. Knowing we can return provides a degree of confidence. getting there is not. As obvious as this may seem. This small effort often provides a tremendous boost to begin a difficult project. I can create a repeating daily task with its associated materials embedded within it.

the needs of the work itself. and the needs of the environment. Patience is a practiced skill developed in time. nourish. supported by habit. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 204 . practicing patience Practicing Patience We would like to encourage. Patience is not simply sitting there. Patience is a practice of balancing the needs of our sense of play. while acknowledging the demands of our environments and even ourselves to the degree that we reasonably can. and provide for our creative work to grow at its own pace. We practice patience: Patience is the skill to allow and accommodate for a process to develop at its own pace.

including ourselves? • What do we need to be playful with the work? • What are the useful and required resources of time. The work is no longer a single act. We can acknowledge whatever we perceive to be the demands upon the work and its resources. and attention? • How may they be obtained? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 205 . repeatedly visiting an intention. Regular sessions allow us consider and acknowledge all pressures affecting the work: ! • When is the work due? • To whom is it due? • What does the work mean to those involved.Time for Acknowledgement By starting early. We can acknowledge the often commingling sensations of excitement and anxiety that often pervade creative work. space. we most importantly allow time for acknowledgement. the further from any due date we are. and practicing regularly in dedicated sessions. The mind is given freedom to create and understand at its own pace. but a flow of play channeled to form in practice and habit. The earlier we begin.

therefore. and the attempt to accommodate for this.Exercising Patience When we sense urgency within ourselves. and then it can be consciously factored into our decisions of pacing. The ability to make errors is a profoundly important aspect of learning. includes the recognition that things do not need to be done “correctly” on the first try or even several tries in. we may even ask. What is preventing patience? Perhaps there is pressure we have sensed. If we do decide to work faster. the sense of urgency can be acknowledged. but have not consciously recognized. Patience. we must be able to experiment and make errors. its meaning considered. We can observe errors as a larger overarching process of resolving vision. Whether there are real world demands or our own internal pressures. Error will be examined in detail in a later section. we can increase the frequency of sessions. An Allowance for Error To be able to play. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 206 .

sometimes asking for help. as productivity often focuses on a faster output. sometimes returning. But the relief often palpable in transitioning to regularly repeating sessions from the dependence upon the pressure of due dates. what was once dreaded may even become enjoyable.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 207 . real or artificial. we find patience in being available to a child learning to tie his or her shoes. sometimes failing. but to the manifestations of the play and work themselves.Paradox Of Taking Time Perhaps it is a seeming paradox to say that an important aspect of our workflows is to take our time. sometimes dropping it. and sometimes actively rejecting help in a practice of autonomy. not only contributes well to our state of mind. All the while. we aid the recognition of mistakes as lessons and the importance of repetition as inherent to the learning process. An Example Of Patience As an example. In the process. We hope to do the same for ourselves. We simply make certain the child is aware of our readiness to help and make ourselves accessible as he or she tries again and again. the child learns. sometimes succeeding. Eventually.

! ! We are what we repeatedly do. then.Aristotle (384–322 BC)/Will Durant (1885–1981)30 ! 30 http://thinkexist. is not an act. but a habit. Excellence. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 208 .html Also attributed to Will Durant in a summation of Aristotle’s work. .com/quotation/we_are_what_we_repeatedly_do-excellence_then-is/ 12820.

The structure of our lives is largely described in repetition. form the structure of our days. we can modify them. and. even if we are utterly exhausted by the end of the day. is tremendous in building a creative flow. wake and sleep alongside the light and dark. In building a habit. before adding another. productive or unproductive. These habits. We share it with others. build our events around the day. we will at least touch the craft consistently. that act may then be continued for several days. even for a short time. The habit of doing something daily. months. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 209 . or at least until the change feels settled as a habit. in general. and years. We can recognize and use the powerful structure of the single day’s cycle in order to develop habits. By observing our habits. weeks. The cycle of the day is a profound structure of time. conscious or unconscious. in turn. The daily visit is a commitment that even if we have no time or energy to spare. it is primarily frequency which establishes flow. While the amount of time is also important. building habits Observing And Guiding Habits We already have habits. Many habits are best cultivated in a daily implementation.

However. It becomes readily apparent as to why New Year’s resolutions and the like do not readily take hold. It can. be guided and cultivated with care. we then can see how powerful it can be when deciding to consciously adjust the list. however. The stream of our daily attention cannot rapidly be dammed. and by any other means that writing tends to hold a mirror to. It may seem to be a futile exercise at first. shifted. and clearly not every action requires writing. we benefit from some version of examining the habits of the day. Its use will be explored in a later section. if we use a list of our habits to manage the day. Simply writing down what we do during the day can be another means of establishing and observing habits. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 210 .Building Habit By Observation A well tended task management system can be a powerful ally in creating and maintaining useful habits. We can recognize habits in our repeating tasks. Whether done automatically using the intricacies of a sophisticated task management program or in direct observation by journaling with pen and paper. or revolutionized. our regular visits to particular work and lists of tasks.

! Slowly. however. now rendered unusable for anything other than as a quicksand for files. • I set a reminder in my phone to alert me to the task. An Example Of An Exercise Routine • I acknowledge that I could be in better physical shape. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 211 . filed. over days. when I return home from work. do it. and honored. deferred. the pile reduces until the once-familiar table’s wood grain appears again. maintained. • I consider the daily habit of waking up. • I may eventually add more.
 31 “Process” refers to the GTD method of process—if it takes less than 2 minutes. or placed into a project with a next action assigned to an active context list. or months. ! • I decide that every day. otherwise. weeks. is that the habit itself is begun. to which I could attach a new habit of exercise. it can be trashed. ! Certainly there is future work to be developed. I will take a small handful of papers and process31 them. delegated. Most important. • I start an exercise regimen of a single sit-up.An Example Of A Dining Room Table My dining room table is encumbered by years' worth of papers strewn across it.

! ! ! ! Stations & Task Management

(Penguin Books. 2002). and organizing placeholder reminders that we can trust. p239 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 213 . ! ! Defining what real doing looks like. on the most basic level.David Allen. 
 author of Getting Things Done32
 32 David Allen. First Thus edition. are master keys to productivity enhancement. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. .

We hope to address these multiple thoughts in a manner that allows a continued and optimal flow of the attention that we would like to respectively give them. In addition. thereby slowing down movement. (Jossey-Bass. each of which requires its own acknowledgement. and attention. so much as it is “switch-tasking”. Some even say that there is no such thing as multi-tasking.33 station Every transition of attention requires a re-tooling. The frequently cited example is that we think about changing a light bulb while staring at the burned out lamp. not by way of present availability of time. would inevitably create turbulence. In addition. The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done. Attempting to simply remember every idea for work. This is not to mention that memory can be fallible. stations Stations Defined We cannot do more than a single thing at a time without spreading focus thin. The need to remember the accumulating postponed tasks requires that they be continually refreshed in mind. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 214 . our thoughts come to mind as associations. space. while focused upon any present work. 2008). But it does 33 Dave Crenshaw. thereby occupying attention. our attention may be interrupted by any new work that appears or by the related and unrelated ideas that continually come to mind.

The production and maintenance of stations is an important part of our general organization. and interruptions. or a context list are stations. Even a single written task itself may be considered a station as a set of words containing an intention. in this sense. A station may be a scrap of paper. distractions. Stations may be born by way of inspiration. their accessibility to related work. a well-designed list. await processing or implementation. Stations serve to enhance all pillars of organizing by way of improving our awareness of relevant intentions. tasks sitting in any of these components are gathered and. We will now examine a more detailed storage of intentions by way of: ! • Tasks • Temporary Stations • Guides • Formalized Stations & Task Management Systems Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 215 . much as any organizational structure. a project list. we utilize “stations”: Stations are containers for intentions. depending upon the type of station. It may be a jumble of written thoughts or a clearly considered outline of tasks. We therefore require some means of storing intentions. Together. us little good to think about buying a light bulb while staring at the lamp needing the change. and their avoidability at other times. That information is better suited for us while we are at the store. or even an entire task management system. In the GTD system. stations and habits are our means of organizing intentions themselves. Stations store intentions. Getting Things Done concepts of an Inbox. To do so.

The intended order of reading a list of books may be indicated simply by their arrangement. to the intention that motivated the storage in the first place • At an optimal point of consideration or action. When stored. often stored. or other means. perhaps most intentions are. “move arm to pour coffee” every morning. I do not write. A well-designed task will inspire an intention that is: ! • Similar. and attention ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 216 . be it by written task. often in words. Some are neither. for instance. is a powerful method by which we may store the potential to change reality in a direction desired. But the formalization of intention. A project is an intention. Here we find intention by presentation. or at least stored in intrinsic memory. incorporating a group of related tasks. In this sense. they are stored as tasks: A task is an intention stored. spoken agreement. Some are stated. we hope to call an intention to mind by way of attention. in fact.Storage of Intentions Some intentions are written. if not identical. By writing a task. space. based on resources of time. There are many containers by which intentions may be stored. unconscious. Intrinsic memory and habit suffice as that storage.

com/ 2007/09/24/dear-me-get-work Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 217 .com .http://www. The better and more clearly a task brings an applicable intention to mind at the time and location of its utility. The same rules of thumb for designing our intentions are useful for designing tasks. this may be better expressed as two separate actions. the task “get milk” is best seen at the grocery store. The storage of intention is tested the moment it is unpackaged. and would therefore be most beneficial on a grocery list. a "call" task and an agenda item of "get coffee". but not more so • Avoid compounding multiple tasks (being wary of the words “and” and “for”)34 • Be as clear as possible. 35 As suggested by guest author Ethan Schoonover at 43folders. For example.43folders. Write tasks with the thought that it is a delegation to one’s future self35 • Start tasks with a verb to encourage their transformation into action 34 An example of "for" may be "Call Bob for coffee". the better the intention has been stored. These were covered in an earlier section and are repeated here for convenience: ! • Maintain simplicity where possible • Be as specific as needed.

While working. Where we decide to place a station is a matter of decision and organization. a thought related to the present work can instead be placed off to the side where it is still relevant to the work. albeit a disposable one. scale. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 218 . and even temporary. Doing so allows us to maintain our focus on present work. as long as we have a trust in our own habits that the scrap of paper will be addressed in a time frame relevant to the errant thought.Temporary Stations Stations may begin at a small. We may decide to use an area close by when a thought relates to the present work but is not immediately useable. Rather than being added to other unprocessed tasks waiting in an Inbox such as “Get milk” and “Consider house reconstruction”. writing an errant thought or unrelated task upon a nearby scrap of paper creates a station.

Writing a Post I am writing a blog post about chocolate. I can see the link and complete the intention of finding and inserting the relevant link. I think it would be useful to say something about its history but am presently describing its preparation. When I am reviewing the draft. I may forget to add the link later on. that I needed to know my habits of reviewing drafts. The station's beginning and end mark a short-lived area in which the intention was temporarily housed. I may utilize a temporary station by writing “{add link}” next to the relevant words in the post itself. the instructions may be deleted. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 219 . I may wish to complete the present writing before searching for that site. However. a means by which I knew that the station would be seen. Instead. so I write the thought on a piece of paper nearby. When writing a sentence in the post.Example of Temporary Stations . however. were I to simply continue writing. Once the link is added. especially while I feel I am in a flow of thought. in order to have the thought off of my mind for the time being. Meanwhile. I realize that it would be useful to add a relevant URL to a phrase. Note.

After starting the coffee machine. I may decide to clean the counter. The intention to clean the counter had been stored in short-term memory. The solution is to pause. the less room we have to work with what we are presently doing. however. acknowledge the present mindscape. the entire methodology rests on the idea. and in fact. We must exercise caution. I acknowledge the mess. Writing it down would have added an unnecessary step. This becomes two tasks held in mind while working on the next thing. we might have in mind one task while working on something else.Remembering Short-term memory itself is a type of temporary station. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 220 . and perhaps store the related intentions. As an example. The more unrelated items we have to maintain in active memory. As an example.Example of Temporary Stations . There is a period of time between having a thought and either doing something with it or writing it down. In other words. we have difficulty retaining the silent reflection of mind that best accommodates an ability to decide non-reactively. Further. we invite the reactive state of mind that can rob us of deliberate action and meaningful work. Getting Things Done author David Allen warns against the use of the mind as any form of storage. if I am making coffee and see that the counter needs cleaning.

Example of Temporary Stations . Upon completion.36 In this way. I can further my knowledge by making a decision to search outside of the text using any underlined words as starting points. I can focus on understanding what is in front of me to the greatest depth that I presently can. searching for one idea after another. I make a note to myself to look it up by underlining it with a pencil. I find a word I do not understand. The process prevents me from jumping from one text to the next. This can especially be a problem when entering new fields where much of the terminology is unfamiliar. without completing the passages I need to read. 36 So long as I do not make other marks that would make the underline less accessible during review. I erase the pencil marks. Upon review. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 221 .Studying While studying a textbook.

I take the pile out and begin to assign its items to their respective rooms. the resting point on the ladder functions simultaneously as an Inbox. It rests in the station of the ladder’s shelf. for example while making measurements and marking the wall. the hammer is a physical representation and reminder of the task to hammer the nail when ready. A hammer is nearby. In this situation. hammer. albeit a temporary one. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 222 .Clearing a Room As a final example. I anticipate periods where the hammer will not be used. nor would I return it to the toolbox. context list.Example of Temporary Stations . while cleaning the clutter of a room. and temporary storage. An area nearby.Hanging a Picture I am hanging a picture frame. In this case. but soon-to-be relevant. The pile functioned as a temporary station. thereby making it an excellently organized station. can work as a place to rest the unused. Once finished cleaning that room. My hands are then freed for other parts of the process. I can cordon off a section where items to leave the room are placed. perhaps as part of the ladder or other accessible location. Example of Temporary Stations . I wouldn’t take the hammer to a central physical Inbox. as doing either would create a longer trip than necessary and would unnecessarily hinder the progress of the project.

Exercise . consider an already existing task to improve. “Go to the store and buy milk” may work better as: ! • Go to the store @errands • Buy milk @store ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 223 . perhaps to the degree that it may be delegated to someone else? • Is it a compound task? If so. it may be useful to divide it. “Draft response and email Fred.” may better be written as: ! • Draft response to Fred @laptop • Email response to Fred @email ! Separating the two allows for a period of writing. If you have a regular task management system.Stations & Habits Create a task of anything that is on your mind. ! As an example. followed by a later visit to the email client. alongside any other writing tasks of the day. Consider: ! • Can it be clarified? • Is it as specific as needed. As another example.

This task may better be divided as: ! • Call Fred @phone • Please fix the sink @Fred ! Either of these examples allow further additions. Other signal words might be “for” or “about” as in “Call Fred about fixing the sink”. Similarly. too.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 224 . In the case of the grocery list (@store). if more agenda items for Fred come to mind before calling. more items can easily be added. additional thoughts can be added there.

However. A phone list is a station task which can be regularly handy to advance any number of management projects. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 225 . can be very useful as a standby station. A regular location in which needed groceries may be written. Every station created requires maintenance. a degree of maintenance becomes important. especially if we are to keep them around. as stations are organizational structures. While we may place tasks and stations in relevant locations. we risk overwhelming the limited resources of time and attention if there is no overarching structure as to how these stations are managed. Many to-do lists strewn about our paths of habit decay and lose utility without regular consideration. As a temporary station becomes increasingly useful. we may find that it no longer needs to be temporary. for instance. formalized stations 
 & task management Task Management 
 & Task Management System Defined Stations can be useful for multiple projects.

It is a means by which longer paths of work may be measured and traveled. When designed well. reflecting upon and discovering its primary concepts. In addition. south. west. Management is a system’s regular and iterative maintenance. It is a process of choosing the type and timing of reminders we would like to present to ourselves. it is useful to examine each in depth. tossing it aside. Beyond the left. the system is both resilient and flexible. to continually cultivate our own meaningful system of work. we learn to navigate by north. stations. right. we integrate knowledge that has been developed by another. Any and all of them are worthy of study and reflection. and jumping from one system to another. The transition from doing one session after another to an overarching task management system is perhaps analogous to learning to use a map and compass. and habits. A task management system is a centralized location and/or methodology for task management. In this way. up and down directions of movement. weeks. Task management is a management of sessions. lending strength to and buffering our ability to address both worry and want. Rather than considering one. east. adapting their principles for our own use. It is difficult for me to recommend anything that I have not worked with successfully myself. Task management is a means of purposely guiding our own attention throughout the days. I know that there are more task management systems and productivity ideas out there than I could review in a lifetime. taking into account the limitations we all have. Numerous task management systems exist. latitude and longitude. and even years. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 226 . More importantly. a system offers points for reflection upon the habits we use to move through our days as well as a means to build and guide them.

As an example of one of its practices. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 227 . The process also reduces the attention-load of always having to remind ourselves about the phone call lest it be forgotten. The batching of call tasks improves efficiency by decreasing the time of attention switching. such criticisms miss the central focus of getting things off the mind into some trusted system. we may see the “important phone call” task sitting within the waiting list of other phone calls to make. for instance. tasks. if we realize that there is an important phone call to make. there is a massive community of people who are interested in productivity and who are quite vocal and enthusiastic about sharing their ideas. many cases of retooling exist. the task may then be transferred to a context list. When we are next at the phone. among other aspects of addressing attention. The Getting Things Done book eloquently describes how a useful system of productivity may be built around the idea of clearing one’s mind. changing to another project requires a mental retooling even if the physical tools are exactly the same. Getting Things Done includes a formalization of a system of stations and a series of suggested habits. we may write the task to make the call in an Inbox. however one decides to create it. called @Phone. but we are in the middle of something else. As I present only a small handful of options. and reference materials which are then reviewed by way of developed habits. I am rather partial to David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD). projects. It is about taking one’s concerns and desires and giving them a place in the form of lists. I highly encourage the reader to explore what exists beyond my recommendations. As the Inbox is habitually reviewed. While this may seem to be an isolated example. While the system occasionally comes under fire for being written with less of the now-always-present technological work in mind. Our minds adapt to a particular stream or flow of work as aspects of play. The system rests upon the trusted habit of periodically visiting the phone and the list. Having said that. While in the midst of a project. My interpretations of many of its principles have been incorporated into my own processes of work. The present intention may then be continued until it is complete.

Examples include Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done. As gauche as it may be to promote my own book within another. Additional systems of task management exist. Importantly. our tasks will still come to mind. we see a reflection of our paths of habit. a sizable text describing in great detail. a manner of developing a task management system that is dependable. formalizes a habit of examining. and powerful using the Omni Group’s task management program. Sometimes even the most simple is the most useful. customizable. nor do I receive financial compensation from them. the weekly review and our goal of a clear mind creates an iterative point around which we can gradually shape our habits and actions towards doing what we find as meaningful. maintaining. Each is more or less complicated than the other. Without that trust and without addressing those things that are meaningful to us. and Creating Flow with OmniFocus may function as companion pieces to each other. Mark Forster’s Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management Systems. and I do make money from the book itself. but I again encourage the reader to explore. many of which I have not pursued deeply myself. and Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A weekly review. too. GTD recognizes that we have paths of habits and that contexts are stations on those paths. We recognize that if we are to get things off of the mind. I must also note Creating Flow with OmniFocus: Mastering Productivity. for instance. using many specific examples. Pen and paper is Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 228 . we must be able to honestly trust the system that we build. Workflow Mastery. Please note. this text. I do. and how well they work for what we find meaningful. In many ways. OmniFocus. While I do utilize its concepts. I compare the tools to musical instruments. I attempt to reflect its ideas as they originated as well as I can. Together. the Omni Group has compensated me for talks and the like. deviate from GTD’s specifics—though when I present a concept in its association. By looking at contexts and their use. and adjusting our habits themselves. Please note that David Allen and the David Allen Company are not affiliated with me or this book and do not approve or endorse it.

All systems decay. In other words. task management systems are often abandoned when they no longer reflect the meaningful intentions of the moment. we are much more likely to maintain those systems. to avoid their abandonment. we are much more likely to use it if we can trust it to support what we find to be meaningful. By placing intentions that we inherently enjoy into our systems. we can be sure to place intentions that we inherently enjoy and find meaningful into the system. just as excellent as it ever was. After all. we would like to do what we can to get to doing what we enjoy with a clear mind. Inspiring Task Management Many task management systems are abandoned days or weeks into their use. we are fundamentally looking to manage sessions. As such they require maintenance. and habits in whatever media is considered most useful to the individual. Whatever system considered. stations. If that effort does not seem worthwhile. Any system will require some learning. we will not expend it. As with any organizational system. They take effort. Therefore. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 229 .

places. Here. or things without which a task cannot be done. in GTD. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 230 . We consider stations as positioned within and alongside the paths of habit. are considered persons. the phone context list is an example whereby a list of phone calls are easily accessible when by the phone. I utilize the term “station” as an umbrella definition that includes these concepts among others: An organized station is a set of stored intentions placed at their point of utility. accessible and available when relevant. that habit is a regular sitting near the phone. the process is about organization in that the tasks themselves are accessible when relevant and avoidable when not.Organized Station Defined Contexts. Note that. However. and avoidable when irrelevant. In GTD parlance. ultimately.

often referred to as “contexts”. At times they are categorized by types of tools necessary. Importantly. among other dividing characteristics. ! • Consider useful lists onto which next actions may be written. however they are designed. time necessary. ! An example of a list of contexts may be: ! • Office • Home • Computer • Phone • Email ! The lists may always be changed or adjusted.Create Lists The specific lists. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 231 . that are most useful are debated with some fervor in the productivity community. mindstates. they must useful to the individual.Exercise . • Consider where they would best be accessible.

There is still an output to the station.Organized Station Utility Fundamentally. Email or voicemail is an example. we create. but the collection characteristic is primary. Output is either the transition of a task to another station or acting upon the task. maintain. For instance. Processing will be explored in the example of the Inbox. and place tasks in organized stations by answering: How may this intention best return to attention? There are at least five main functions to consider with a station: ! • Input • Process • Output • Flow • Batching ! Depending upon a particular station’s primary use. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 232 . they will sit in our systems of managing attention differently. a “bucket” is something that focuses upon input.

process. Flow refers to how well its associated intentions are eventually sent to output. a list of phone calls that cannot be completed in a sitting becomes untrusted as a place into which tasks representing important calls may be placed. tasks become stale as the intentions they store become out of touch with the evolving present moment. or output a number of intentions within a single session of work. Without flow. For example. Batching is the ability to input. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 233 .

and at worst may hinder the flow of intentions. In working with stations. but as few as possible. Regularly reviewing stations. A dedicated time and habit of reviewing all stations weekly is called The Weekly Review. maintaining a station is simply a matter of disposal. as always. sometimes. and consistency. when well maintained and part of a larger organizational system. An Inbox. is a matter of developing habit. requires upkeep. Whether that occurs as a weekly review of lists or "on the fly" in the midst of working. GTD’s apt suggestion is to have as many stations as necessary. or otherwise.Habits Of Maintaining Stations Stations enhance the potential for thoroughness. If the system itself becomes clogged. One example described writing a blog post. and. therefore. large or small. The regularity with which we process a list enhances its dependability and. Each additional bucket in a system is another checkmark and another point of maintenance that potentially slows us down. we must realize that any organizational structure decays in time. Every station. Each station must be maintained by regular assessment of its individual flow and even its basic necessity. The aim. Questions useful for a Weekly Review will be examined in a later section. is clearing and supporting the paths for the development of relevant intentions. Sometimes. Earlier. the maintenance of stations is needed to maintain the viability of our working system. maintenance. speed. To Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 234 . Well-designed stations are those that become quite clear in their utility. Any station which is not regularly completely processed risks clogging. though at the cost of flexibility. it is at best no longer useful. becomes indispensable. its utility. stability. we described temporary stations. It is for this reason that the habit of their processing is crucial. Inbox. It is our habits that allow us to maintain the organizational structures and the intentions they house in a state of health.

g. and transitions into and out of stations. Rather than disrupt the current flow of writing. how may flow through the context be improved? • E. we may realize that a link to another site would be worthwhile. We do well to consider in regular review: ! • How easily are tasks entered? • How readily are they completed? • How appropriate are they to the context? • Is there a flow to the context? • If there is not. perhaps demarcated with brackets. processing. by giving the context a higher frequency of attention? • E. Once the task is completed. while writing. to remind us to create a link during a later revision. we could instead write a note to ourselves. by giving it a better location? • How may the tasks in the context best be arranged? • Last in First Out? • First in First Out? • By project? ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 235 .g. embedded within the text. review. Maintenance deals with the existence. The note is a task and station as it is a stored intention. its function as place holder is immediately and automatically eliminated.

That new context. As an example. Contexts. become channels. would clearly hold intentions of considerable time investments. With a conscious realization that the station was best suited for small articles. I could then consciously decide to stop reading articles for the time being while reading the book. adding an entire book to read to that context would effectively clog it. as the book continued to be slowly worked through. and would then need to displace other habits. however. or alternatively create a new context of “book reading”. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 236 . if I have a “reading” context where I read short internet articles regularly. What habits would be displaced could then be a choice consciously made. I could decide that it was unsuitable for reading books. newer articles subsequently added to the context would not be read while timely. in a sense. Knowing my own pace of reading.

but vastly improves the entire system’s utility. An overabundance of meetings and overdue projects disrupts the ability to focus and threatens to reduce both quality and quantity of work done. a closet with space to move clothes rather than being jam-packed functions significantly more smoothly. rearranging tasks will help both workflows. For example. Task lists that can only be completed at a harried pace wear upon each other and ourselves. By spacing out tasks. tasks sitting in a task management system are often pursued more effectively when time is available not only to do the tasks but to reflect on them and their arrangements. Simply taking out several hangers and removing unused clothes not only opens space.Integrating Space & Buffers Space is useful in both the preparations to organize as well as after an organized system is established. An Example In Email For instance. does not mean that every intention that may fit should be used to fill the calendar. checking email just before doing creative work may introduce a higher likelihood of internal preoccupation and interruption during the creative session. Similarly. providing access and ease of use as well as minimizing wrinkles or other storage artifacts. we are better able to compensate for the effects of one type of work next to another. especially allowing for periods of time to reflect. However. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 237 . Knowing this. Simply because we have time. the realization that this may be a better order requires its own time in reflection to form.

The lessened anxiety from an early arrival even perpetuates throughout the appointment itself. the significant improvement and ease of experience when showing up 10 minutes early to an appointment than when showing up barely on time. for example.An Example Of Preparing For A Meeting The power of space in time becomes very apparent when we notice.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 238 .

! ! ! ! Useful Station Workflows

is a form of space in time designed to accommodate a working through of the system: What works? What doesn’t work? How may the system be changed so that it does work? Review is a regularly cleared and dedicated time in one’s calendar. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. In other words. in turn. as tasks and projects. The Inbox and Review systems. (Penguin Books. The Inbox is regularly cleared to function as a maintained space. Further. and ease of entry. First Thus edition.37 When cleared regularly. similar to the space allowed between clothes or files. it functions as a space to which ideas unrelated to present work and play may be placed. informed by similarities and differences. too. trust. are organized. They are significant spaces with which the system’s organization may be maintained. 37 David Allen. an Inbox is a maintained space designed as a receptacle for unorganized ideas. The habit of visitation helps to build the system’s security. are then followed through in their respective contexts or points of utility. those ideas are eventually grouped and sorted into next actions on project and context lists. The Weekly Review. both the Inbox and the Review are nodes for organization in the overall working system. the Inbox and time in Review are dedicated spaces functioning as tools within which intentions. The tasks. for instance. In the task management system of Getting Things Done. 2002) Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 240 . formalized spaces for reflection We may even create or use very specific areas of space to improve our systems of work. in turn. are organized into the system itself. At some dedicated and regular time.

Better systems evolve through an involvement of self over time. we may imagine. A discovery may even demand a major restructuring of materials. or get a snack to have nearby can both help a session and throw off attention from doing the actual intended work. better possibilities of organization are discovered along the way. Such occurrences are a part of the work. Sometimes. inbox & the session The Inbox Introduced During a session of work. it’s both. improve some folder structure on the computer. that their construction would best be done at the time of inspiration. it is not always clear what is useful for the moment and what may be a distraction. their discoveries and even their timing are integral to a playful engagement in work. tasks. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 241 . this is synonymous with practice. some are simply beneficial. We therefore are most apt to consider ways of organizing work in the midst of doing the work itself. and others are totally unrelated. or other aspects of the work. After all. too. Neat organizational ideas to adjust the lighting to be just right. As the visions of organization are most fresh at the time of their realization. In any path of development. Some ideas are quite crucial to present work. However. any number of ideas come to mind.

Example Of An Inbox An Inbox is an example of a formalized organized station. It is a construction that aids the deferment of action or decision. we can also intuitively recognize that organizing is time away from our main work. However. An Inbox is an excellent tool that can help us deal with this potential dilemma. Any ideas that we don’t quite know what to do with or for which we do not have time or attention to spare at the moment can be placed in the Inbox. It is an investment which may pay off poorly. It may even be a distraction. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 242 .

and eddy in whatever the creative space. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 243 . for example by key command. timing. A station focusing on input. A number of task management computer programs have multiple means of entering a thought quickly. ebb. such as the Inbox. the blank pad of paper or empty screen provides a wide expanse of possibility. keeping the worktable of mind clear and open for the present intended flow. In addition. should be placed so as to reduce the travel time between a present intention and writing down thoughts tangential to it. thereby allowing a freedom of thought and even play. While it is most definitely organized into a larger organizational framework. as well as hold the items for later processing. project. these errant branches of thought written into the Inbox await at the ready. a nearby notepad or dedicated key command on a computer can work well. there is an unstructured nature within an Inbox. during the processing of the Inbox. We add structure secondarily. Physically. much as a set of piano keys allows an array of sound within its own structure. As noted. and transfer them from the Inbox by assignment to their most relevant context. an Inbox can be a notepad kept nearby where tasks may be easily written. We clarify the intentions as written tasks. and the like. considering their optimal destinations. The Inbox holds variant thoughts of the moment. stored as written intentions. As thoughts play.

2. as we would no longer have a place we can trust to hold whatever we would want to have off of the mind. I believe it is an excellent starting point for most anyone who is interested in developing a solid system of work.Processing The Inbox depends strongly upon its processing and our trust in ourselves of doing so. though its form is unique to the Inbox. Processing is a regular habit for any station. Perhaps we maintain it regularly after completing a session of work. 3. Start from the top of the pile of items regardless of what is below it. Either way. ! 38 David Allen. It is.38 As a brief summary. in fact. even if the session takes only a few moments. (Penguin Books. crucial to a working system. With each idea or item. If you are unfamiliar with the Getting Things Done methodology of work. We need to habitually consider and “process” whatever we have placed in it until it is empty. Its holdings must be regularly transferred out to areas deemed more accessible to their relevant points of implementation and where they would otherwise be avoidable. Without this regular maintenance. we determine if it is actionable. Inbox processing is very well described by the Getting Things Done methodology. we: ! 1. 2002). First Thus edition. 119–137. the Inbox and the entire system risks failing. consider its review. Or perhaps we have set times of day during which it is cleared. Processing is best done mindfully. some habit is required. Decide what the object is (a process of acknowledgement). as its own session. If you are familiar. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 244 .

If it is actionable. Otherwise we ask the question: When and where will this be useful? The answer to this question defines the output. if it takes less than two minutes. we: ! • Do it. ! 4. Tasks are: • Trashed • Delegated • Filed • Assigned to other stations such as lists of projects and contexts ! The individual stations hopefully place the tasks closest to their respective points of intended implementation. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 245 .

we may ask in the moment: When would I like to see this again? How might I get it there easily? 5. We continue to move down the pile of Inbox items. Expanding the question above. applying the method above. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 246 . until it is cleared.

productivity. each rule compliments each other to make for a very powerful supportive structure for the session. these two factors aid the avoidance of potential rabbit trails spawned in the interest of organization. We may even discover certain organizational tasks as creative in nature. We often must move away from whatever our primary work is in order to develop the organizational intention. more so than the time it takes. It is the interruption. Taking on one creative task in the midst of another can most certainly derail work. That one update to a computer application. that one folder structure we could develop. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 247 . ! Together. For example. etc. We do not always know if an idea for organization will be a good investment of time until it is tried. a significant utility to the Inbox appears in the combination of: ! • “Do if it takes less than two minutes” and • Its cleanliness. or other ideas that sneakily turn into modes of procrastination. that is most disruptive. that one key command we can program.Additive Effects & Avoiding Procrastination Simple on their own. can disrupt the flow of creativity.. Even an idea that would take only a moment or two to develop can be disruptive to a flow.

we: ! • Acknowledge all unrelated intentions. Secondly. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 248 . I’ll do it. ! This means that if I have a neat idea to adjust folder structures in my project or get a glass of water before I actually begin. Entry Phase The Entry Phase of the session is the phase during which resources of time. There is no end to the potential organizational intentions in which we can engage to make things “just right”. Using the two-minute rule helps to solve the concern. open related programs. ! • For any related ideas for organization that come to mind. and place them in the Inbox.Proposed Inbox Use During A Session 1. as long as I think it will take less than two minutes. It is when we sit down at the table. get a glass of water. ! This is often referred to as a “mind-sweep”. etc. When in the entry phase of this session. set up the laptop. ⁃ Add it to the Inbox if we estimate it to take > two minutes. and attention are arranged and optimized for the work. The concern is that we can optimize forever. space. we: ⁃ Do it if we estimate it to take < two minutes.

without which we would needlessly be adding a significant amount of extra work. For this reason. If I stumble on a required organizational intention. but I am in the midst of work. ! Perhaps we can also add when ! • It would take longer to write the task than to actually do it. Most anything can throw off the flow of a session. we • Add unrelated and non-required organizational intentions to the Inbox. I have not run into this issue in practice. • It is obvious that it will be a significant benefit. While theoretically we could do an infinite number of < two minute organizational intentions. I’ll most often still put it in the Inbox. regardless of time. we develop an organizational intention only when: ! • It is required to move forward. then I’ll close the Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 249 . 2. Larger ideas are placed in the Inbox. ! Otherwise. During A Session The Development Phase is the time of actually developing the intention with the resources on hand. like I need to install a program before continuing without which I am completely stalled. ! If I have an interesting idea that will only take a few moments to implement.

short ideas that gathered during the session can now be done while closing. Those that relate to the work can be assigned to supportive projects to be developed in their own sessions of work. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 250 . intended session and develop the required organizational intention. However. as long as I’ve buffered enough time to close the session. Ending A Session The Closing Phase involves the writing of tasks and storing of resources so that I will be aware of them when they are relevant. they are accessible for the next visit to the intention. longer tasks can appropriately be deferred. or discarded as their own tasks and projects. During this phase: ! • All unrelated intentions go to the Inbox (mind-sweep). If I realize a script or macro that I could use to optimize the primary work. I will place organizational intentions in the Inbox while in the flow of the session. install the program. ⁃ Add to Inbox if estimated to take >two minutes.e. i. I will go ahead and do it. the investment of time is quite obviously positive.. • For related organizational intentions ⁃ Do if estimated to take < two minutes. developed. 3. ! Those neat. for the most part. In other words. Otherwise. and it is obviously going to speed things up significantly. and they are otherwise avoidable. Having a task manager allows me to develop them when I consciously decide to.

The only cost is that I must acknowledge that my neat ideas need to wait. An additional advantage of processing the Inbox directly after ending a session is that the tasks storing the < two-minute intentions are still fresh. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 251 . folder structures or otherwise that I came up with during the session’s development phase can now be developed to improve the next visit. key commands. Acknowledging any adversity of conditions. is often a powerful aid in realizing flow. Using the two-minute rule. in rapid succession. one after the next. I can then develop those quick tasks. During the session. with practice. But. In this way. I maintain the flow of the session knowing that future visits to the primary intention will be enhanced. When they are developed and pursued with conscious acknowledgement–as is often more possible at session’s end–then the Inbox becomes much more powerful as a tool for organization. not necessarily immediately doing something about them. ideas for organization are not developed immediately.

as I could call the Quick Entry window of OmniFocus with a simple key command. I would inadvertently send tasks to places that were not optimal. the immediate processing created problems. therefore. context. Easy ideas for organization would then not be immediately developed. I would often make the error of immediately assigning every task that came to mind a project and context. They were. It was easy to do. It would readily provide fields for the entry of task. the related. However. but were not in the immediate flow of the work. no longer immediately accessible to development as I closed the session.An Example Of An Error While working. I would end up not thinking through the projects and contexts to the degree that would be beneficial. However. project. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 252 . as well as start and due dates. ! I had thought I was being efficient in immediately processing a task as it came to mind. I neglected to consider the benefits of: ! • Spending time to think through the assignment of projects and contexts. less than two-minute tasks which were related to the session. less than two minute tasks had been whisked off to their respective projects and contexts. In addition. • Doing quick.

In order to best assign a context and project. I trust my method of deferring decision. I know that the task can fade from mind to allow my present attention fuller focus for the moment. Knowing my habit of regularly clearing the Inbox. I now only write a task to the degree that I believe would be needed to help me remember what I had been thinking during the session. Therefore. I need to spend the time to acknowledge when and under what circumstances I would like to see the tasks. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 253 . Doing so at the time they come to mind would be at the expense of present work. Leaving them in the Inbox for post-session processing would then allow a greater depth of consideration and acknowledgement for each task.

The suggested interval of review is weekly. though it would likely work well in any methodology. As the review is our means of maintaining trust in our systems. it does not exist. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 254 . Whatever review frequency we choose must maintain our trust of the system. other task management workflows The Weekly Review The weekly review is a habit particular to Getting Things Done. which I have found beneficial myself. Regular review addresses the perishability of the organizational structures of tasks and stations. in a sense. it is vital. If some aspect of our system is not trusted.

we regularly and consciously review habits. Every review session allows us to change our tasks and projects to better accommodate our environment as we now understand it. It is also an excellent means of adjusting repeating tasks such as maintenance and routines. A session is dedicated weekly to review the tasks listed on context and project lists. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 255 . In this manner. we ask “Why not?”: ! • What is preventing this project from moving forward? • Do the tasks need further breakdown? • Does the next task make sense in the project at this point? • Have I established a reasonable next action? Can it be done? • Is the next action actually scheduling a time for the next listed task itself? • Are the tasks well written? • Are the tasks specific enough? • Are the tasks an actual action? • When do I believe I will actually see the tasks? • Is there something that needs to happen before a presently active task? • Is what I am waiting for a task or project in itself? • What will this project look like when it is done? • Are the tasks’ contexts well described? • What next action can I write to realistically get this off my mind? ! The habit of regularly reviewing these projects and tasks aids in moving projects forward. An iteration of changes also allows our task systems to keep pace with the changes of our own interests. considering that if something has not happened yet.

we can consider the tasks for the week. consider: ! • The day’s tasks ! We may consider a task in the mornings to review the tasks planned for the day. preferably to the point of acknowledgement. ! • The flow of tasks in an action list (aka station) ! We examined this type of flow in the section Habits of Maintaining Stations. and many may even conflict. Is it possible to imagine them fitting within the day? Where would they occur? We can consider where we’ll be and therefore any action lists that would be helpful. many support each other. As examples. provides the intentions for their improvement. Many overlap. Actively considering them.Simple Examples There are any number of workflows that can be examined throughout the day. ! • The week’s tasks ! Similarly. perhaps as a part of the weekly review. ! • Most Important/Meaningful Tasks of the day Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 256 .

might represent goals that take one to two years. however. The view at 30. For example. a “runway” level refers to day-to-day tasks. First Thus edition.39 39 David Allen. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. 3 most important tasks of the day. ! Consider having a repeating task in the morning that prompts a review of. It is a description of examining our tasks and project at several distances. p200-210 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 257 . 2002).000 feet. (Penguin Books. Different views appear at different altitudes. ! • Major projects or “Horizons” view ! The GTD system suggests a “Horizons” view of projects. The metaphor is one of being on an airplane. Such goals can be written and reviewed regularly. for example.

we develop a set of our desired projects. our contexts. space. However. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 258 . but I am uncertain as to how often it is heard in the community. Afterwards. Such a state disallows the depth of time and attention needed for our work to develop well. We need to be able to consider how allocated we are in terms of our resources of material. to do so we must always be at the ready for interruption. It is a profoundly important concept. The system optimally presents our work to us. we are in a position to evaluate and confidently renegotiate our agreements to better suit what would develop our own mastery and meaningful work. as to what we could be doing based upon our present resources of time. with minimal effort. By having a trusted system that we maintain regularly.e. we are in a much better position to know the degree to which our time and attention needs to be committed to simply keeping afloat. Once this is understood. We consider how we can bring our lofty goals into day to day tasks. we can design a set of routine maintenance tasks. time. we are in a much better position to “renegotiate agreements”. By setting repeating tasks to address how and when to address routine tasks. The phrase is often mentioned in GTD. Example Of A Communications Workflow It can feel “productive” to continually be available for communication. As an example. and attention and then make changes as needed. Both our major projects and our routine tasks can sit side by side.Automating Task Management We can integrate several workflows. and attention — i.

we may feel our own compulsions to check for a response to that important email we sent to whomever. If the communication with Sally will first require some thought or writing. Often one communication may lead to another. and phones. The possibility for interruptions is vastly reduced by batching communications in this way. Outside those dedicated times. In addition. Expanded Updated edition. Electronic communications. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5. For example.
 40 Timothy Ferriss. Paradoxically then. such as email. then that becomes a task or project in and of itself. by attempting to be continually ready to respond. A video example of using OmniFocus to this end is here. p101-4 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 259 . closing the office door is a simple and ready means of physically blocking out distraction. we exhaust ourselves. A conversation with Harry means that another must occur with Sally. All electronic means of communication may be considered valves. social media.40 Our own intentions of calling and emailing may also be batched by this method. The Getting Things Done method of writing down the tasks of calling and emailing onto a single list or station provides a means of ensuring that all communications occur at these preset times of day. we cannot even be fully present when we are writing an email or conversing on the phone. Managing communications is not simple as it can be with our physical environments. which may be turned on for a period of time and then shut off again as needed. and Join the New Rich. (Crown Archetype. 2009). Live Anywhere. They may be done and completed during the same communications session or interrupted and set to continue at the next one. and the email to follow up may wait until the next batched time of communication. One way of handling this problem is to dedicate specific periods of the day for dealing with communications. Not only may we receive requests for communication from others. are another matter. an outgoing email or voicemail message can relay instructions as to how to reach us in an emergency if the need truly arises.

• A Backward Wave . large organizational intentions 
 (an example in email) Frequencies & Directions A task manager can also be helpful in making larger organizational changes. we need to introduce the change to the work and our time. Large organizational shifts are perhaps better guided as a wave than as a massive sudden change. an evolution rather than revolution. If we decide to make a sizable investment in building a particular organizational structure.the work that we must do on material already in existence. In breaking down the work of a large organizational process. A wave is an implementation of change over time. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 260 .the initial changes made in the organizational structure. there are three aspects to consider: ! • The Point of Impact .how incoming information and material will best be converted to accommodate the new system. • A Forward Wave .

I have a large list of emails that I realize could have a better filing system. I anticipate that I will complete the process in 30 days. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 261 .An Example Of Email As an example. and the change will take time. beginning now. ! A Backward Wave • I create a repeating daily or weekly task to transfer 100 emails from the old system into the new one. and Backward Wave are useful in that each process of organization can be assigned its own task. in an example of moving a large list of emails into separate folders. These will need to be changed. For instance. ! If I have 3000 emails. and set the repeating task to daily. and I will only be left with the forward motion. ! A Forward Wave • All emails. Forward Wave. I consider: ! The Point of Impact • I create an initial best guess of a set of folders into which emails may be organized. The repeated task may then be deleted. will be sorted into the newly created folders as they arrive. The distinctions of Point of Impact.

Instead of waiting for a time closer to when it may be due. without research and without anything other than a few thoughts and a blank computer document. I begin writing immediately. In this way. setting on hold. There are two weeks to go. I write until no further thoughts come to mind. is set to repeat daily. by starting it shortly after its assignment and doing some of the work daily. examples An Example Of A Report I have a 20 page report to write due in two weeks. I set the document for easy access via my task management system and via a keyboard command. the file will appear daily to remind me of the continued work. I often find novel thoughts I would not otherwise have considered as the time they need to form is now Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 262 . The former has the file embedded in the note field of a task and the task. and setting to sequential any other projects in order to accommodate the time needed for the report. I review my other tasks. in turn. I save the document. the key command allows me to get to it at any other point that I have an idea to add. I acknowledge that it is the limit of what I can do for the moment. delaying. The entire report does not need to be done all at once. In addition.

In other words. a sense of play may evolve as I work. thereby contributing further to its development and my own sense of fulfillment In addition. accessible. I often find I am done with such types of work well before the due date. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 263 .

An Example Of An Expanding Task A well-written task tends to represent a single intention that may be completed in a single session. I envision destinations of a blog. I have files of music I would like to process. though. As an example.Process Performance A . it cannot be checked off. an online music library. The tasks are larger than their written representation. Further. For example: ! Project: Performance A . Each task may more accurately be represented by a project. and likely will remain unknown until they have been completed. When we see a task that cannot be done in a single session. This seemingly trivial distinction can make a tremendous difference between deciding to do some of the work or none at all.Adjust EQ of track 1 . or my own music library. Each task is likely a matter of several sessions. in that I am not doing them.Compress audio level of track 2 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 264 . The tasks may appear as follows: ! . even if some of the work were done.Process Performance B ! A problem appears. among other choices. In this case. "process" means to edit the sounds as needed and compile them into listenable audio files. Such is the nature of creative work.Compress audio level of track 1 . the number presently unknown.

This latter task.Compress audio level of track 1 .Export tracks into single wav file .Consider destination of Performance B (blog post/music libraries) ! While this is an improvement. in turn.Adjust EQ of track 2 . . Using a task manager that includes links such as OmniFocus.Adjust EQ of track 2 . I would prefer the former simplified “Process Performance A”.Compress audio level of track 2 . Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 265 .Consider destination of Performance A (blog post/music libraries) ! Project: Performance B .Adjust EQ of track 1 . I would not like to see the entirety of these projects when I sit down to review my daily list of tasks.Export tracks into single wav file . I can copy a link to the project with the two tasks and paste them into the field of another task. receives a daily repeat and a flag to signify it as appearing in my daily list of tasks.

My daily work list41 might appear as: Selecting the blue link “Process Performance A” would call the individual project. which I could then work on: ! 41 This relates to the Flagged Core references in Creating Flow with OmniFocus Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 266 .

The tasks may then be arranged as a part of the day or week alongside other tasks. The reduction of clutter is a significant factor in this. More importantly. cleanliness is about freeing and supporting agency. The system loses trust. too. more than one or two can easily become clutter and worse.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 267 . The computer and the tasks are each more accessible when relevant and avoidable when irrelevant. We can move the tasks on the sticky notes into a task manager. a sticky note on the side of a computer screen may work as a temporary station. In addition. the computer is more free for work. However. At times. unobstructed by distraction.An Example of Cleanliness As noted earlier. The sense of them being a part of everything else allows us to arrange or discard them with greater confidence and assuredness. what is relevant in the moment is more at the behest of agency. something we tend to avoid or ignore.

! ! ! ! Guides & Task Management

and check guide them off. Their respective tasks have been deleted quite some time ago. In addition. however. if I walk into the kitchen and see dirty dishes piling in the sink. Now. I take it out and replace it. The sense of disorder itself guides my action. Numerous awaiting routine tasks no longer threaten to drown out the more important ones. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 269 . do them. Now. I do them. I’d see them. the sense of flow to routine is much more palpable and even enjoyable. If I see the garbage liner is full. I just know the state of order I’d like the kitchen to be in and set it to that order when need be. These repeating tasks would show up everyday. I had tasks specifically telling me to do the dishes and take out the garbage. guide defined Introduction At one point. They’d wait again tomorrow.

and environments. Another example is the intention of order to reading a series of books stored by way of the order in which they are stored. whether in concrete work and established habits or in the midst of playful creativity. Guides. By consciously acknowledging guides. They can be found almost anywhere. A suggested solution is to strongly envision the intention waiting at the end of whatever one is doing. the use of guides is not directly described in Getting Things Done. The end of the present session becomes the guide inspiring the intention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 270 . At least two examples are presented in its text: One is where a person is without an inbox and has an idea. Knowing how they relate and support each other is an important matter of practice. though it is implied. and habits are each very important components to the workflow. tasks.42 Guides are often instinctively used and created. The experience of the book order is the guide. habits. we can start gaining a mastery over them as parts of our skills. 42 As far as I know. especially when aiming for mastery.

an improvised passage of music can suggest a sketch of ideas and emotions in the notes to follow. Any experience. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 271 . so long as we assign it a purpose. For example. Meanwhile. can function as a guide. 9am • A passage in a piece of music • My packed lunch hanging in a bag on the doorknob • Dirty dishes piled in the sink ! A guide may be a part of the material of work or play itself..Guide Defined A guide is an object assigned the purpose of calling or directing attention. the bookmark points to a page from which to read onward. Each of the above calls attention to an experience. or even a simple thought that comes to mind. The lunch bag hanging on the doorknob reminds me to take it with me on the way out. even in a live setting.g. Examples may be: ! • A bookmark • A fuel gauge mark • A reminder alert on a phone • A topic in a conversation • The end of a session • A particular time e. ostensibly to do something when that experience is sensed. The clock reading 9 am says it is time to start the work day. embedded in our daily environments.

albeit unwritten in nature. 44 Tasks themselves have a guide component. we can actually do something about the lack of milk while at the store. When I open the refrigerator and see there is no milk. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 272 . the intention is again unpacked. We may even say that the experience contains “Buy milk” as a task. When attention and a stored intention meet. Seeing the refrigerator without milk is an experience functioning as a guide. Its written nature specifically draws attention to the intention we wish to inspire. I have removed the latter component for presentation here to accentuate the concept of task as the actual storage of the intention. When we arrive at the grocery store. writing “Buy milk” onto a grocery list would then store the intention as a task again. often in words. though now at a point where it may be developed. The guide is the experience. the intention resting within is brought to life.43 A guide is an experience assigned the purpose of calling or directing attention. A task is experienced. Subsequently. drawing attention. Recall: A task is a stored intention. I consider the intention to buy milk.44 43 An alternate definition is: A Task is an intention stored. albeit highly directed and purposeful in nature. In other words.Relationship Between Guides And Tasks Tasks and guides are closely related.

In this way. inspire detailed intentions when they are relevant and accessible for work. It is not a matter of “Oh. hopefully. guides and tasks are not entirely separate concepts and are often used together. Tasks are highly directed guides which. remaining avoidable otherwise. was lost. For example. however. Three Dependencies Useful guides depend upon at least three factors: ! • Assignment of purpose • Trust that we will recognize its purpose when relevant • Proximity to where the related intentions may be developed ! Purpose is an intention assigned to an experience.” so much as it is an honest consideration of what will be remembered and how. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 273 . the assignment of purpose and our later recognition of that purpose when we sense the experience allows a guide to become an intention. the more task-like its nature. it may have succeeded as a guide only insofar as directing my attention. The greater a guide’s tendency to inspire a specific intention. The intention itself. Together. We can only honestly assign purpose to an experience when we trust our own ability to remember and act at that time. if I had no idea why I set an alert on my phone. I’ll just remember that.

The filled bag. there are more guides than these two. replace it with an empty liner. read.Concrete Guides In conjunction with habit. and perhaps set the filled garbage bag by the door. In fact. The bag sitting by the door becomes another. becomes another guide. taking out the garbage presents a “chain” of guides. given a purpose of signaling the bag’s movement to an outside trashcan when next passed. likely while exiting the house. The filled liner is one guide. When fueled by habit. a full garbage can in the kitchen suggests I remove the liner. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 274 . these guides have an advantage over written tasks in that we are not required to write. check off. In this sense. and otherwise maintain the repeating tasks of: ! • “Check garbage liner to see if full” • “Take out garbage liner if full” • “Replace garbage liner” • “Place filled garbage bag near door” • “Take filled garbage bag to outside trash can” ! Habit and guide replace what would otherwise be a distracting or burdensome load on a task management system.An Example Of The Trash . now sitting near the door.

They depend upon a trust of our own capabilities. However.An Example In Improvising Music . Each momentary experience of sound suggests next ideas of phrasings. and the many possible variations present to mind a varying blend of both a general experience and a studied state of consciousness. stored as skill and intrinsic memory.Creative Guides A smooth series of guides may be found in creative efforts. For example. Improvisation is a clear example of how tasks are nowhere near able to encapsulate the entirety of play and work. The momentary flow of experience guides the very play we often seek in the development of mastery and meaningful work. it must be noted that such guides are the result of practice. the previously played passages. rhythms. formed in time. fold into one’s mastery of the field. the emotional tones. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 275 . The many habits. in the flow of improvisation of a piece of music. and harmonies.

the small discouragements of incompletion may form into a general sense of anxiety and despair. as broad directors of attention. Guides. a series of “Oh. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 276 . the intentions they store may not be accessible when relevant. and a proximity to where the related intentions may be developed. in that their unspecified nature risks muddying the purposed direction of intentions. I”ll just remember to do that". among others. Guides also are not as readily arranged as are tasks. do not serve well as containers for specific intentions. Guides. the use of guides depends upon the assignment of purpose. As noted. require caution. It is for these reasons. Without solid growth behind them. When we are amidst a constellation of poorly considered guides. We must be cautious with them. guides risk becoming clutter. that function is better suited for tasks. that we must take caution with what we decide to write into our task management systems and what to leave out or remove. therefore. Guides also risk poor storage as their relevant information may be distant from their point of utility. In other words. cautions Cautions With Guides Guides are mature aspects of the workflow. a fundamental trust that its purpose will be recognized when relevant.

The paper itself is a guide and the words written on the paper are the tasks seen upon direction of attention. gradually ignored more than utilized. In other words. Without those habits. we may write “Buy light bulb” on a shopping list that we trust will be accessible when we are next at a store that carries light bulbs. the garbage may simply sit until a more pungent experience nearly forces action. beyond a small number of sticky notes. Depending upon an individual’s developed tolerance. the intention is not useful and only clutters the mindscape.Examples Of Poorly Situated Guides Example of Lack of Habit In the case of the garbage liner. storing the intention as a task allows us to place that task into an organized station of a task management system. they are ignored as there are simply too many. the experience of a full can does effectively work as a guide so long as we have habits to follow that guide. Examples of Overwhelmed Attention We may try to use sticky notes around a computer screen to remind ourselves of important tasks. the alerts become irritants. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 277 . Similarly. However. Example Of Distance From Utility A burned-out light bulb calls an intention to change it. Instead. and require too much immediate attention to actually convert into an intention. if there is no new light bulb nearby. However. multiple phone reminders can be problematic. after more than one or two alerts. Repeatedly seeing the burned-out bulb then repeatedly triggers an unfulfillable intention. causing at least irritation and perhaps even feelings of ineptitude. each difficult to differentiate from the next.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 278 . the pile will continue to sit there. inaction implants a seed of dread that something important lurks within the pages. Meanwhile. Unchecked. the dread grows into a subtle undercurrent of helplessness that undermines not only the task but other intentions of the day. Lack of Habit & Overwhelmed Attention As another example. a large pile of unrelated papers signals a need for their arrangement. But without the availability of time or attention to address it.

we have a thought that has come to mind. or delegate it. If the thought is an intention. We are deciding whether or not we even want to write it down. with a guide vs. Very briefly. we decide between actionable items: ! • If something is estimated to take less than two minutes. utility The Two-Minute Rule & Guides We can use a similar system for deciding upon guide use as we do for processing an Inbox. task consideration. • If something is estimated to take more than two minutes. then we may consider its storage as guide or task by the following: • If resources to develop an intention do not exist at the location of the experience: ⁃ Store the intention as a task. possibly in the process of acknowledging some experience. Instead. when processing an Inbox. project lists. ! However. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 279 . we do it. waiting lists. we defer it to context lists. we are at a stage of deliberation that actually precedes the Inbox.

e. it has a better chance of remaining off of the mind. I place my shopping supplies throughout the house. consider a guide. if I have a letter to be mailed. ⁃ If a habit is not well established. the best indicator is reaching a clear mind by way of acknowledgement.: ⁃ If it is estimated to take less than two minutes to do. In these cases. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 280 . i. upon returning from the store. ⁃ Consider a guide. I don’t want to immediately change the light bulb. ! • If resources exist at the location of the experience and ⁃ If a habit is well established. the time and attention required are accessible when needed and estimated as minimal. I can place it near the burned-out lamp.. I can readily change the light bulb. If we believe that we can trust the intention to form at the point that would be useful to continue developing. then adjust a guide by the two minute rule.e. i. When I am near the lamp again. ! As always. No tasks need be written. consider a task instead. ⁃ If it is estimated to take longer than two minutes. On my way out. I can leave that letter by the door. I can take the letter with me. Examples of < two minute tasks As an example. As another example. less than two minutes.

I can add a small task to my task system: ! • “Jog once around the block” ! The intention. having my running shoes by the door may be trigger enough to remind me to go out as soon as I return from work. we know what they do for us. we know how long they take. then the shoes will yield little more than consternation. I may want to go jogging. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 281 . from direct experience. Once I have bolstered my intention by anticipating the day. etc. Instead. We roughly know what we can and cannot do.. Example of > two minute tasks Larger intentions must rest upon habit. now stored as a task. I have no habit of jogging. envisioning what I can of the tasks that await and how jogging might fit in— maybe even scheduling a call to a friend to accompany me—I am much more likely to actually begin the jog. can be arranged and adjusted between the other tasks of the day. When we have well-blazed paths of habit. however. or at least have them already built into our day. If. As an example. If I have a habit of jogging daily.

check off the task. we instead do the dishes. take out the garbage. then check off the task. we may then proceed with the intention of improving the organizational state of the kitchen. we may have in mind a certain state of order. and take out the garbage as a single flow. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 282 . Having assigned the experience of disorder the purpose of returning it to order. then prepare the coffee machine. using a trust in our developed habits. In the midst of doing general kitchen tasks.. etc. The guide is the experience of the kitchen not being in that order. Having entered the kitchen. prepare the coffee machine. offer advantages of: ! • Not having to return to a task management system. advantages of guides
 & tasks compared Advantages Of Guides Guides are clearly a part of the day’s flow. Guides. check off the task. rather than do the dishes. It is impractical and even detrimental to write every intention as a task. more than written tasks. • A more fluid workflow.

in the midst of a creative session). by placement in a task management system). Tasks may then be adjusted and arranged within a task management system. by creating and using repeating tasks). The ability to rest upon and effectively utilize guides is developed. Among other situations. • We would like a more fluid motion (e.g. if not their own development.g. • An intention has the required resources at the point of experience (e. they lend themselves to creation by way of full conscious attention.g. As they depend upon memory. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 283 . they become sturdier forms of storage for intentions than are general guides. Guides are useful when: ! • Supported by established or establishing habit. Advantage Of Tasks Because tasks are actively written. and a proximity to where inspired intentions may actually be developed. thereby providing a method of better supporting larger intentions.g. • Developing habits and guides (e. at least when drafted well. Buy light bulb). tasks are useful when: ! • An intention does not have the required resources at the point of experience (e. prepare the garbage). these dependencies themselves require reflection. Subsequently.g. • We want to develop a habit or action in the context of all other tasks (e. habit.

we see how we are presently working and can design better ways to place and arrange for meaningful work. We can easily see where we sit in the various configurations of time. The stations that exist are reflected by our context lists. space. the better we can utilize them to strategically place stations and tasks within its landscape. modifying habits 
 with task management Observing The Landscape A task management system provides an excellent tool for both observing and guiding habits. By observing the week’s tasks. and attention. This works for both the concrete and creative intentions we have. Within this frame. The better we recognize the geography of these resources. whether we are improving our consistency of doing the dishes or learning to play the piano. The weekly review allows us to shift focus from the work itself to the habits that manifest the work. we can create repeating tasks for the habits we wish to develop. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 284 .

Similar to training wheels.Guiding Habits Stations both support habits and offer a means for their change. they are useful in the process of development. we may use repeating tasks as training wheels in developing the habits needed to use guides. The beauty is that in so doing. if ever. we consider where it can be best stored. we also develop habits advantageous to our play and work. Should we forget or grow lax. we guide our habits themselves. Tasks Can Be Training Wheels for Guides In a sense. In considering a next task for any project. It is in these moments where we consider and begin to build habit. a linear path. as stations and habits co- evolve. Doing the tasks that rest within our designed stations further reinforces the path of habits. may become more of a hindrance than help. especially as learning is rarely. but after some time. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 285 . It may not be clear there even is a distinct threshold. and the distance between. To store a task well we must consider present paths of movement. We also begin to trust our environments and our selves such that either (or both) may be relied upon. In this way. we can return and remove tasks as needed in the process of learning. the intention’s requirements. It may not be clear when this threshold is reached.

The dirty dishes themselves may now function effectively as a guide. the score to the Moonlight Sonata. I attempt to play small passages without looking at the notes. Gradually. The piece is memorized.An Example Doing Dishes As an example. At some point. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 286 . I practice it again and again. we may find a greater propensity to actually do the dishes as it is sensed as part of a larger goal of getting it out of the way for other. unique to the individual. we may not have a habit of regularly doing dishes. the task may be removed from the task management system as it is now embedded in intrinsic memory and habit. The score stores hundreds of intentions of notes to play in order to create the piece. more enjoyable tasks. However. Each momentary experience of playing the piece guides the next. I return to looking at the score. An Example In Writing Music I have. in writing a repeating task in a task management system. That the dishes sit in the sink is merely an inconvenience. I can look less and less at the score until I do not need it at all. in front of me. weighed in the moment with a resultant “there is something else I’d rather be doing”. After a period of time. I inevitably forget most of them.

I can also be much more expressive in my performing the piece. Whatever the conditions decided upon. for example on a laptop taken to either location. still working through the structure of the piece that has been worked into intrinsic memory. He or she may schedule the most creative daily tasks for this time. knowing one’s own natural ebbs and flows of energy throughout the day helps find good times for types of work. A “morning person” is someone who does well with thinking clearly in the morning hours. It is not that I think of “press these notes with greater velocity”. As a result of it being memorized. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 287 . tasks may be written and placed at those stations. we acclimate the mind to being increasingly creative at that time. As another example. I play louder there. the individual who prefers to have people milling about while working may decide to work in a favorite library or coffee spot. In the meantime. so much as it has become a wave of experience and emotion blowing through the trellis of notes. Examples Of Taking Advantage Of Conditions As a simple example. If I sense that one passage could do well with more volume.

as a broad task. I have a daily repeating task: “Write music” It is a very broad creative task. I know how the task sits amongst other investments of time in responsibilities and maintenance.An Example Of Establishing Habit As an example of a creative task. Clearly. However. Within the note field of the task. Within the context of a task management system. it is not a bite-size completable task in and of itself. I have links to various other projects and tasks of the system as well as reference documents. I use it to cultivate a path of mastery.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 288 .

! ! ! ! Silence

Revised Edition. (CreateSpace. Stage Performance. p5. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 290 . 2011). Livingston Taylor45 45 Livingston Taylor. ! ! ! I am a connoisseur of silence.

in turn. or after a session is no different. but also the time of reflection. by our workflows when they are maintained well. silence gently invites our perception to the moment. Every moment is different from the next. and every structure. workflows and organizational structures included. Silence is the fundamental frame of sound. Without upkeep. It is also supported. The artist listens for the playful silence state of mind to flow through the channels of music evolved by years of practice. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 291 . schedules. and the audience awaits sounds to reverberate upon a settled ocean of mind. It is in these moments where audience and artist rest upon present experience. lighting. during. decays in time. A regular silence is the clear mind towards which we strive when building our workflows. silence is temporary. A moment of silence before. and seating are all aspects of a frame inasmuch as they support not only the music. he or she does well to pause. silence considered A Moment Before and after a musician performs. ushers. The stage. As with any frame.

conscious and unconscious. Silence is a threshold reached by regular acknowledgement.46 Silence is an understanding of where things are. However. Silence is a state of attention resting upon present experience. however. we have already examined silence by examining acknowledgement. to use the term “silence”. then. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 292 . In a sense. a settling upon and of the mind’s present nature. as it better implies a clarity through which to speak decisively and as a metaphor for all action. I prefer. at least for the moment. silence is different in that it is an achievement of the regular acknowledgement of all ideas and workflows that come to mind such that we honestly trust that they have been well addressed.A Threshold Of Acknowledgement Silence appears when we honestly believe that we have acknowledged everything we can. Silence is the wordless but most complete answer to: What is my present experience? Defining present experience: Present Experience is a momentary state of the overall thought and emotional landscape. 46 “Silence” is likely synonymous with “mindfulness”.

When learning to play the piano. However. As absurd as this may seem. When not working. lack of desire. we regularly sit at the computer. as long as we do not go off to other play or work. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 293 . we benefit from letting go of its vision. or feeling lost. crucial are not only the acts themselves. when in a session of play or work. whether because of interruption. refraining from doing something else ! What remains is not an emptiness. Rephrasing. allowing it to trail away from a feeling of need. but also not doing something else. Silence begins with a simple pause. not doing something else provides the room for reflection that best allows any form of play or work to eventually emerge. we regularly sit at the piano. we show up and either: ! • Guide play in the development of an intention • Pause.Finding Silence As with acknowledgement itself. It is an active relaxation of attention upon present experience. When sitting to write a book.

Silence: ! • Settles the Mind • Establishes and Maintains Boundaries • Addresses Boredom & Restores a Sense of Connection • Galvanizes Intention with Attention • Provides a Means to Acknowledge the Unacknowledged (to be examined later in this text) • Aids the Revision of Vision (to be examined later in this text) • Aids Discovery & Addressing of Preconceptions Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 294 . benefits of silence Benefits Considered There are several benefits to silence.

and worry. we are in the best position to deliberately choose a next place for our attention. When we have all thoughts and emotions before us. or even consciously allow the mind to clear. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 295 . which then lead to strength in action. desire.A Means To Settle The Mind Acknowledgement is a reflection upon an idea’s meaning. so we may make stronger decisions. in doing so. Silence is the result of acknowledging all that can be acknowledged in the moment. Play may then be born in even harsh climates. tends to settle the mind. The subsequent relaxed perception of reality and our own emotional landscapes better clears a space from which meaning may be assessed. We find better clarity for assessing reality. Silence then presents the full richness of the mental climate and.

I close the writing session. If I decide that there is truly an importance to checking my messages. Rather than thinking about checking my phone messages while writing. While it may seem trivial to have thoughts about the next intention in mind while completing the present one. Instead of thinking about the next thing to do while in the midst of present work. I instead pause to consider my present experience: I am writing and also have a desire to check phone messages. Having reflected upon the intrusion of an impulsive desire to check messages. If I decide there is not an immediate importance to checking the phone messages. I effectively convert the interruption into a decision.A Means Of Maintaining Boundaries Pausing separates one intention from the next. such a mindset tends to perpetuate throughout the day and seems best avoided altogether. silence maintains boundaries between our intentions. Doing so better allows a thoroughness in developing both present and future work. pause again. Or perhaps there is a passage I am trying to avoid writing. and begin checking phone messages. Pausing separates one session from the next. I may instead set a reminder to check them after completing the writing session. Reflecting upon the experience: perhaps there is an important phone call that I am eager to hear. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 296 .

By ignoring or suppressing it. or exhaustion. when reading a story. it perpetuates. A feeling of boredom is not to be taken lightly. We are. we may even find that the material has triggered an Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 297 . we may then consider where we are disengaged. there are many times we may thrive upon ideas that are difficult. we must realize present experience: “I am bored. Perhaps we wonder if they were introduced earlier. whether drawn off by new interest. As an example.” The sense of boredom may be a signal of disengagement. For example. we may find the mind wandering off. and therefore reasonable next actions do not exist. In other words. instead. In its recognition as such. It is not that it is difficult or complex that makes our attention wander. boredom. Perhaps we see that the writing itself is not clear. After all. we often benefit from returning the mind to silence. Boredom may signal a disconnect from present experience. we have just read the same paragraph several times over. we may realize that several names and events of our story are now unfamiliar. Without meaning to. Playgrounds are unformed as the nature of the concept’s difficulty is unclear. But before the relevant questions of reconnection can even be asked. the question “What makes this difficult?” and its subsequent questions are not asked. thrown off course as we find nowhere to play within the material. Alternatively. such as can be found in games or puzzles.A Means Of Restoration Upon the realization that the mind has left an intended creative space. Or we feel as though other important aspects are now forgotten.

instead. By stopping for a moment and allowing the mind to relax. Rather than continuing to read without a sense of play. But allowing silence in order to not read the words gives the mind the time and space needed to reflect upon present experience. and. It may seem odd to pause when we “just want to get through” something. We may decide to continue reading. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 298 . play had nowhere to go. We may decide to return to earlier chapters. to decide upon a meaningful next intention. and we felt bored. In not giving the mind time to consolidate present experience. association within ourselves of a meaningful moment in our own lives that is now asking for time in reflection. We may. subsequently. decide to put the book down and remember the past experience. falling further and further into discouragement. we are now engaged enough to know where to turn next. We may then decide to first recall what we know about the story so far. to reflect upon what seems meaningful in the moment. or to frame a question that would actually be useful to developing an intention from our present experience. we regain footing. We may create the questions and intentions needed to connect with the present chapter.

we can acknowledge present experience as it stands. that something has been left behind. when failing to recognize that the experience of the moment may encapsulate several unacknowledged and simultaneous desires and worries. attention can get dragged elsewhere by their rip currents. but not without some threshold of thought as to the present mindset and the session's boundaries. It is perhaps such acknowledgement that constitutes the threshold at which a session succeeds in aligning an intention with attention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 299 . act upon impulse with the hope that our action will aid in streamlining attention. Without pause.A Means Of Galvanizing Intention With Attention We may. impulsively jumping to check the phone without acknowledging the present work in email will leave a worry. Action does often help to galvanize intention’s development into a flow. without acknowledgement. While we cannot achieve a perfect knowledge of mindset or context. will repeatedly interrupt the moment. if not an actuality. Alternatively. at times. The worry of an unanswered phone call. both the hope and failure to align attention with an intention perpetuate. However.

we bring greater focus to present experience. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 300 . Present Experience is a momentary state of the overall thought and emotional landscape. in many cases. and present experience: An Intention is the potential created between present state and a proposed reality (vision).A Window To The Unacknowledged Note the relationship between intention. it is perhaps better viewed. having removed any vision unrelated to its own understanding from consideration. Attention is an active observation of the contents of consciousness. we invite entry of some of what was unconscious to become conscious by this heightened sense. Silence adjusts the scope of attention to encompass present experience only. Subsequently. That which is unconscious is not something hidden away somewhere under lock and key. details that would otherwise not even have been considered are now better observed under the full light of our attention. Focusing upon an object heightens our sense of it. attention. Silence is the rested state of attention upon present experience. silence. unconsidered. conscious and unconscious. unformulated. as that which is unrealized. and mostly unacknowledged. Often. As present experience includes unconscious elements.

and occupies libraries worth of not only psychoanalytic writings. At times. too. A vision unsupported by a periodic reflection of present experience petrifies. if we are using an automated map to drive to a friend’s home. The formations of our emotional and intellectual landscapes are well beyond the scope of this text. We cannot realistically adjust our work without relaxing our grip upon what we once thought our work would become. and more importantly unchanging. Construction sites. either wanting something so badly that we cannot accept its impossibility or fighting against something so strongly that we cannot accept its reality. art. Suffice it to say. As an analogy. To reiterate. must be unknown. must change.and environmental destruction possible from unrealistic. The myriad forms of self. How we work then. Therefore its potential to become a reality. too. and other blinders we continually gather and attempt to shed by regularly reflecting on present experience. prejudices. it is not that a vision need be correct. and current conditions in general require some assessment by the Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 301 . It must be able to change. provides a portal by which the nature of our ideas and emotions may be better examined and realized. a pause in reflection. The vision of our creative work is definitively unclear. allowing thoughts to come to mind. As we work. information unavailable to the system. vision know no bounds. we may hold onto a vision even at the expense of present experience. but poetry. the clarity of its vision changes. A Means Of Revising Vision Silence provides a means by which we may re-examine a vision and determine its potential possibility or impossibility to become a reality. we may run into trouble if we do not periodically reassess whether the computer’s map reflects the actual drive. and other media. We grow beyond the inevitable preconceptions.

We may have once thought the computer map would lead us correctly. after several periods of work alternating with silence. Without having let go of the idea that the session was its own construction. any decision is better informed. We alternately allow the mind to play. and any action is better grounded by a survey of present experience. The mind must adapt in whatever ways it needs to reshape intentions. we will end up lost or in a ditch. the better we can subsequently consider the visions of our work to which we may realistically connect. As another example. and rest within present experience to reformulate the vision. an object itself supporting the development of a primary intention. wandering within the parameters of the session. I then returned to the text to accommodate the idea. Any understanding is enhanced. Having made the realization. that a Session may be considered an Organizational Structure. The better we can understand present experience as it is. We adjust by letting go of vision. Early in the process of writing. We acknowledge all we can of the present moment and settle into silence. individual. It only occurred to me. in writing this text. there were many times I paused and simply let the ideas be. I considered the Session to be something separate from Organization. If we hold on to that vision. Perhaps the greater the distance to vision. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 302 . the greater the silence required. separate from organization. I am not certain that I would have stumbled upon this integration that has now allowed the text to become that much more integrated and cohesive.

By selecting one or some effects for the application of intention. However. it has multiple effects. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 303 . A medication is created with a purpose. Many medications have found utility other than that initially intended.A Means Of Discovery & Addressing Preconception Silence allows a reflection and reassignment of purpose. only one or a few of which we may have consciously assigned purpose. the unintended ones called “side effects”. Ignoring or downplaying the potential detriments of side effects may create damage more impacting than the repair intended by the medication. we tend to privilege those effects with attention above others. an area in which preconceptions are often harbored: Purpose is an intention assigned to an object or action. the recognition that certain “side effects” may be useful for other intentions of health broadens its potential use. On a different but equally important note. An object or action may have a multitude of effects upon its environment. The example of medications is useful.

as it could draw us off course. we may find any number of excuses to avoid beginning. There are several concerns to address regarding silence: ! • Distractibility • A loss of time • A loss of momentum • A loss of inspiration Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 304 . a revelation of a much greater investment of self required. Whether it is a concern about the time and effort it will take. addressing concerns of silence Addressing Concerns Beginning work is often accompanied by some hesitation. benefits exist as noted earlier. or a fear of discovering something unknown. however. The idea of sitting in silence may then seem counter-intuitive. Clearly.

and therefore supports a restorative silence.Distractibility By pausing. instead moving immediately from one intention to the next. it may not for the reasons described earlier. we can notice the environment itself as a reminder of what we were just doing. we may lose track of where we were. For example. we may prefer to not stop. A reflection in silence need not be long. Upon return from silence. a few seconds is many times longer than that fraction. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 305 . which. Whatever the time needed to survey the landscape seems measured in moments and is often well worth taking. the vision of a day’s task list may become rigid and stale. We may find distraction in other possibilities elsewhere. Loss Of Time In the interest of getting as much done as possible in as little time as possible. this may work. Sometimes even a few breaths may well work. In others. Much of the work in designing a creative space is in removing objects irrelevant to our work. in turn. The mind does much within a fraction of a second. however. unreflective of what is meaningful in the moment. is infinitely longer than no time at all. Meanwhile. We may forget what we were doing. Doing so minimizes the risk of moving off course when pausing. We may then actively decide if it still constitutes and represents the intention we now wish to develop. without a periodic letting go and subsequent re-examination. In many instances.

we lose not only the rhythm of the work. In this sense. though. such as when we begin to worry. is built in both frequency and time. find a nagging feeling. We depend upon our own experience as guide. Momentum. a report. from periodically pausing. perhaps as a vague clouded nameless emotion. At such times. The longer we are away from the work. we may write a piece of music. Though these thoughts and intentions may be stored as tasks or in reference. but the momentum. For example.Loss Of Momentum The concern of lost momentum requires some thought as attention does build strength in regularity when aligned with some work. It is not necessarily that we simply pause without reason when in the midst of flow. This is a possibility. When in the midst of a productive play. pausing is a practiced skill in itself. The worry that our work is heading off course benefits from some addressing. it may be clear that we must redirect the present momentum. A pause could throw off our train of thought. Even with this possibility. or a book. We may consider the same issue for the momentary pause. developing some of the work each day. If we decide to stop. they age as do all organizational structures. in our sense here. the sense of momentum is palpable. more often than not. Let us examine a pause of several days before the pause of a moment. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 306 . the less we remember of what has been done and what needs to be done. I find benefit.

The very rush to build its kindling need not exist in the first place. This is not to say. There are many instances in which artists describe the need to catch a muse. We may. indeed. Practice is the regular laying of kindling and allows us to know what will catch and what cannot. itself a practiced skill. This. too. the decision to pause is a decision. then. however. that regular practice is a major component in any path to mastery. including the decision to pause. It is not surprising. Practice also gives us a much greater standing upon which the decision to pause itself may rest. again. But. lose a thought as short- term memory is sometimes only seconds long. have opportunity costs. may be a possibility.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 307 . that there is no way to handle the fear of lost inspiration. and that any pause would lose the moment. All decisions.Loss Of Thought/inspiration The last concern is the most significant.

! ! ! ! Agency

the banter between friends. react within the moment. and the splashes of paint across a clear canvas may all be found in the willing abandonment of agency. Whether we want to do something meaningful or meaningless. power in agency Agency Defined Agency is a subjective sense of our own free will. this is fine and even necessary for creation. requires the ability to alternatively make deliberate choices. we often give up a degree of agency to the boundaries of the moment. Meaningful work. Play is a reactive state. I prefer to consider ourselves as partially existing in both. The writing of associations. with the agency constant capacity to influence having more of one over the other. and know which manner of thought is most appropriate and when. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 309 . While we may debate over “free will vs determinism”. Agency is the degree to which we may create and decide non-reactively. agency is our capacity to decide. perhaps in particular. When we play. At times.

We may decide to not take on an assignment at all. The development of an intention by our own accord as opposed to that by another has a deep meaning unique to the individual. we set the boundaries of the keys. how it may help a grade or the contribution to a business environment. we construct safe and meaningful guides for growth to invite our playful selves to explore. In some ways. considering. Flow and mastery are found in their attunement. The involvement of agency fundamentally transforms our involvement. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 310 . that we craft a flow of play as work. but allow a play in sound. We may look for how an assignment may or may not be meaningful to us. play may not be possible without our own agency. how we pursue the assignment will be significantly affected. where friendships are moving. so as to guide them by our own compass of meaning. By deciding to sit at the keys of the piano without leaving. albeit with hopefully some understanding of the potential consequences. etc. by creating. enjoyment. Acknowledgement and agency are parent. learn. we must consider where ideas are heading. and create. when we ourselves build the boundaries within which we would like to momentarily shed agency. and recreating intention and its boundaries. if we are given a reading assignment. For example. Having made these connections. As both parent and child. Agency is the means by which we do so. It is important to note that we may utilize agency to create our own intentions within and around the intentions given to us by others. Play is child. An example may be sensed between deciding to read a particular book on our own or having it assigned by someone else. But at some point. we may consider how it may be of interest to us. at least as it relates to their sense of agency. It is in the combination of these states. allowing the thoughts of music to come to mind at their own pace. and what images are forming. and mastery of an intention.

all the while maintaining the vision of enjoying the present meal. Willpower is a fight against desire and in this way does not involve agency. As an example. and away from the present moment where we happen to be at dinner. To support our decision. we may place the mobile device out of sight and reach. We may decide that email is better checked elsewhere. willpower is simply granting desire another means of authority by only doing its opposite. we also risk not connecting with our environment. With agency. If we only follow our own desires. Nor is agency simply listening to one’s “gut”. Agency is required for meaningful work. and how it may impair our present work. we consider if there truly is an email we are waiting for that is important for immediate response or where email in general may best be checked. In silence. we discover and offer nothing made from a depth of self. not considering the work considered meaningful to others. In this case. we may find the impulse to check email repeatedly. where a reply may be immediately written. In deciding to not check email at the moment. perhaps at the laptop where resources are better available. It is the tool with which we build our playgrounds and the means by which we direct ourselves to knowledge and crafts we yet need to learn. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 311 . we focus on present experience. waxing and waning in its own time. We may decide to later set regular times of day to check email and use a service that alerts us when particular emails arrive. allowing the sense of “craving” to continue without action. Agency Is Not “Willpower” Agency must be distinguished from “willpower”. we recognize and acknowledge the impulse. though it is perhaps also great folly to not allow it a voice at all. If we continually follow the intentions and streams of attention built around us by our communities without creating our own.

though social conventions may argue otherwise. We cannot find a depth of meaning to the basics of work and those things we take for granted or have regarded as somehow “obvious”. One does not need to break present focus. though in terms of a psychological history. Such is convention. But it is in this silence where agency is born. for even a moment. to find the sliver of time needed to decide as to whether or not to end a present intention and move our attention to the person interrupting. We may decide to respond. Repeatedly practicing silence. It is in this space where we discover the social convention at a deeper. When we reflect upon experience. we cannot find paths untrodden in our fields of work. one pauses. We cannot consider what has not been considered. Without the agency found in silence. we may even begin to recognize a reactivity to other people’s impulses. One’s name is not biologically programmed. There is no need to respond. perhaps insisting upon a moment. thereby granting. hear our name called. and note the tendency to turn to the person beckoning. more fundamental level of experience. We may even find that in time. and one may make that decision. For example. and follow the conventions of the society in which we live. An Example In Conversation As a both common and extreme example of utilizing agency. Rather than respond. When one’s name is called. there is a nearly reflexive tendency to respond. someone may jump into the middle of a thought Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 312 . the craving to check emails wanes entirely and that the enjoyment of the moment is enhanced. let us consider the calling of a person’s name. a space is created. one may decide whether or not to respond. it is profoundly deep. Within that space. another’s authority over one’s attention. stemming back into one’s own pre-verbal history.

by the self. methods of movement. treat our conversations with others as sessions of engagement. It may be many. upon invitation. the words shared becoming a flow of connection. We may. It is not that we ignore them or are rude. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 313 . instead. Such pauses may be an ideal. Without realizing it. The ability to pause. or to decide to pause for several more moments. or for however long one would like to gain composure. and other media of conscious and unconscious expression without consideration. Instead. of the number of times we follow interruptions in daily life. The return impulse may be to respond at the same energy level or topic of conversation. It is a subtle and insidious process of granting authority to the whims of the world’s anxieties. we decide whether or not we wish to engage. And if so. we often become caught in the streams of worries of those around us simply by speaking and reacting into their rhythms and content of speech. attempting to listen in depth. stream or conversation. where no further thoughts come to mind for either party. We may then aim for some ideal end of the conversation in silence. perhaps we ask for another time to speak. for example. and if not. if only for a brief moment. even for a moment. Practicing silence and agency allows one to recognize when he or she is being rushed by the environment. It is a means of deciding and investing the self into a conversation with fullness. allows one to decide if and how to respond. and greet the conversation as a session in itself. but doing so where possible may provide a realization. or both. we pause to clear the mind.

checklist. Cautions to consider are: ! • Loss of agency by over-crafting conditions • Loss of agency by unhealthy playground • Loss of agency by tools. It is built and maintained in reflection. the acknowledgement of whatever happens to be our present experience. is effectively the strongest antidote to any loss of agency. Silence. or environment • Loss of agency hidden in choice Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 314 . vigilance for agency Cautions The ability to choose is not a given.

We must acknowledge we do not and cannot know all risks. In other words. the primary intention. it is useful to do the some of the work despite present conditions. We must acknowledge loss in the perception of possible perfection. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 315 . we impair. poses the dilemma of potentially becoming a means of procrastination. an organizational intention. we must realize the continual pursuit of the fantasy of perfection would actually impair the achievement of an intention. Without such acknowledgement. We cannot plan ad infinitum. 
 Unless otherwise directly indicated. ! At some point. It should be reiterated that there is caution to consider in crafting conditions as there is no mythical perfection of context: Upon choosing a primary intention. 
 Fully acknowledging present adversity. by being a separate intention than the primary intention.Loss Of Agency By Over-Crafting Conditions As described earlier. 
 Begin its development. if not entirely avoid. • The primary intention itself should be attempted regardless of the conditions.
 Even if incremental. • The conditions should allow or improve the focus of attention on the intention. We may examine the above statement as several components: ! • Adjustments of conditions can be intentions themselves.

we can at least look at commonalities. the internet. We feel we are doing something with an ease of touching an icon on a screen. but also a form of disconnect from the world. we draw broad lines in our laws to say one thing is “bad” and another is “good”. We feel a sense of directed attention. Jumping into such large media is a way. in the sense that we lose track of other things that are important to us. books. of appeasing the needs for security and stimulation. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 316 . 2008). As a society. An unhealthy playground is one in which a person becomes lost and disconnected from the world. Yet another example is found when sitting down at the television without an intended show to watch and instead drifting with the channels. Video Game Play and Addiction: A Guide for Parents. While we may become upset with ourselves upon the realization of misspent hours while more meaningful work sat by. we may find places which offer a sense of stimulation and security.47 Even the repeated checking of email. While an exhaustive understanding would be impossible in this text. social networks. or visiting a social networking site without an intention beyond “let’s see what’s there”. but the tendency to repeatedly disrupt our attention avoids a more meaningful and full investment of our minds elsewhere. perhaps artificially.Loss Of Agency By Unhealthy Playground Making the distinction between a healthy and unhealthy playground is a tremendously important task of one's sense of growth and development of meaning. with choice masquerading as a remote control. we must be more aware that these distinctions are shifting and not always clear. The act provides security by 47 Kourosh Dini. and the like may well qualify. Let us consider the examples found in turning on a television without a show or time span in mind. Whether in video games. or even (especially?) work itself. we would do better to focus on the motivations for having done so. But as individuals. (iUniverse.

! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 317 . Intention is an integral part of a creative space’s boundaries. a return to silence allows a consideration of vision and intention again. screening out the world of people or a job that may be laden with anxieties. and community. we may guide ourselves in a flow of play and work to create work we find meaningful. Play provides a sense of security and stimulation. Being aware of security and stimulation as unconscious signifiers of play may help one better direct those senses towards projects that one considers meaningful. In this way. shelter. Upon the realization that we have inadvertently left intention. one loses food. finding and developing meaning is significantly impaired. Rather than the medium itself. or upon completion of a task. for example. Agency is its means for creation. we retain agency and avoid the detriments of a continually reactive mode of work. but first. We use agency to define intention. It is not necessarily that the television or internet are thieves of free will. Recognizing the inevitable deviations from intention helps trigger the alerts needed as to when internal or external distractions appear to have taken hold. there may be a particular time of day dedicated to updating oneself on the lives of friends. it may become a means of hiding. Without play. as deciding upon a particular show to watch. It is in the use of agency that one may carefully craft intention to accommodate and bridge such needs. In the case of the television. it is the lack of intention in a boundless medium that risks subjecting us to the whims of the world. Without work. An intention may well and should be able to change. during which the television will be turned on and after which it will be turned off. but without connecting to the world by giving it boundaries. In the case of the internet. it must exist. It provides stimulation by allowing a form of exploration. Using intention well. one may have a particular show in mind.

we become better able to rely upon it so that we may more clearly consider the moment. agency is lost. However. Without vigilance for the intention. or Environment 
 (Caution with Tools) All tools require caution. the risk is one of leaning toward mimicry and rote repetition rather than real understanding.Loss of Agency by Tools. We begin to dread the work. The caution for the use of a hammer clearly relates to its physical safety. Checklist. we can memorize a series of words. we must be vigilant to retain agency. The hammer is designed to direct a greater force than can be done by hand upon something else over a very short period of time. and therefore risks injury when misdirected. By creating a trusted system. Tasks are Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 318 . The checklist is a powerful and useful system of creating templates and remembering crucial information. cautions required of tools can become less obvious as they become increasingly abstract. As another example. as they too have a potential trap in their reliance. consider the checklist or the task management system. With mnemonics. and project. We forget that there is an importance of thinking things through. However. do well on an exam. for example. task. A task management system provides a means of not needing to remember every responsibility. When a task management system is used without thought. The spirit of a concept dissolves and the details become a meaningless husk. and know little of use. A tool is an object used to shorten the distance between a vision and its realization. even in developing the habits and systems of work.

and that they can wait until I am done with a relatively short period of writing. When we disagree with the system. The cost of maintenance begins to outweigh its utility. or the entire system is jettisoned in a fit of frustration. The checklist consists of clearing my Inbox. that those items will stir me up in a certain way. even though we ourselves may have set it up. it is agency itself which may best provide the healthiest and most honest grounds for safety.48 Beginning that checklist itself can take time away from the intention of the work. 48 For those using OmniFocus. a task management system without care and cultivation risks becoming over-encumbered. The attention best devoted to our projects is consumed by the very system designed to help sustain attention on the intentions we find meaningful. and a list of things that I would like to immediately start such as reviewing my “colleague agendas” list. We cannot simply react to the systems we create. In other words. however. not followed without thought. albeit with the excellent supporting intention of clearing my mind. we consciously acknowledge what seems incorrect about its reflection of present experience and change it as needed to support the intentions we find meaningful. It is in the habit of reflection where we retain agency and take an active role in honing habits. bathwater. reviewing a list of items I am waiting for. and all. In addition. I know what is on that list. If. A task management system is best consulted. I have a checklist of settling into a session of writing. Agency and play are often lost in fear as they are sacrificed in a pursuit of safety and stimulation. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 319 . then I may decide to simply write. baby. stimulation. Yet. I consciously decide in agency that the checklist would distract me from the primary intention. a First Thing context. followed as if by an automaton. the list corresponds to perspectives highlighting the Inbox. a Waiting for list. This can occur just as easily for an individual as for an organization. and a productive play. and an Errands list. As an example.

It would seem. I am hungry and consider a snack. that we should simply hold onto agency at every moment. then. Checklists and the design of our working environment must be handled with the same care we give to any tool. especially as happens when one choice is gradually made easier than another. Let us take the placement of objects in our environments as an example. it is better to use our moments in agency to craft the world to allow play the safety it needs for when agency is suspended. An Example With Food Losses may occur in more subtle means. and agency is lost. Environments and tools risk becoming more important than an individual person’s experience. Apples sit in a pantry. Though one choice may not be overtly denied. The subtle obstacles thrown consciously and unconsciously in our way may influence one decision over another. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 320 . Chocolates sit on the counter in plain view. but such moments are not always accessible or present. Simply doing the next task without evaluating our state of mind and adapting the system to our own agency risks inducing a detrimental reactivity in work. While it is nice to have agency always present. The cloud of probability for many potential actions shifts towards one over the other. behaviors are yet restricted.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 321 . When we build an organizational system. rather than build upon (or even rebuild) it in a way that would be more useful to our present intentions and sense of flow. The reason for the placement of the chocolates and apples is a point of consideration in agency: How or why did they get there? Do I want them there? It is in the loss of agency where many systems begin to rot. A depth of learning and the use of those concepts in play brings and returns the vitality of play into work. if we do not have a regular means of interacting with it. we become lost. We attempt to adapt to the system itself.

It is not an uncommon means of procrastination. The constant choice of one thing over the next. subtly “helping” us avoid the dinner itself. deciding between one thing and the other. We do not consider possibilities because a stimulus to perceive them may be absent. we may lose the sense of agency when we feel there is choice.Loss of Agency Hidden in Choice Masquerading Choice Even more subtle. where we may find that we have some unacknowledged. it is that we do not see. disallows reflection and agency is most subtly and most powerfully lost. though very real. We can only use the broad signal of an unsettled feeling to suggest that something meaningful is presently unacknowledged. In other words. It is yet an important attempt. It is not that we do not care. We may debate between an apple and chocolate when we are running late for a dinner engagement. and even then. We choose between Book A and Book B. or we are avoiding some experience. concerns about the dinner engagement. Each of us live in some degree of a fish bowl without realizing it. We are only as aware as far as we attempt. until some reflection in silence. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 322 . their lack of acknowledgement now masquerading as a difficulty in deciding something unrelated. not even considering some other pastime as enjoyable. We choose Argument 1 or Argument 2 without considering that the premises and definitions are entirely flawed. the debate of choice avoids the primary intention of leaving for dinner. It may not occur to us. examining thoughts and associations. our vision is limited.

A modification may be: Know and respect one’s own limits. or making the pursuit of its answer a next action. Silence is the safety in using tools of organization. Choosing Battles Of course. regular reading. or otherwise. there are times when a student may take notes without considering that the information is not yet firmly integrated into one’s mind and rather exists only on a piece of paper or in a computer. not all systems need to be built or rebuilt.e. writing. i.. While the information may be retrieved at any time the piece of paper is nearby. is a process of maintaining agency and restoring it when lost. to maintain our ability to decide. lighting a direction towards paths unpaved. Points Of Decision The time of reflection posed by silence may help find the unconsidered. but we allow the power and finesse of self to better utilize the information. and sometimes has much benefit despite clear flaws. we may ask upon pausing: Where is my choice? Answering this question. “Choose your battles” is common advice from one parent to the next. be it with flash cards. “where is the information best held to maintain choice?” We often answer this intuitively by creating a practice of memorization. consider. The momentum with which organizational structures form becomes huge and more powerful than the individual. To maintain agency as a non-reactive mode of working. the mind would access it faster. However. The Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 323 . Then choose battles. By deciding to learn the material. All individuals have limited resources. not only is there a shortened time for access. As another example. Underlining important passages in a text does not bring it into any utility. when studying.

one retains agency. Or we can say “I don’t know” and pursue a path of learning.” Beyond gaining knowledge.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 324 . However. a rebuttal. information develops to be at the behest of play and agency. or even decide that it is a poor question in its own right. used to shorten the distance between a vision and its realization. in context of the concerns for agency. “knowledge is power. it may benefit us to redefine a tool as follows: A tool is an object. external to agency. We can take any question thrown at us and respond more confidently with an answer. Definition of Tool Revisited We began with a tool defined as: A tool is an object used to shorten the distance between a vision and its realization. Most importantly. More simply. learning involves growing away from the need of a tool should one decide to. We can think about the meaning of the items and form a well-considered opinion.

! ! ! From Worry To Courage

Courage can meet every object of fear. however frightful it may be. has a side with which it participates in us and we in it. as opposed to anxiety. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 326 . 2000). because it is an object and makes participation possible. One can act upon it. has a definite object… which can be faced. Courage can take the fear produced by a definite object into itself. (Yale University Press. Fear. analyzed. The Courage to Be. because this object. and in acting upon it participate in it—even if in the form of struggle. endured. attacked. In this way one can take it into one's self-affirmation. Paul Tillich (1886-1965)49! 49 Paul Tillich.

numerous maladies at degrees small or large can throw us off. While some of us do not suffer from such mental storms to the degree that we seek professional help. among other possibilities. It is the means by which we can understand the personal meaning of the various experiences we have and make decisions to affect the waves of emotion that surround them.” In addition. We may simply lack practice. and lack of sleep. exist. Most academic environments. We may have never learned to pause or ask of those around us to allow us a moment to think. meanings of anxiety Introducing Anxiety Acknowledgement is not only a process of work but of life in general. depression. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 327 . Anxiety. “Please. We may wonder. then. ADHD. how is it that we do not regularly acknowledge our experiences? How do we not focus on them until we are done. having had no role model. some aspects of any of these exist within us all at any time. are of the lecture format which very clearly denies a person’s agency to say. irritation. It is within that space that we most clearly see our own reflection. Even more deeply. We may fear it to the degree that we lack confidence in ourselves. for instance. professor. acknowledgement is the distance between emotion and action. Hold on a moment while I try to fully understand what you just said. if the process is purportedly so rewarding? Why is this not the general state of affairs? The answer is manifold.

warn others. he may still be destroyed by it. or anything else he might otherwise decide to do. The cost of lost agency. to be a threat to something meaningful. Fear. His vision is blocked and he cannot move. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 328 . run. or to our sense of a future. the cloud of anxiety pervades our thoughts. A Meaning Of Anxiety Anxiety appears when we have not directly observed some experience that we feel somewhere. having placed his head in the sand. some general sense of self. While the ostrich avoids seeing the danger. It may be a threat to our physical beings. We do not want to feel afraid. however. do not acknowledge whatever the experience is. as it contributes heavily to procrastination: anxiety. A comical analogy is an ostrich burying his head in the sand to avoid seeing the tiger nearby. is extreme. Anxiety is a cloud. In addition. can be addressed. Loss Of Agency We. making its shackles that much stronger. however. something important to us. therefore. We avoid looking at such experiences as our primal means of avoiding danger. difficult to contain or understand on its own. Similarly. The reasons for difficulty in acknowledgement are multiple and far beyond the scope of this work. we have difficulty making decisions even in unrelated endeavors. We will at least briefly consider one reason. he cannot do other things such as attack. perhaps unconsciously. when we do not acknowledge what is making us anxious. Even if we are not physically blocked from sight or movement.

There is no such thing as a zero-state of anxiety. into an undesired realization. Therefore. We can distinguish this from fear. Loss occurs. The workaholic does the same. may be sensed as no longer possible at all. with enough damage. Loss is the experience of a vision resolving. It is something we have all experienced to one degree or another. even as we rest. rumination. we’ll avoid thinking of the other. it is understandable that we may wish to prevent it. Each is an attempt to avoid the fear of what some experience may mean. is the attempt to avoid some experience. For example. instead. a general sense of tension. Recognizing it is not simple. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 329 . among others. the removal of a potential. Forms Of Anxiety Anxiety can take many more forms than I could possibly write of here. we close our eyes and stop seeing. and procrastination. gradually or suddenly. We avoid an experience or its associations by purposely thinking of or doing other things. What could have been. Examples include self-distraction. the destruction of a vision or. essentially. when we distract ourselves. signals an acknowledged potential of loss. in other words. however. We can find ourselves ruminating as a means of avoidance: as long as we keep thinking of the same thing. no longer can be.Anxiety & Loss Anxiety signals an unacknowledged potential of loss. The ostrich buries his head. Some anxiety always exists. which. Common among them. Loss is. The tendrils of meaning’s development can no longer grow in the directions once anticipated and.

! ! Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 330 . The Now Habit: The Fiore Productivity Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. 2007. PhD50 50 Neil. London: Penguin Books. Fiore. Ltd. Neil Fiore.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 331 . It is a motivated act. Therefore. It can form in some amalgamation of unwanted emotions such as anxiety. not disconnected. Motion stems from the mind. motion is either displaced or lacking in relationship to some desired intention of work. Procrastination is not something to simply fight through. can all contribute to the ill-devised means of procrastination as a means of temporary relief. In effect. anger at a situation or person. after all. A feeling that we lack choice. In the case of procrastination.. procrastination Exploring Procrastination Procrastination is born of the desire to escape an unwanted experience. worry over what work means. It may appear when our vision is unclear and we fear what it will appear as when clear. etc. we disconnect an intention from attention. we “successfully” avoid an experience by way of motion or its lack. anger. Procrastination is an avoidance of a primary intention. and more. Body and mind are. extending from emotion and thought through a medium of neurons into muscle. Understanding the motivation will help us navigate its treacherous waters. Procrastination is the motor manifestation fueled by any or all of these emotions. albeit with poor consequences.

a home is over-cleaned.e. There are many occasions by which a program is over-learned.. it has the potential of derailing us from our work. the process risks becoming infinite. how organized something may be. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 332 . An attempt to understand the motivation is an attempt to understand the meanings behind the act and the visions we fear. for instance. i. As there is potentially no end to an organizational intention. poses an interesting dilemma. As the act of organizing is a different intention than the intention it supports. By uncoupling from our intended work. or a section of a book is over-worked as the pursuit of intended work fades from attention and disintegrates. organization may paradoxically become a method of procrastination instead of support. Organization.Procrastination Hiding In Organization Procrastination’s manifestation of anxiety can be particularly insidious as it is not always so easily discovered.

reinforced further by the primal nature of rhymed sounds. The phrase “analysis is paralysis” is a cousin to the equally irresponsible. it may not be obvious until it is turned off. Either phrase encourages action from ignorance. Acting itself can often help us to recognize and resolve some anxiety which had been impeding the work in the first place. instead. “fake it ’til you make it”. The phrase does provide some aid in that it encourages the individual to begin acting. Anxiety’s presence. acknowledging anxiety Need To Acknowledge Anxiety We cannot be anxiety-free. is not always obvious. Refuting "Analysis as Paralysis" A concern we must address is found in the phrase “analysis is paralysis”. however. Many problems. Unfortunately. There may indeed be worries worth considering. relate to when it remains unacknowledged. the phrase can also distance us from our own experience. Similar to a fan running near a stage. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 333 . We therefore must attempt to acknowledge it. to be perceived as “true”. We are falsely reassured by the projected sense of authority found in the statement.

But then the question becomes: How can planning or analysis become procrastination? In this case.. and instead form a false self. without deliberation. However. Fears of success. We may. In such situations we have often missed the question: What is the anxiety? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 334 . so much as we weigh it to the degree that we can in our own decision making.. think about something again and again as a means of preventing forward motion for any number of reasons. not the analysis itself. Further. at least not from that centered experience. we need to decide when thought itself has been hijacked by anxiety. when we act impulsively. indeed. may all be found within our anxieties. building resentments.e. Instead. Without acting from our own centered experience. Can planning or analysis become procrastination? I believe that this can occur. We may be thinking about a situation again and again. It is not that we only act from the gut. Many examples may be found throughout analytic literature. fears of responsibilities. we must recognize for ourselves when thought begins to repeat in ways that are themselves a manifestation of anxiety or self-destruction. we do a disservice to ourselves by ignoring our “gut”. A better rephrasing of “analysis is paralysis” may then be. etc. we tell ourselves that we cannot know better or that we cannot truly learn. we do not learn. getting nowhere. i. Paralysis stems from the inability to acknowledge anxiety.

acknowledge the risks of the decision. We break tasks down to the point of courage.Acknowledging Anxiety It is. by the very act of calling ourselves “lazy”. By acknowledging the anxiety. At times. Anxiety is a cloudy. We can then act. even with fear. shifting emotion composed of many shapes and forms. and at times as impenetrable. We create a situation that allows us to not do the work. ultimately. contributes to our overall present experience. too. it is a choice. It is a self-fulfilling term creating immobility. albeit at the high price of denigrating ourselves. therefore. If we do not wish to move forward from this point. robbing ourselves of agency. and. At other times. as fog. Calling Self “Lazy” (Lost Agency) Anxiety may be so strong that we avoid its gaze at the cost of our own self-esteem. if not confidence. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 335 . i. albeit one that is not always well calibrated. however. we free agency. not paralysis. useful to examine the experience of anxiety itself. For example. Considering Experience . we may ascribe to ourselves some state of being “lazy” or incapable. the anxiety may signal some unconsidered meaning of an intention that suggests that our work itself is not a good choice for us.. the anxiety is a misguided sense of attachment of self-worth to the envisioned completion of some intention. undermining our confidence. as translucent. Anxiety is a signal. and acknowledge when no further thought will benefit us. the strongest foundation of any intention. as the emotion.e. “laziness”.

The plan. Planning a next action helps to derail procrastination by actually following procrastination’s initial path of not doing the work itself. whether it is seen in the size of the task accompanied by a fear that we cannot do it. When we directly stare at the worry. In one sense. or cleaning a workspace for the second time without having started the actual work. however. We may only discover it by learning to recognize our own sense of uneasiness. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 336 . It is in acknowledging the cloudy state of anxiety itself by which we may convert it into a fear. We may then plan. or the fear of any meaning behind it. It is a means of gaining confidence. it begins to crystallize. Examples Of Worry As Useful Signal The anxiety and resultant procrastination in starting a large project may correctly note that the project would take time away from several other. we do not break tasks of anxiety into the infinitesimal so much as we do to the point of confidence or even courage. presently developing projects. Similar to any difficult task. allowing it to be. allowing its associations to appear and exist in their own time. is one of distilling and choosing a simple concrete step to advance the very intention that is being avoided. The difference between these two outcomes is our confidence. It is interesting to note that the more meaningful a task is. Acknowledgement gives us at least a chance of finding the anxiety’s source. the more its meaning can either strengthen our work within it or heighten our fear of it. so that we may find an actual object to consider or even fight. and begin to address it. we avoid the work by planning. Or perhaps we may find we are endlessly adjusting settings in a program. We take the anxiety of the work.

That fear may then be addressed by developing related intentions. such as making calls to the company to set up a payment arrangement and reconsidering the monthly budget. If. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 337 . In such cases. While there may be a momentary. for example as irritability or agitation with people and work that have little to do with the late bill. a clarified anxiety. An Example Of A Late Utility Bill As an example. we acknowledge the anxiety and recognize it as related to the bill. an overdue utility bill arrives in the mail. we risk not paying attention to the bill. that anxiety often continues to find new modes of expression in other realms of life. it is useful to set a repeating task to draft and rework the email regularly. relief from the anxiety by its conscious suppression. also setting a due date if necessary. however. If we do not acknowledge a general sense of anxiety related to the overdue balance. if partial. and subsequently having the electricity shut off. rather than a quick draft and send. it is instead turned into a fear. As another example. feeling hesitant about sending a particular email may suggest that the email is one that will require careful thought.

“What am I worried about?” Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 338 . with anxiety. we discover an action that is so simple that we effectively lower the threshold of action to a degree where avoidance itself is more difficult. “What is preventing this from developing?” We may address anxiety in the same manner. The Source Of Worry In other words. addressing anxiety Breaking Down Anxiety At some point. or otherwise. we may find that we run into anxiety. Recall our method of breaking down difficult tasks by iteratively asking. The answer of what is stopping us is “I’m worried”. in various ways. procrastination. in a general process of breaking down tasks. whether found in discomfort. the next action is to ask. In fact.

We can follow with a further question of. thoughts. we can begin the process with a pause. As with any form of acknowledgement. we gently bring it back to the task at hand. As the mind wanders away. “What is worrisome about that?” or "How do I handle that?" And if there is something worrisome about that. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 339 . associations to each experience are allowed their own time. the questions continue. To the degree possible. as we aim for silence to whatever degree we find reasonable. Whether we decide the answer is rational or not. The mind is rarely rational in the conventional sense. Some meaning exists. and emotions surrounding the idea of worry to come to mind until we feel the ideas have settled. the answer is rarely “nothing”. We allow the questions.

Setting a repeat may be as simple as creating a task that repeats daily in a task management system. we can consider additional means of handling matters. • Start small and simple (Define next actions).Defining Intentions For anxiety that manifests in procrastination in particular. by daily repetition or setting a repeating task). these steps refer to the process of combining starting immediately. • Start often (For example. Specifically. The repeating rhythm of the sessions allows for the overlap with and development of the power of habit. ! Together. and the power of regular sessions. clearly defining next actions. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 340 . three actions that may be used to more concretely help avoid procrastination are: ! • Start early (Set the work in direct sight as soon as possible).

For example. the better we are able to accommodate and develop them. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 341 . my primary intention might be writing a paper. When useful. An organizational intention might be clearing the desk in order to better work on the writing project.Primary vs Organizational Intentions We can improve matters by defining our intentions. The clearer our intentions. An organizational intention is an intention to support and clear a path for another intention’s development. intentions may be divided into those that are primary and those that are organizational in nature: A primary intention is an intention supported by one or more organizational intentions.

When an organizational intention is acknowledged as a separate intention. The predicament may be defined as an organizational misalignment: An organizational misalignment is an unacknowledged uncoupling of an organizational intention from a primary intention. it may be arranged and considered as its own process.Organizational Misalignment Defined Upon making the definition. we can either maintain course or recognize when we have veered off. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 342 .

 Begin its development. ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 343 .
 Even if incremental. we can apply a general rule: Upon choosing a primary intention.A Process Of Organizational Realignment Having made this distinction. Taken as separate points: ! • Adjustments of conditions are organizational intentions. • Organizational intentions and structures should allow or improve the development of the primary intention. • The primary intention itself should be attempted regardless of the conditions. 
 Fully acknowledging present adversity. 
 Unless otherwise directly indicated.

hopefully. Finding Confidence We continue addressing each worry. but he has a better chance of survival than if he had done nothing at all. anxiety tends to lose its control over our agency. even with its continued tension. and our strength steadily grow. we often find that that the work itself can more readily be done even alongside the feeling of fear. act. importantly. The process converts the individual’s unique manifestations of anxiety into more fully formed objects. Even in the most difficult work. fully acknowledging the tiger’s existence. Having been acknowledged. they can also. will help us to remain on task. be addressed. our reach. doing at least a tiny amount of the primary intention is very useful in avoiding an organizational misalignment. expletives venting anger at doing difficult work and inane ideas exploring virtual nonsense included—at every session of work. taking the smallest needed steps to find confidence as next actions. We become brave. may now decide as to what to do and. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 344 . He may still be eaten. Even if we decide there is no different action to be taken. with the idea that we may revisit later for revisions. as thoughts fade or repeat. Writing something—anything. At some point. As we do. The process is encouraged by: ! • Placing the primary work in direct view. and the risks associated with the options available. The ostrich. While they may be feared. • Placing anything unrelated away from view. we become aware of the things we know and do not know. our steps.

Beginning with the first entry. I had better learned how to use the program. name. I would review each one. Some of these now outdated and irrelevant entries would appear when I attempted to access a correct password from my browser. Also. As the number of entries had reached several hundreds.An Example Of Organizational Misalignment To review: An organizational misalignment is an unacknowledged uncoupling of an organizational intention from a primary intention. In a manner of the organizational wave. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 345 . When a plugin was installed into the browser. In other words. as the site’s URL. Over time. however. I created a daily repeating task to review the database. At first. I had imported the passwords from a previous program and entered additional passwords into a note field. I could not reasonably organize the entire database as a brief intention. when used properly. A single sitting would be impossible. I would not need to access the program directly to get to the websites. as it was a simple method of entry. and password had not been thoughtfully entered into the program’s format. allowed greater accessibility to the websites I intended to visit. relevant entries would sometimes not appear either. I could use the program to automatically log in to websites. the password program could also store the information for the next time I returned to the site. the tool. I use a program to securely store the numerous passwords and registrations I’ve accumulated for varying websites. I noticed that if I entered the user and password information in their dedicated fields. I had many redundant entries. As a result of the naive initial setup and the change in how I used the program.

it would not get in the way. relatively quick tasks that would otherwise have distracted me in the time of pursuing other intentions. taking time away from multiple other intentions of the day. the task to continue reviewing the password database would appear in my task management system. If the rest of the database held extraneous and outdated information. I could simply repair that entry at the time I saw it. The Filing context is simply a set of tasks. An issue I missed was that it was simple enough to repair the relevant and irrelevant appearance of passwords at the time they were needed. if multiple entries appeared at a time that a single entry would have been better. ! The organizational intention itself was now not avoidable when irrelevant. While the arrangement for organizing the password database sounded nice. It would normally be used to house concrete. Alternatively. • Allow those filing tasks to wait. I would never see it and the size of the files was minuscule so as not to take up space for other reference or program material. When I decided I’d had enough for the moment. to move files around the computer. This task rested in a context called “Filing”. In other words. I would have to either: ! • Dedicate more time in the day to filing in order to maintain my general simple filing tasks. • Convert the task into an additional project of work. The work of organizing the database was crowding out the other filing tasks I needed to do. The next day. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 346 . I’d write into the note field of the task where I had left off and check off the task. I could create a specific task to house the intention to organize that particular site. visited daily. which risked not having materials ready when needed in other areas of work. Such an intention would take only a few moments. the Filing context began to jam as other simpler and smaller tasks were not getting done.

Once I defined the primary intention as being able to easily access specific sites. and the Filing context was unclogged. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 347 . it would have been a misallocation of time as other more meaningful intentions would have been waiting for time and attention. The repeating task was deleted. I have no intention to master the database of the password program. while fine in a vision to have easily accessible and available passwords with the avoidable out of the way. In other words. was misaligned. I could take care of a particular website’s password organization in the moments it was needed or shortly thereafter. I readjusted the organizational intention to be something I do at the time of those specific intentions. more than partially because the primary intention was not well defined. time was freed. The time and attention required to do the work was out of proportion to the primary intention. perhaps decaying in stasis. it would be a rare occurrence that only grew more rare with each repair. While continuing with the daily repeat may have been fine and arranged a very nice database. The organizational intention. but the process I designed was in that pursuit. While there would be an interruption to the flow of the moment.

Alternatively. In this way. consider. and perhaps beautiful space in which a reader may find ideas to play with. incorporate. I may only write. as long as the primary intention is held in mind as primary and continually developed itself. both the writing and its presentation become organizational intentions. enjoyable. ! Even more detailed. I may consider the primary intention: ! • Create a clear. I risk falling into an inadvertent unstated intention of mastering the formatting capabilities of a program. without ever considering how it will be read by an audience. I can consider the primary intention to be: ! • Present the writing to an audience. ! If a presentation by way of formatting aids that process then it is a fine organizational intention to develop. but. I notice myself adjusting font types and sizes. If I do not acknowledge my intentions by way of active reflection. while writing. it may not be the area in which to continually invest time and attention beyond a threshold of supporting the primary intention. I worry I am procrastinating. Either can be developed separately in support of clearly communicating with an audience.An Example With Paper And Formatting For example. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 348 . in this case. Formatting is not unimportant. or toss aside.

then spend time on the other. I may write both as daily repeating tasks. Alternatively. that states “Format content”. I can then choose which intention to develop. • Organizational Intention 1: Write content. I add a sequentially placed task afterwards. I would spend time on one. Clarifying: ! • Primary Intention: Clearly communicate ideas with audience. minimizing the chance for derailment. I write a task “Write content” and set it to repeat daily. ! Having made the distinctions. • Organizational Intention 2: Format content. meaning that it will not appear until the first intention is complete. check it off. too. Either solution would allow for continued work on the primary intention. and check it off. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 349 .

I consider a next action that would meaningfully develop the intention.An Example In Writing In considering a difficult writing project. I then open a blank document and start typing. I list places to search as individual tasks. I recall previously having written some related material. The next action is to put the work in front of me. the writing must be started anew. The next action changes to finding it. I sit back in silence and recognize my reluctance. After several minutes. I decide that a continual search would be a form of procrastination. I still cannot find it. I acknowledge the frustration of not having the material readily available. It would be useful to moving the work forward. I don’t know where it is.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 350 . Therefore. I enter a task into the Inbox to continue searching.

(New York: Bantam Dell.' George RR Martin51 51 George RR Martin. 'That is the only time a man can be brave. ! ! ! 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' . Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 351 . A Game of Thrones.. 1996)..

Asking questions is the fight to understand the moment from a depth of meaning. but they may not. Bravery’s resilience is found in the deeply cultivated sense of meaning. But a student Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 352 . do not know a path of learning. the more we may fear bringing the question forward. or catastrophe. either path bereft of agency. When we become confused. They may also be impatient. Yet the more basic the question. If something does not make sense now. If we find our studies meaningful. we consider the questions needed to find sense. feeling clueless. too. we ask questions. but afraid to raise his or her hand to simply say. Worry pulls upon poles of forced action and rebellious inaction. I do not echo the sentiment that “others probably have the same question. Could you explain that again?” Worry threatens both play and agency. and harbor several other emotions contributing to an adverse learning environment.” They may. “I’m lost. the bravery to ask basic questions becomes stronger. shame. may be hollow and brittle if forced. the more important it is for understanding. The more basic a question. courage & action A Bravery To Understand There is a continual struggle to understand the moment. or cannot see a next step forward. An easily seen example is the student in class. whether the projection of fear appears as embarrassment. It may be that we should say “be brave” but this. angry.

impeding. or obscuring the development of a meaningful intention. whether the vision itself is unclear or there are obstacles in our path. we may worry that without seeing a path to an end goal. Confidence falters and potentially drains. The paths of all creative intentions are unclear. while we may find promise in several wonderful ideas. there will be no way to realize it. perception itself may create some of the adversity within which we may find ourselves. Adversity is an object or set of objects blocking. The object of adversity may be a state of conditions. It is not coincidence that much of this text discusses creativity and organization. As an object is co-created by perception and the perceived. a path definitively unknown. In creating. Creating conditions to develop the uniquely meaningful is. In the case of writing a book. respectively. therefore. we venture from a village and tread upon lands unique in time and space with future conditions unknown. There is no guarantee of success. The myriad choices paralyze for fear of closing one door by opening another. Courage & Adversity Much of the work we do carries some degree of worry. who finds the potential knowledge meaningful will be much more inclined to raise his or her hand in the midst of even hostile peers. Adversity is anything that makes it difficult to reach a vision. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 353 . and even have an ability by which to capture them.

Without an ability to continue forward despite lack of clarity or even through frank adversity. We require the ability. and even expectation to be wrong in some assumptions. but there is no fooling the unconscious self. working through other obligations. We continue onward with a willingness to change. but without realizing the world is round. at times. Without courage. we fail. the project is doomed. capacity. suffocating play. The price of such self-flagellation is procrastination and apathy metastasizing across the day. we cannot reach any sought destination or develop meaningful work. but how do we go about building it. and play is far too stubborn to stand for such conditions. we may attempt to “fake” it by pushing hard. exhausting us further. and so forth may work for short spurts of time. Such attempts of brute force create a dissonance between the conscious and unconscious realms. It may be obvious to describe courage as important. inevitable. The possibility of failure is very real and. We may have a vision of reaching the edge of the world. It is far too wise to be duped by simply yelling at oneself. However. An important aspect of the vision goes unchanged and unreflective of reality. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 354 . Courage is not delusion. Courage is the willingness to create flow within or through acknowledged adversity. at least. Flow is a union of play and work in a process of self-actualization and fulfillment. especially when the initial strength of an intention seemingly fades and achievement of vision is hardly promised? Recognizing courage as a major resource. Adversity is examined and acknowledged. discovering that the world is round may require the repeated attempts of work. and hobbling forward motion in the intended project and likely others. Staying up late.

such that it may be relied upon. and it is not gone when used. "Chapter 11 Doing Psychoanalysis of Normal Development: Forward Edge Transferences. 52 The concept of courage here is not far from Marion Tolpin’s concept of forward edge as “tendrils of health”. saved. 18 (2002): 167-190.52 Confidence When our actions result in the completion of an intention or attainment of a goal. even when small. Marion Tolpin. developed over time. a pattern of accomplishment begins. Confidence feeds or starves itself by accomplishment: Confidence is a trust in one’s own ability. It is not deposited or borrowed from a bank. 2012) Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 355 .pep-web. Courage document. Courage cannot be planned for. http://www. a forward edge of confidence. instead. or spent in the same vein as time or money.018.php?id=psp. let us revisit “trust”: Trust is a belief. Confidence may then be restated as: Confidence is a developed sense of one’s own ability.0167a (accessed December 22. such that it may be relied upon. that something will continue behaving as it has in the past. As the definition notes trust." Progress in Self Psychology.

Every completed task. We may then fully expand the definition of confidence as: Confidence is a developed sense of one’s own capacity to meaningfully decide and act. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 356 . that confidence develops. provides a temporary refueling or building of confidence. It is in finding and moving towards that meaning of an intention. Every small step feeds confidence when completed. such that it may be relied upon. As I have introduced the concept of “ability”. Returning to the distilled version: Confidence is a trust in one’s own ability. let us update the definition of confidence: Ability is one’s capacity to decide upon and perform meaningful actions. no matter how small a step. with the crucial caveat that the task has meaning for oneself. even when small.

Therefore. Each of those smaller runs of phrases is as important as the entire piece itself.” however. not with a forced “I will succeed”. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 357 . Each practice builds confidence. Courage is a search for individual meaning. we must begin with a fantasied vision. thereby feeding confidence. We do the work. is the perpetual test of the moment. As the entirety of an intention’s development is not clear from the outset. One does not play an expansive piece of music without the training of endurance that the many smaller practices before it provide. One may envision a successful performance but cannot promise it. Failure to reach a falsely promised goal. We venture into the fog fully cognizant that we may return with nothing. understanding.Courage & Confidence We must recognize the possibility of failure. Meaning. beyond being a mass of knowledge. “I will continue. Forced conviction is brittle. providing the strength and ability to perform longer and longer passages. each step clearing the fog. carries the potential for powerful momentum and motivation. and existence. but rather a resilient “I will continue”. instead of being met with resilience and growth. we put one foot in front of the other. Failing to pursue that which is meaningful creates cracks in the reservoir of confidence. Whether an intention’s anxieties confuse us or sharpen our courage. proclaiming success before accomplishment is a lie seeding decay in confidence. while respectfully acknowledging fear and desire. without true sight. but confidence built over time provides solid and resilient roots to support courage. We do not know the future. shatters confidence as its hollowed shell meets reality.

and we continue. it is often useful to ask. When meaningful attempts meet completion. The ability to further craft intentions is honed. all the while developing meaningful work and mastery. the crucial resource of confidence is renewed. What is the worry? or even What is the fear? Doing so aids the distillation of anxiety into a fear such that it may be dealt with.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 358 . To reiterate. when dealing with anxiety. 
 the luckier I get. ! ! ! The harder I work. Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974)53 53 http://www.html Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 359 .

We simply face them regularly. we build the habits to overcome the obstacles. by considering an engagement of our work in play with regularity. around. I am not the first to play Chopin’s Bb Scherzo or write new music. we find the intentions and motivation needed to progress.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 360 . and the reaction would already have carried forward. Even if luck were involved. the luck itself is best captured by way of readiness built only from the dedication of practice. meeting. as it often is. I find the phrase “work hard” too vague for my liking. above. Dedication is the regularity with which one uses courage and confidence to cultivate meaning. Perhaps just by rephrasing. and beyond. Many musical paths have been traversed before. We do not yell at the walls in front of us. Many paths are well-worn.Dedication Work deemed useful is most often a product of dedication. There will always be an obstacle to overcome in an intention’s development. then a required activation energy for it to occur would not exist. Regardless of the work. and addressing adversity as needed. If there were not. considering potential paths through. One “only” needs to provide the time and will to persist. acknowledging.

” .com/watch?v=uOgHE5nEq04 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 361 . ! ! ! “Renegotiation is 
 the ultimate ninja skill.Merlin Mann54 54

Learning to say “No” in the myriad forms and methods by which it needs to be said is a crucial skill to develop. we build integrity. we may also consider the psychological mechanisms of creating them. When we are asked to do something by someone else. Learning where and how to say “No” is a vital lesson learned as we reflect regularly upon our limitations. allows us to have a clear answer quickly. unless they are making a particularly strong attempt at empathy. as they reflect our day’s time and attention. another’s may be a fear of conflict. and the limitations within which they may be able to thrive. Knowledge and guidance of our habits. When subject to a request. while yet another’s may be the tendency to unconsciously destroy himself or herself by saying yes to things that are beyond his or her limits. we are therefore tasked with the responsibility of knowing our own experience of agency and play. respecting our limitations. In considering and. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 362 . especially when involved in what we feel to be meaningful endeavors. One person’s saying “Yes” may stem from a sense of obligation.Saying “No” In addition to the physical constructions of boundaries we design for ourselves. Reasons as to why saying “No” may be difficult are manifold and quite varied from one individual to another. before answering. that person often has little to no knowledge of our own present experience. especially.

attention. Authority is established not only by one person’s command. balanced with the respect of our limits of time and attention. Without this period of reflection. It becomes. It is not that we only do the things we wish to do. If a request is in line with our own sense of meaning. attention. we can carry on with the requested intention as it is beneficial for all parties involved. weighed in an understanding of the other meaningful intentions of our lives. agency. our employers and colleagues working in parallel with that sense of meaning. by actively considering the meaning of our work. However. albeit sometimes in circumstances of great adversity. and choice of intentions. We find a better means of answering another’s requests by pausing and consciously asking ourselves: Do I wish to grant another person authority over my time. i. we are then better able to accept or decline the intentions placed before us. integrity. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 363 . a ground favorable for developing the maturity of play we seek for work. but also by another’s granting of that command. When we find our jobs meaningful. instead. then the consideration is no longer one of granting authority. and development of intention.e. we automatically grant the other person authority over our time. and intentions? Asking this rather dramatic question stresses the importance of reflecting upon personal experience before answering.

the best guide is a reflection upon the work’s meaning for ourselves. Try. try again. If it is clear that an intention is no longer meaningful. 
 turn back.1840 T. Palmer Teacher's Manual 22356 The first refers to the concept of “sunk costs”.com/quote/13808/ 56 http://www. try again. Tenacity. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 364 . 
 If at first you don't succeed.answers.
 .” The second phrase refers to not giving up. that for every quote there is an equal and opposite quote: No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road. of course.” How do we know that the road is somehow “wrong”? How do we know an investment of time or money will become a loss? As noted earlier. These are costs that have been incurred and cannot be recovered. Try.Meaningful Work Is Not Wasted I have a theory analogous to Newton’s First Law.
 . What is missing between these phrases is knowing when a project or task is “wrong. diligence. and dedication often win the day over those who do give up.Turkish Proverb55 'Tis a lesson you should heed. It also speaks against the idea of continually heading down a road if it seems to be somehow “wrong. it is. time 55 http://quotationsbook.

then we decide consciously that it cannot be done. the more it resonates with other aspects in one’s life. “I am too old. now returned to the soil to fertilize the next season's growth. But it still is sensed as meaningful. considering the entire endeavor therefore of no use. as fulfilling a vision is never guaranteed. If we know it cannot be done regardless of how meaningful it is. they serve to avoid the recognition that meaning is developed in the processes of play and work. or learning a new hobby. I am too dumb. For example. to stop. The sense of something meaningful may be reflected upon regularly as a guide. we learn. We may. The greater the meaning developed. hesitate to even begin. though we do feel that some meaning and possibility are indeed present. not necessarily in the completion of an intention’s entirety. therefore. I am too lazy. however. In many cases. it may still reach a maturity of its own accord. It may thereby feed and give shelter to other intentions and people in our worlds. Though sometimes the answer only appears somewhere down the line. Learning music offers metaphors of sound. an intention’s meaning and possibility are unclear. we must be vigilant in order to know when we are avoiding looking at the answer.” Regardless of any modicum of truth that may be found behind any of these statements. By plodding forward.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 365 . or what we may wish to cultivate. I am too young. etc. and we continue. in writing a book. It is far better to acknowledge that than not. recognizing that mastery in a craft may be beyond reach. We may not know if there is an end. we may not be able to put its meaning into words. I am too ill. Even if we eventually decide that a given thread of work is no longer meaningful. whether in terms of how it connects to present life. those around us. Any meaningful pursuit may become the remnants of past crops. creating business reports offers insights into specific and general economies. having invested the time and effort to know it for ourselves. We may never reach one. Even if an intention does not reach an ostensible goal. and learning a language opens doors to worlds of people. the process of having done work may yet fertilize future projects. often even regardless of achievement.

! ! ! Mastery

! ! ! You have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself. Miles Davis (1926-1991)
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 367 .

Guidance of play is a matter of practice. in turn. Refining our theory on mastery and even meaningful work. Practice is a regular organizing of play in a craft over time. Defining practice. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 368 . Clearly. the two are related. then: Mastery is a process of regularly organizing play in a craft over time. Meaningful work is the result of play. overview Theories Of Mastery As we began. regularly organized over time. into work. Mastery and meaningful work develop from guided play.

Those who can successfully bring play into work have a vitality. Throughout this section. Finally. we can use effortlessness as a measure of mastery. It is a flow of exploration anchored in the strongest sense of present experience. and the richness of experience required to not only enhance memory and skill at a depth of integration. between internal and external worlds. meaning. but to use that learning towards developing mastery and meaningful work. Play is a sine qua non of mastery and meaningful work. we will consider how we may render our crafts into its basic components. Play offers a direct connection between meaning and environment and the opportunity to master a path by its maturation within a craft. as we will examine shortly. The following theory can act as a guide for constructing projects that might guide us towards mastery: Much of mastery is a mastery of the basics. Effortlessness is a measure of mastery. We seek to engage our ideas and develop our workflows such that at least some of our play may become the work desired. so that we may play with them and guide that play towards the development of mastery and meaningful work. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 369 .

3. 2. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 370 . Much of mastery is a mastery of the basics. Effortlessness is a measure of mastery. Mastery and meaningful work develop from guided play. Summarizing the theories: 1.

Exercise: Play For a chosen field of mastery or meaningful work. We do not need to have multiple tasks written so long as we understand that within Practice there are tasks of play. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 371 .Play Set the task to repeat daily. Note the direct parallel to a previous exercise of “Practice”. create some form of the task: .

(Jamey Aebersold. We seek effortlessness when developing mastery. we can realize that our intrinsic memory functions as a form of storage. When we consider mastery. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 372 .57 57 Kenny Werner. skill is a form of storage in which we may develop a trust: We seek a clear mind when organizing or storing tasks. 1996). In other words. Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. 99. we find some means of developing a system we can trust in order to have those intentions off of the mind. effortlessness Effortlessness & Intrinsic Memory As Storage When we seek to store our intentions.

They function unconsciously or nearly so. Your Memory : How It Works and How to Improve It. playing the piano. Intrinsic memory is then where we develop a form of trusted storage. 2001). storage. and retrieval. includes meaning. Memory. An attempt to remember “what happened” is always confronted by the fact that what happened is never truly known. Memory is a process of attention. Riding a bike. Learning is a process of organization. encoding. especially as it relates to creativity and mastery. and greeting the demands of the present. memory is divided into stages of attention. reinforced. specifically skill. Memories are perceived upon the living canvas of 58 Kenneth Higbee. Learning is a depth of transformation in meaning. We may even include our style of interacting with others as stored in our ways of functioning. play and self- transformation. we need to also consider learning.58 However. 2nd edition. Intrinsic memory is composed of the memories and skills that we have worked into our selves. storage. (Da Capo Press. Learning. though one developed in work and play. or other mastery of a skill or craft qualify. & Skill Conventionally. encoding. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 373 . continually reformed. Memories and ideas learned are alive as riverbeds of meaning and experience. beyond simple memory. Learning in depth. and retrieval.

perception. between world and self. and desire. conscious and unconscious. it is unavailable to the self. an individual word’s use in play evolves into an availability for self- expression. However. Such a word may be reproduced exactly as it was heard. often in a relaxed state of heightened attention. the moment’s experience. We speak a language well not because the individual words are Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 374 . conscious and unconscious. By this description. and longevity to memories and learning. and reality. shifting and transforming in the mind’s ever-heroic attempts to integrate experience. question. when no meaning runs through it. Meaning is a depth and breadth of connection spanning words. While an ability to reproduce a word may well be there. let alone for doing meaningful work. emotion. thought. vitality. ideas. It is a connection and movement between intuition. An example may be the ability to echo a word in a foreign language without knowing how it is used. it is no longer the point. A language is better learned in a culture flowing with concepts and emotions where ideas and associations drift and linger amongst the words. Play is a flow between thought. and action. and care. Meaning brings depth. intention. Recollection is the river’s trace upon the surface while the undercurrents flow in a learned depth. fear. Shallow recollections do not accommodate meaning. attention. To reiterate. logic. and engage in the play of back and forth discussion. Instead. Their meanings and relationships to other words. Rivers of mind develop with the investment of time. and experiences. and emotions take root as we express thoughts. as output precisely matching input. strain to understand others. concepts. emotions. it would not then be surprising that the practice of play would be so involved with the development of meaning.

Learning internalizes a craft such that its boundaries. details. and carry meaning. The mind can engage in a relaxed focus of play towards work when it has learned to speak fluently in the language of the craft. and idiosyncrasies are known and available to construct our own creative spaces. The singular cohesion we attempt to achieve in flow is built from the many inputs. Being of the same medium as our capacity Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 375 . clothe. and emotions that weather the experience of a craft. We must be able to speak the language of the community via learning and memorization or risk losing connection. though recall is indeed vital. thoughts. The memorization of details better allows communication with the community of a craft. What is left is an expression between self and world. sensations. A depth of learning clearly provides accessibility to information and therefore most strongly supports a relevant intention. thereby fostering the strongest flow for play and work. Memory may therefore best be considered not just for recall. but because they are internalized to a depth at which they may be used to discover. memorized.

the more available and influential they are. All tools external to the self are secondary. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 376 . one of which has an apple that falls onto a cloud. On Mnemonics Memorization is done well in the process of finding play for and with the material. therefore. It is. The use of memory aids such as mnemonics are a means of using associations between one thought and the next. The self becomes the path of work through which projects materialize. That which connects on many levels and in depth bears the greatest chance of imprinting and irrigating the growth of present and future projects. we may remember the order of a random list of objects by imagining each interacting with the next. and in so doing. and repetition. the mind’s attention is our primary tool. the greater the flow ingrained and available for the myriad forms of work before us. involvement. profoundly important to integrate what work we can into our minds by way of learning and memorization. Any number of methods of memorization derive from this central link of association. The greater the meaning of our memories. The greater the involvement in any process. For example. and “cloud” could be done by imagining a balcony growing a bunch of apple trees. stronger memories form as a transformation of the mind’s rivers. to choose. Recall and learning are enhanced by play. Memorizing the random words of the series “balcony”. consciously and unconsciously. It is in this sense that learning and memorization are organizational processes as they may clear paths for the development of intentions between self and world. “apple”.

Creating mnemonics and spending time developing and concentrating on imagery towards the intention of memorization is a form of creativity. albeit sometimes distant from the actual meanings and relevance of the objects. 59 For further research on memorization techniques consider visiting or reading the excellent Kenneth Higbee. The process may be expanded. This is more difficult for the novice player. (Hyperion. The history and story of the games have an internal consistency and may be connected with a meaning inherent to the person's own relationship with chess. 2003).59 Using mnemonics. emotionally laden content. (Da Capo Press. and a central meaning for integration has not yet developed. and other such methods of association and repetition are all manners and means of playing with information. 60 Gary Small. such memorization becomes simpler and more readily achieved. These methods are fine and in some cases necessary. but as a bed of meaning is cultivated in practice. 43. if we can play with the ideas as closely as possible to the notions they truly embody. The Memory Bible: An Innovative Strategy For Keeping Your Brain Young. The process does weave a type of meaning into the works to memorize. Your Memory : How It Works and How to Improve It. For instance. Chess players can more rapidly memorize patterns of pieces on the board than non-players as long as they are representative of real games60. The use of mnemonics as a tool acknowledges a distance between the mind's image and a more central understanding of the basics of an object or a group of objects. especially in the early stages of learning a craft when the connections between ideas are not apparent. It is better in the end. a technique called the Roman Room method entails imagining items to remember upon various parts of a well known room. visualizations. The use of vivid imagery. and bizarre associations all encourage our natural tendency to play. We have not yet reached a threshold of knowledge where ideas fully come together. 2nd edition. however. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 377 . 2001).

We may imagine an apple (Adams). it is stored. The structure of their names themselves has no real connection with the order in which they presided over office. their involvement in the worlds around them. As another example. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 378 . Memorization by various mnemonic methods can be useful towards this end. However. What we are then left with is mimicry rather than learning. and how their decisions have impacted the world we live in now. and it is returned. consider an ordered list. Memorization by mnemonics is then best used as a trellis to support learning and building meaning. such as a series of names of presidents. A depth of memorization is directly enhanced in a meaningful immersion of self with knowledge. how we may relate their lives to our own. When reaching this level of involvement. if this is where our involvement stops. this risks circumventing the importance of attaching it to something meaningful. among other ideas. next to a friend Jeff sitting in a fir tree (Jefferson). learning is minimal. Recall and retrieval are very useful for memorization and learning. as they are methods of placing oneself in the flow of work. the memorization of who came first or second has less to do with any imagery we may have made. The mnemonics used fall away as the shells that they are. who looks down to see a person angry with him (Madison). But if recall is the only criteria. An idea is presented. For a stronger integration. we may instead learn the individual stories and histories of the people themselves. etc.

Conscious demand simultaneously tests and enhances the potential flow of information from the residue of past experience into present attention. The attempt to retrieve information exponentially improves and strengthens the memory in terms of its integrity. “hey. is a seemingly senseless activity that can involve running in large circles or lifting otherwise 61 Kenneth Higbee. (Da Capo Press. Retrieval aids the transition of ideas from short to long-term memory. 2nd edition. Whether for mind or material. and flow in access.Use Calling upon memories and references aids their consolidation. The act of taking the fruit is something of a communication to the plant that says. association. when this pattern arises. 2001). an idea. organization. The five primary considerations for memory are meaning. we create associations. but also develops the intrinsic memory to enhance utility. We may anticipate a pattern and decide that in the future. improvement of storage.61 In play. It may be as simple as the answer to an anticipated exam question. The same process occurs in many systems. or an object. We attempt to strengthen the associations deemed fit for a particular scenario. After attempting to use a concept. for instance. retrieval is a major component of use. and utility. It may be as complex as performing the entirety of Bach’s Inventions. and attention. we'd like more of these”. we may consider what has been missed and what may be improved. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 379 . Exercise. organize. longevity. The repeated process not only improves organization. and the plant obliges. build. visualization. A fruit tree tends to create more fruit when picked. Your Memory : How It Works and How to Improve It. we would like certain thoughts and emotions to appear before others. and connect the concepts within active memory with meaning.

Creation & Transformation Each person’s playful self is unique and is reflected just as uniquely in his or her form of mastery. In the short term. one does better to not only write what Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 380 . It is an experimentation between self and world in a state of flow. one is weakened. We notice an individuality beaming from the acknowledged masters of any craft. too. however. It allows the self to speak using the concepts as words for expression. mastery is not some specific point or goal to reach. Play is a direct connection to meaning as it is a strong and genuine interface between world and self. In deciding to take notes in class. meaningless weights repeatedly. It is instead both a broad expanse and the ability to continue its exploration. As a creative process emanating from the self. by asking for example: What can I make with this? The question provides a regular play and practice that brings concepts to a cohesion. When memorizing. Play is a means of self-actualization. for example. Creating a simple daily repeating task to review and build on the items one is learning can aid in improving memory and retrieval of the information. be useful to consider how we can practice playing with the concepts. lift more. building meaning and enriching memory. one can now run farther. it may. While it is important to ground the work and ideas by asking their meaning. using flash cards is an example of doing this type of work. In the process of healing and growth. and in general become stronger overall. In this sense. play is a major nutrient in meaning’s growth.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 381 . By designing a playground to relate to real-world scenarios. effectively creating something that feels meaningful to oneself. a part of study may be creating a practice exam. but to use the information to create something within one’s own mind. By creating. The degree to which we decide to immerse ourselves in a craft can have a tremendous impact upon the transformation of self and the work involved. imagining. singing. we engage the material and the self in play. It is better yet if we can find connections directly relating to something we find meaningful. It is an automatic investment of time. and therefore builds upon meaning. is heard. moving. If we cannot find relevance in day-to-day life. In considering learning about a period of time in history. we begin learning a crafting of work from play. One person may listen to a piece of music passively. Yet another transcribes the notes onto paper and learns to play the piece. The more manners and means by which we create. even searching for and savoring the beauty inherent to an equation improves the motivation and enjoyment of learning the material. then write it. Writing. we may imagine the difference between reading a book about the period and using a video game or virtual environment to create a town from that time. the act of creating calls forth a part of the self. while another may decide to compose a new piece in the style of the musician. The act of creation is one of bringing forth from within the self. the more the opportunity for lasting change. while another listens in a meditative depth with eyes and door closed. Creating from the stuff to learn and organize automatically connects it with a sense of meaning. attention. If an exam refers to some mathematical concept. If we have an exam in the coming weeks. finding the connections between that concept and where it may be useful elsewhere in our life enhances the learning. It is play that creates a meaningful organization towards mastery. speaking. and the continually forming self. perhaps even external to the material of the exam itself. drawing: whatever the action and its medium.

Plans get messy and stale. regardless of condition. Natural divisions may be examined. knowing full well that the nature of plans is to change. others that have become redundant. At some point. scope of playground (vision) Plan. the ability to view and understand this next action in relation to the overall project is often myopic. As a project begins. The most important tasks can be hiding somewhere in the middle of a list. Even then. or whole sets of steps that make clear some incorrect assumptions. The initial excitements and explosions of an intention can carve and mark initial paths forward. in some way we have or create plans. we develop a vision. Which tasks are which is not often immediately apparent. Whether we carefully design what we imagine to be a way forward into mastery or we simply begin to explore. Others would just take moments. Some tasks involve hours of work. it will almost certainly go off in some unanticipated direction. Some parts become redundant. at best. risks may be assessed. and divisions may be made. there are drafts and steps hypothesized and theorized. Act. & Iterate Consciously or unconsciously. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 382 . Only the next action is at all realistically visible. No matter how well we believe an intention has been planned. Anxiety can never be brought to zero. There are steps left out. parts can be considered. we must begin.

intellect. there are more than likely unknown tasks and concepts that have yet to occur simply because we have not started the journey. to accommodate in a continual iteration. Were we there already. it would not even occur to us to create a goal. to remind us where we are. And. as we are not already there. consequently. crude ones at that. As we go through plans. (1962): 306-310 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 383 . We create plans to serve the very important function of providing a map for direction and. as a landscape of its own. Plans are. then. is essentially any movement or creation of the mind. only maps and are never the actual landscape. W. be it emotion.R. contribute to motivation. If there is something nagging us from the back of our minds. Still.62 Thought. or otherwise flawed. There is always use in taking stock of where we are and how things appear now that we have arrived at some point in the path of an intention. poorly prioritized. distorted. and predicting the world around it. suggests that thought itself is born of frustration. Similarly. and to plot out future steps. plans are born of frustration. 43. after all. automatons. J. or combination thereof. They come about because we have not already achieved our goals. They rarely seem to reflect reality. and more often than not. Psycho-Anal. in this definition." Int. movement. be it a simple two-step project or a complex journey. Even the smallest of plans can be helpful. They are representations. If something is considered off. or simply wrong. One psychoanalyst. there are any number of times where we will come across a task that seems redundant. We are not. It can be a wonder. there is definitely reason to rethink how the tasks are presented. as to why we would ever make plans. changing. maps are tremendously useful in giving direction. "The Psycho-analytic study of thinking. A mind is not simply a blank screen upon which the world projects through the senses. much like the mind. 62 Bion. Wilfred Bion. the canvas changes. It is a living canvas adapting. assigned a wrong context.

and re- working of an intention that eventually create the end results. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 384 . While intentions can get messy. it is the continual refining. ! We begin. it is better considered a point of iteration. redefining. Rather than consider an intention as finite. adjust. and continue.

it is useful to find sources we trust in providing relevant knowledge. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 385 . We can find a neat idea through the creative work of play. and study what others have written. our agent of learning. We can learn the major topics of a craft through a textbook. and aid us in designing exercises. point out our blind spots. We set time to play.Considering A Teacher Important objects of our fields are recognized by way of play or study. We must recognize that a teacher is not. however. To this end. We can take classes. Therefore. When deciding to develop mastery in a craft. an effective teacher can present the landscape of a field of study. it is useful to create intentions of seeking outside knowledge. find coaches. Our best chance of useful discovery tends to appear when we involve both play and study. and our own seeking of knowledge. Learning stems from our own experience. A teacher is a trusted source of relevant knowledge. our own questions. We set time to study. in addition to intentions of play and the visions we design ourselves.

Included in how we use a tool is where we place the tools around us. i. we are much more likely to be aware of relevant information when memorized. or at least a component of one. In this sense. Any tool should be considered as to how it enables the realization of our thoughts.Learning & Placing Tools Mastered tools are catalysts for realizing the visions we desire. As an object supporting and clearing a path for the development of our workflows.e. a tool is an organizational structure. As an example. methods of memorization. The mind is powerful. an object of knowledge is often best placed in the mind.. etc. Tools may be programs. but also by virtue of it being itself. Tools are a part of the basics. This may seem trivial. An object of knowledge is a tool. not only because of its computational power. In other words. It often becomes most accessible to the development of our work when learned rather than stored on a piece of paper or in a computer. memorized or learned. In addition. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 386 . memorization can contribute strongly to organization. In a video game environment. but there are many times when we decide to rely upon notes instead of memorizing the information they contain without realizing the benefits of memorization. the player who memorized a complex map does much better than one who may have the map sitting nearby on a piece of paper. A tool is an object used to shorten the distance between a vision and its realization. physical objects. it is the closest experiential means of utilizing information. there is no distance from the mind to the knowledge it holds.

Notice that tools are easier to use when they are close at hand. more meaningful body of knowledge. memorizing key commands can dramatically improve the use of a program. a threshold of organization previously unrecognized. Mnemonic memorizations may be used to memorize a sequence of ideas by use of association. major functionality may never be discovered when it is buried in a preferences setting. In other words. The difference between one mouse movement to get at something and two is tremendous. at least until one feels they are learned in depth. Much of a good user interface in a program is about making common actions the most easily accessible. it may be difficult to recall a list of 20 seemingly unrelated items. for instance. Whether we use a hammer or a mnemonic. my be surpassed. as part of a larger. tools may exist in mind. Without mnemonics. though the tool is otherwise exactly the same. helps realize a vision of a picture hanging on a wall. When multiple actions are rapidly accessible. moving that option to the direct interface can make a huge difference in usability. For example. and finds a relationship among the items. Meanwhile. being within the mind. or span both. is that much more powerful. Knowledge. In fact. the distance between vision and realization is shortened from the nearly infinite distance of not hanging the picture at all. A hammer. it is helpful to remember that both are tools. given that without the hammer the task may be impossible. world. though its access may only be an extra keystroke away. Even better. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 387 .

we seek a state where knowledge of our tools transforms from hindrance to help in actualizing our work. pursued separately or as a part of the work itself. While mastery of the tools used themselves may not be necessary. though we cannot lose sight of the vision itself. We do well to learn the paths these intentions may provide. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 388 . Similar to organization and setting the boundaries of a context. As with any aspect of developing an organizational structure. the learning of the tools involved in a craft may also be an organizational intention. knowledge of tools is needed to the extent that they may aid a clear path to our destinations.

its table of contents.Master Chapter 2 .Read chapter 2 . As an example. create a series of tasks that correspond to the work that might go into mastering the field.Re-read chapter 2 (Date set for 1 week later) Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 389 . we can consider the materials with which we take notes.Read chapter 1 . We can examine the textbook. take the syllabus of a course and turn each point into a task: . the time we can review notes after class.Create a set of flash cards . research. Perhaps using a task manager. or other manner of scoping out the field.Master Chapter 1 . and the forms in which we may study. and the syllabus. we can break down the tasks into further components of what it would take to master each chapter: . draft a vision.Re-read chapter 1 (Date set for 1 week later) ! .Exercise: Draft A Vision Using a teacher.Master Chapter 1 . at least as far as can be reasonably seen.Create a set of flash cards .Master Chapter 2 -… ! From here.

Exercise: Study For a chosen field of mastery or meaningful work. find a text or teacher related to the craft. tasks are only there to store the intentions. as noted earlier.Study Set the task to repeat daily.Play & . we are well on our way. Consider linking the task to the work of the previous exercise. Related individual concrete tasks can also be written as the days progress.Study daily. Create some form of the task: . So long as we . ! Again.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 390 .

. ! ! My understanding of this process is to touch the essence of a technique. The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. (New York: Free Press. 2007) Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 391 . 
 and then to incrementally condense the external manifestation of the technique while keeping true to its essence.Josh Waitzkin63 63 Josh Waitzkin.

we gain an understanding of it and its components. We put it back it together with play. understanding An Overview When we can take something apart and put it it back together. ! In mastery. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 392 . We take an object apart with acknowledgement.

and amended. It is in this way.Finding The Basics Recall. too. We attempt to render the experiences of our crafts into their most basic components. stagnant aspects of a craft. we can then study from a nascent knowledge. The basics of an art or craft may be simple. Studying the basics provides a foundational knowledge of any craft. When we are able to create from the most fundamental components of our fields. existing ideas may be verified. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 393 . the more available it is for our play or work. Most of mastering the advanced is mastering the basics. understanding. we become pioneers. With play. altered. The better we understand and integrate the basics of an idea. and integration are rarely easy. Much of mastery develops by defining and re-defining the basics. but their discovery. that a mastered craft is imbued with a sense of the individual. New ideas and details may be intuited. fresh and free from the unquestioned.

We cannot have fruitful discussions. our understanding of it grows hollow. Without acknowledging our own experience of a subject. it is our strongest ground. we must return to basic experience. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 394 . Our experience is the only thing of which we can be certain. Meaningful understanding and work can only find root in the ground of personal experience. For this reason. We cannot consider new ideas.The Ground Of Experience Experience is our centerpiece. To realize the objects of our workflows and crafts.

The term “organization” often refers to arranging our surroundings. cabinets. which refers to developing and accessing skills and ideas in the mind. The order of our desks. In other words. Learning a language. Perception is what we see and feel of the world outside. We see the inside world. does not reflect our individual experience. Perceptions reflect our external world. Developing our workflows is as much an act of learning as it is of impacting our environments. becoming proficient Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 395 . etc. memorizing a set of facts. tends to come under this idea. We organize both mind and world when we play or work. we see both at once. It is a reflection of what we believe exists. what appears in our mind as experience is a combination of both what we see and what we have seen. Associations are the thoughts that come to mind when considering an experience. Associations reflect our internal landscapes. We see them as reflections of our internal landscapes. Experience is the overlapping waves of perceptions and associations. We see the outside world. More accurately. It is an idea separate from the term “learning”. As an example.Components Of Experience Experience is formed by overlapping waves of perception and association. files. as divided between mind and world. That our experiences span mind and world is not trivial. much of our difficulty in organization lies in our failure to acknowledge the times when an object.

we can recognize that when organizing well. with a work tool. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 396 . Yet any of these may clearly lend support and clear paths for our workflows. Therefore. In this way. or practicing a musical instrument would all fall under this latter definition of learning. “organization” and “learning” are not as distinct as their separation of terminology would otherwise have us believe. we are organizing experiences.

we automatically map the mind to that order. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 397 . The practice of searching for files develops the skills and habits improving both search time and an understanding of how we think about our files. distilling. In this way. Creating a system for oneself offers an organizational framework with automatic mental correlates for relevant items. Example In Organizing The Closet By putting a closet in order. It is the flow of the file cabinet’s use in relationship to the projects it supports. the act will have been of little consequence. The meaning of the materials and their arrangements form in learning and play. both generally and of their specific content. whatever the space. and sorting not only arrange material for optimal use. the order of a closet is most useful for the individual who organized it in the first place. and may even have been an elegant form of procrastination. they also provide a means of learning. Setting aside for the moment the ability to learn by example. we realize that a better delineation of “object” is not the file cabinet.Example Of An Alphabetized File Cabinet Managing files. grouping. but if it does not reflect use or how we think. Alphabetizing a file cabinet may seem useful at the surface.

In the process of regular acknowledgement. a vision. we reflect upon its waves of associations. at least as far as we can understand them in the moment. These waves are reflected upon. a feeling. an interesting workflow comes to mind. a desire. without judgment when possible. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 398 . As we consider an experience. until they subside. created. and reformed. a fear. a vision is enhanced. an intention. acknowledgement is the deliberate act of facing a thought. Reviewing. and beyond. a worry. It is in this sense that acknowledgement creates the very objects of our minds. the mind draws and redraws lines and descriptions to make some sense of what we see.A Process Of Understanding We can term the intention of understanding an experience as “distillation”: Distillation renders an experience into its most basic components. When we decide that no further thoughts about the experience are coming to mind. Boundaries are recognized. Distillation occurs by regular sessions of acknowledgement: Acknowledgement is the consideration of an experience to the degree that it is accessible to conscious awareness. a session. the building of an exercise. we have acknowledged it. An idea better forms.

Acknowledgement creates and reveals objects within and from experience. Summarizing: Perceptions reflect our external world. Experience is the overlapping waves of perceptions and associations. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 399 . Associations reflect our internal landscapes.

a program.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 400 . But then new ideas and understandings often return. In this way. every time we revisit our workflows. The “aha!” moment or the esprit de l’escalier are evidence of such. As with any work. We start acknowledging something in the moment. the process of understanding its components may not be entirely developed within a single session. many sessions of acknowledgement had occurred before we could define the objects we now find common. Thoughts often have a way of traveling through unconscious realms. or data file may well be different from the next. refine. For works of significant depth in particular. and beyond at seemingly any time. invited to the moment by some unclear call. only to crest at the surface later. a rippling effect tends to be prominent. Similarly. We define. perhaps at a next session or elsewhere. we may find something new. then as children. Any moment’s definition of a workstation. any moment’s definition of an object is in continual flux. and then as adults. An idea may appear only later. considering it until our thoughts surrounding it dissipate. Any moment’s understanding of a field of knowledge similarly changes in the process of our immersion within it.A Rippling Effect Acknowledgement is a process that seems to occur in waves. much less handle them. and re-define what we once knew every time we visit it. every time we listen to an excellent piece of music. the work of realizing a laptop or coffee mug as objects was not the course of a single session. a new idea about a paper to write. after some unknown time of gestation. a better way to organize a workstation. As infants. by regularly allowing the mind to rest within the vessel of the present moment’s experience. Every time we see a good movie. We can think of that thing we could have said in a conversation.

Jonas Salk (1914-1995) Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 401 . ! ! ! What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.

A Question is an attempt to perceive a reality from a present state or experience. Even the deceptively simple. Questions are directly related to intentions: An Intention is the potential created between a present state and a proposed reality. and the better will be any result of its pursuit. The questions we devise are evidence and manifestation of inner growth. and in so doing. The questions we create ourselves form from the body of our own experience and knowledge.The Importance Of Questions To develop our desires of understanding. Their tendrils developed from our own experience meet the nutrients of what we interpret as answers. We learn better with our own questions as they are the leading edge of our own experience interacting with the environment we perceive. “What are you talking about?” can be profoundly useful. The more a question or intention originates from our own experience. It is for this reason that pre-formed questions provided in textbooks are only partially helpful. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 402 . It is only such questions that can create and build upon the meaning within us. Without insisting upon knowledge to integrate into our own understanding and experience. foster the continued growth of experience and knowledge. we play with questions. Good questions are an attempt to connect present knowledge through perception into reality. learning is shallow. at least until we ourselves understand how they were formed. the stronger its vitality.

a next question may appear as: What is a next step in answering this question? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 403 . As noted earlier. intentions themselves are a compilation of questions: ! • Where am I now? • Where would I like to be? • How might I get there? ! Similar to an intention. there may be next questions: ! • What do I know now? • What do I believe I would like to know? • What is a next question on the path there? ! Consolidated. a well-constructed question combines several components: ! • What do I know now? • What do I believe I would like to know? • How might I find out? ! As with next actions.

The very act of questioning reveals the process of learning as a kind of play. we reflect upon what we know now and some of the possibilities of what may be. We speculate upon several potential answers to the questions formed. When coming across a concept that is unclear. We must question the details. When reading a textbook. we may consider the multiple possibilities of what may be meant. and grouping the concepts inherent to the work. curse and care for them in order for the ideas to come to life for us. They are creations of the moment that continue to live in time. “I’ll get there soon anyway. question. We imagine what answers may be. As we read. fight with them. while distilling. Words are dead until breathed into life by the reader. A useful habit to have in mind is to regularly ask. What is the next question? ! ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 404 . Why not say. and examine. play with them. the mind develops by way of creating and the play inherent to creating. at first. for example. It may. sorting. Why bother coming up with something the author already has?” However. prune. visualizing the potentials of arrangements and meanings. we actively and consciously shape these thoughts. seem to be a waste of time to consider creating questions and imagine answers to concepts we know will be presented shortly. In other words. By questioning. we do well to actively create questions ourselves along the way. or adjust the knowledge in a process of cultivation. Memories don’t just happen. The information gained from a text or talk may then be used to guide. we consider what the basics may be.

In any process of learning. This is to be expected. Often while organizing. We must acknowledge the sense that we do not and will never fully know a craft. Discovering earlier stages that still need to be mastered becomes part and parcel of play and work. though that gestalt understanding may not become apparent until several iterations of study have been completed. We must be ready and able to allow our questions and assumptions to change. Incorrect realities are often presumed. The world often responds in riddles when we explore via intention or question. We must acknowledge that the lenses of perception are never be perfect. This is perfectly fine. revolving around some central node or principle of understanding. Accepting this as a natural part of the learning process reduces the sense of being "behind" or "wrong". It is not completed. where we can review assumptions or look for the hidden behind the obvious. A lack of mastery at one stage often only becomes apparent in later stages of work. A group of concepts may carry meaning within its individual components and also at an overall (or "gestalt") level. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 405 . The very act of beginning is an admittance of not knowing. and we can never truly see a destination from where we stand. Reviewing basics requires humility. An erroneous belief that we do know all there is to know on a topic stagnates the flow of learning. we may realize that an earlier stage was not mastered as well as we had thought. either losing vitality from neglect or from not being given enough attention in the first place.Ability To Change Mastery is a process. We must regularly return to early stages to remaster and reabsorb the basics. we realize a potentially better framework for organization than the one we have been creating.

Otherwise. require reformulating. just as visions are never reality. We do not know the answer. Other distilled questions. Creative questions are always “wrong”. the question would not be asked. it is the acknowledgement of the gradual and sudden recognitions offered by reality’s responses that allow a meaningful conversation with the world in creativity. Attempts at answers are attempts to further understand the world. or we will never connect with a reality. to a meaningful question when we ask it. While this is not always the case. We cannot truly know a vision or end product until it is reached. a question that we are unwilling to change risks going unanswered. consider asking: ! • What do I believe I know now? • How might I better assess what I know now? • What is a next question on the path there? ! Questions sometimes can only be answered when they are changed. With continued confusion. Such questions often presuppose some reality which does not exist. too. possibly because there is no answer. Acknowledging that we often make incorrect assumptions allows a willingness to change our questions. For incorrect assumptions. While a continued fantasied vision can carry us forward. Their change is our growth. Our perception of a destination must. be able to shift. almost regardless of question. we may consider that the answer to the first question of “what do I know?” may well be incorrect. especially. They are somehow "wrong". therefore. A creative question is an attempt to resolve an unclear reality from present experience. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 406 .

By returning to remaster earlier stages regularly. the session. It is not that we change them at the drop of a hat. Questions and intentions unable to change are either brittle and shatter. among others. Resilience and flexibility in vision is a manifestation of respect for both self and environment. They have been written and re-written several times over. While not a simple task. the better we may define creative intentions in order to find ways play and work can flow together. organization. Even the title of the book itself has been a continual iteration from beginning to end. petrified. We rely upon reality’s responses to our repeated questions and intentions to give us clues. my own attempts at understanding the concepts themselves. taking the time it takes. changed in the moments of silence. or persist without resolution. unable to bear the weight of reality. instead. play. Better flows through the roots bring a stronger flow to the stem and flower. The concepts distilled include intention. mastery. the more advanced work is enhanced and emboldened by the renewed strength of play now flowing through the more basic elements of the work. and creativity. Each attempt and each revision is a step of living and learning. An Example In This Text The definitions in this text are the result of their own continual distillation. the better reality may be understood and accepted for what it is. Questions and intentions are. though how so was not at all clear from the initial scattered paragraphs of thought. The pursuit of writing the text was motivated by the sense that they were interrelated. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 407 . in the moments of reflection and thought we grant ourselves in the spaces we create.

All scales practiced. arpeggios. the better I can make a series of notes sound beautiful. (Jamey Aebersold. Simply playing a single note well is a most basic and important exercise. all pieces learned. when I sense that the note can nearly play itself. and all performances played benefit tremendously from the mastery of a well performed note. a rhythm is more natural than a phrase. and a sound is more natural than a note. simply playing a single note at a volume desired. This concept can be extended to any number of ideas I consider basic: scales. a note is more natural than a rhythm.64 The better I can make a single note sound beautiful. When it is practiced to the point of effortlessness. I begin to find not only mastery of playing a single note. a repeating phrase is more natural than the piece. reading of score. In playing piano. created with a well guided velocity of touch. … 64 Kenny Werner. Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 408 . may be considered a basic to the craft.An Example Of Nature At The Piano In music. but a mastery that begins to imbue all other aspects of the craft. theories. wrist and finger positioning. 1996).

and able to deal well with frustration and stress. less likely to yield to temptation. no. 65 Yuichi Shoda.An Example Of Interpreting A Study Let us consider an example of understanding a research experiment. playful. "… when these children became adolescents. attentive. rational." and "… those who delayed longer in preschool were rated as more likely to exhibit self-control in frustrating situations. more intelligent."65 The general conclusion was those who could defer gratification did better in school. 6 (1990): 978-86 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 409 . The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment was a series of interactions with kids in preschool whereby the subjects had a marshmallow placed in front them and told if they could wait. 26. verbally fluent. they would get two instead of just the one. The same kids and their parents were interviewed again in adolescence. The experimenters reported of those who could wait. their parents rated them as more academically and socially competent." Developmental Psychology. "Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies From Preschool Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions. and less distractible when trying to concentrate.

and not “willpower”. one makes a deliberate choice that prioritizes some other value more highly than emotional desire. I would like to distill the concept further to understand it from my own point of view and experience. person A may occasionally let slip comments or show mannerisms that display a truer sentiment. A continual denial of desire is a removal of agency often masquerading as righteousness and misery. as sometimes the pursuit of desire or gratification is a perfectly valid course of action. In other words. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 410 . I experience emotions as not readily changed by argument. he or she exercises agency. For example. While the conclusion drawn by these researchers is interesting. In other words. How does one defer gratification? As I understand it. the experiment may reveal one’s talent in using agency as more important than deferring gratification itself. unacknowledged desire has a tendency to appear in unconscious behavior. Therefore. I begin with the question. but acknowledge the desire and then act with choice. Also. the degree to which one may reflect and decide non-reactively. when person A is suppressing a feeling of anger with person B. Along these lines. This makes sense. the person deferring gratification must be able to not only work against the emotional desire. I am focusing on choice. Having worked with others psychotherapeutically for several years.

The latter two concepts. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 411 . seem more fundamentally connected to my own sense of experience. I understand them more easily. It is not that they are “more correct”. at least for me. but rather. They are more available to support other related intentions and are therefore better organized. Another reader may well have another interpretation. this example also highlights again how learning is an organizational process of the mind. Not coincidentally. and have related the experiment to them. I have distilled the concept of “deferred gratification” into “agency” and “desire”. I can now better utilize both the results of the experiment and my understanding of the terms in my other endeavors. In this example. But as I do have my own sense of understanding of the concepts of agency and desire.

what are its fundamental components? • Can those components. consider a small component: ! • How do you experience it? • Personally. in turn.Exercise Of Basics Of a craft or field of study you have chosen. be further broken down? • Personally. how do they seem relate to each other and as a whole? • Can a repeating exercise be designed around any of these basic concepts? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 412 .

Even organizing. it is an involved process that reveals as much as it arranges. Practice is a regular organizing of play in a craft over time. they are more available and accessible to our whims of play. in this sense. practice Practice Defined Through distillation we created the objects with which to play. When done in a manner useful for the individual. we play again and again and internalize the objects we’ve distilled to be able to even create the very playgrounds themselves. We no longer have to think about how to do something so much as guide the flow of doing it. Rather than simply accepting the games of another.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 413 . may be a playful process. bringing them into intrinsic memory. however. Agency and play find themselves in tune with each other. we can build our own. we created the scope and drafted a map of the landscape we wish to travel. As we internalize intentions and their development. Through practice. Through vision. a flow between self and world.

. my piano teacher. ! ! ! 90% of practice is slow.Marie (?-2010) . Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 414 .

As a general rule. the more play may be invited and consequently the greater the chance for its mastery.Guiding Play & Optimal Frustration Every individual’s sense of play is different. Perhaps it is no wonder that we anticipate an improvisatory performance to be hampered by demands placed upon it. and even then only sometimes. Some aspect of the world is distilled into a small arena in which we may play towards mastery. There is a progression of intentions. Simply writing “Play Moonlight Sonata on stage” without knowledge of the piano. A task written for one person does not necessarily sit well with someone else. for the practiced musician. A game is a form of restricted reality. or the hours of practice that go into setting the mindset for the task is more off-putting than inviting of play. In a city building video game. Still. These restrictions to reality. Distillation. Bringing play into work is not a simple writing of a task and sitting in the context of the work. in a sense. combine to create worlds of their own. Meanwhile. the more basic the intention for the individual. certain pieces can only make certain movements. a new level of deeper detail opens up and becomes available for potential play and work. In chess. distilling basics gives us greater opportunity for play. it is an exciting opportunity to breathe life into the notes of a composer from centuries past within the keys of a piano by way of the self in the moment. play does not readily appear without inviting conditions. though that is certainly a significant part. As each stage is mastered. the components and entireties of which may be pursued for mastery by way of an immersion in dedicated practice. In Go. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 415 . investing the time and practice to do it effortlessly. score. in turn. certain buildings provide only certain functions. We feel this as stage fright. stones may only be placed upon the intersections of a grid. For this reason. shapes our craft into components for a game.

And yet, people can improvise. Not only can they improvise, some can do so on a
stage in front of thousands and even enjoy it tremendously. Such performances are
the result of some level of mastery, whatever level that happens to be. Some
threshold is reached by which play may be called upon even in conditions some
would consider adverse. But beyond that threshold, it is invigorating. What was
once stage fright has matured into excitement.

Video games also demonstrates this principle. If a game is too easy, we get bored. If
it is too difficult, we become frustrated and quit. A significant challenge for game
designers is finding the space between these two extremes.

A well-designed game presents the ability to play with basic movements early in
the game. Later stages require increasing dexterity, be it in reaction, strategy, or
attention. Playing a later stage without the experience of earlier stages brings
frustration. However, mastering early stages allows one to do well and enjoy the
more complicated movements available later on. The difference here is that we are
designing our own game by creating our own intentions.

We seek to create, in our practice, a zone of “optimal frustration”.

Snags inevitably occur. We may get tired, confused, or exhausted while in the
middle, or even at the beginning, of a session of work. We must recognize that we
can always release our grip on whatever the vision and simply sit back. We take the
time to acknowledge what is on the mind and allow time for silence to appear.

We can always return a moment later, hours later, or the next day. The cycle is one
of tension and release. Iteration is powerful. So long as we make an attempt at
each regular session, we continue building the muscles of mastery.

Even small cycles of iteration can help tremendously in building playgrounds. The
process is exemplified by using a flashcard system to alternately hide and present
information to help knowledge gradually flow into memory.

We find iteration and play where we can.

Frustration may indicate a need to return to basics. We may then try to rely upon
the sense of frustration to know when it is time to redraft an intention towards a

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 416

mastery of the basics. Better, however, is to consider a regular re-mastery of basics
as a matter of routine.

A next action, when guiding towards play and mastery, sits at the most basic level
we can do effortlessly. Kenny Werner’s concept of effortless mastery builds from
this stage and is apt in any work.66 We build mastery by beginning with the most
basic of components until it occurs effortlessly, even starting by mastering the
resting of one’s finger upon the keys. Progressing from there, we master listening
to the sound of a single note.

We do not move on from that stage until we find an effortlessness in its play. We
may even return to a more basic stage as desired, even down to the level of simply
breathing. As absurd as it may seem, I can say with confidence that my
performances can be vastly different depending upon whether I have focused for a
moment on my breath before playing.

The importance is not that breathing is important to playing the piano (though
certainly that is there). It is that we return to our most basic sense of present
experience and build our intentions from there. Play is developed and cultivated as
a series of intentions on the path toward mastery and meaningful work.

Much of mastery is a mastery of the basics.

By integrating our work into intrinsic memory, practicing until we find an effortless
mastery with every basic component, we find the work increasingly available to
our inherent playful nature.

66 Kenny Werner, Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within, (Jamey Aebersold, 1996).

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 417

Generalizing Within The Craft

As we practice the basics, the skills we develop within the work generalize
throughout. By better playing an individual note, we better play a phrase. By better
playing a phrase, we better play the piece. We clear and guide a path for play to
reach from roots of basics into branches of work, from a sense of the general into
the details of a presentation.

Generalizing Beyond The Craft

Organizing formats the mind. This formatting then becomes accessible to other

The better an idea or item may be distilled, played with, and mastered in its basics,
the more mastery can imbue not only an understanding of the subject of study,
but also of our general thought processes for learning, creating, and organizing.
Our knowledge and skills in what is most “natural” about an object become
available to other play and work.

When learning skills in a strategy game, we become more adept at strategy in
other interactions. When learning to organize a photo set, we become better at
creating folder and filing systems for other work. When learning to organize an
environment for play, we become better at organizing our environments for other
crafts. By creating in one medium, we gain skills to create in another.

Much of my developing the skill to create in words has come from my years of
practice creating in sound.

The same concept holds for the day’s more mundane routines. Improving upon a
workspace sets a mindset of improving other paths of work and play. Considering
how to clear the computer desktop may inspire thoughts of clearing the physical

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 418

desktop. Even the simplicity of making one’s bed in the morning, in a sense closing
the session of sleep, sets a precedent of thoroughness that can carry throughout
the day.

Practice Lays Kindling

A thought pursued in the moments of its first creation is most fresh and allows for
the greatest degree of play. As an original intention, it is un-stored, fresh, and
without decay. For this reason, we are often concerned about “following the muse”.

However, without the organizational structures created by regular practice in
place, the spark of the muse has nothing to ignite. The thought sputters. What
would have been an inspiring passage of notes on the piano fizzles out when faced
with damp and withered technique.

The sparks of ideas do not become flames without the kindling of practice.

Perhaps we mourn the loss. But rather than find fault, we find opportunity for
practice. As we organize for play over time, we lay the kindling for future sparks of
inspiration. Should a present inspiration not be caught, we use the lesson of loss to
indicate good areas for practice. We move from the elusive search for a muse to the
more practical crafting of conditions to invite its play.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 419

An Aside On Intelligence & Practice

There are many definitions to intelligence which I will not attempt to present here;
suffice it to say that they tend to refer to an inherent aptitude or ability. In other
words, while there may be some degree of its development, it tends to refer to
more of a state.

Practice, as an organizational process formed in time, is only tangentially related to
intelligence, though practice may certainly be enhanced by an inherent aptitude.
The individual who coasts through education up through high school, able to rely
upon his inherent capacity to “figure things out”, often runs into a wall in college, or
sometimes graduate school.

At that point, organizational systems of mind, study, and general task management
take on greater importance as the flow of information to absorb swells to surpass
any individual’s intelligence. Without having had to learn over time the
arrangement of schedules, tasks, and habits, the student without these skills soon
begins to struggle and falter, at least until new modes of study are adapted. It is in
this sense that we realize there is an importance to practicing practice itself,
regardless of inherent aptitude.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 420


Immersion In Work

To best develop mastery in some field, we seek to immerse ourselves. The greater
our feeling of genuine involvement in a task or project, the stronger our ability to
learn, organize, and work with its materials.

The senses are what we use to perceive. But it is not only that we observe
something and translate what we see into something meaningful. The entire
process of perception and understanding may be considered a single flow.

To immerse ourselves, we must consider how we use our senses, and what it would
take to best connect them to the work.

Similarly, approaching a project for optimizing the input section of work,
enhancing accessibility for that which is relevant, will allow for a depth of
immersion and subsequently enhance learning and memorization.

There is a significant difference between seeing something in the distance, seeing
it up close, and being immersed in the experience. Passive listening or seeing offers
the least opportunity for integration. Words slide by without absorption. Sitting in
a class accomplishes little if the words are not understood.

In addition, creativity alone is not enough, as it risks a lack of utility to others. No
clear vision of development for mastery or meaningful work reduces the possibility

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 421

of finding an audience. Both learning and creativity, instruction and play, are

To find means of immersion, we can ask,

How may I better involve myself?

… and consider:

• Input by way of perception

• Ways to be creative with the material of the work

• Use by way of production and retrieval

Intuiting Immersion

Children intuitively recognize the importance of immersion with reality in play.
Notice that they would much rather play with a real cell phone than with a toy cell
phone. The former has real capabilities of connecting to the world. It is designed to
actually be used. The toy offers no such connections. A child has therefore little
interest in understanding such lifeless artificiality. The play with the toy may be
useful to create and develop skills of communication by way of fantasied
conversations with people for whom she cares, but less so in learning an actual use
of technology. What the child intuitively seeks is an immersion, an opportunity for
play and practice over time, with an object meant for actual use.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 422

An Example Of A Musician

A musician learns jazz differently by reading a book, listening to a CD, attending
multiple live performances each week, transcribing known works, or doing all of
the above.

An Example Of Television Immersion

An example of immersion can be seen in the entertainment enthusiast’s television
system. While perhaps not what one generally thinks of in terms of “productivity”, it
is yet an overall system built towards optimizing immersion in an experience. A
large screen with a clear picture, a comfortable couch placed centrally, shades
drawn, and perhaps a table for a glass of water and remote control are all hallmarks
of a well-designed flow.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 423

Threshold Becomes Flow

At some threshold, often unclear until crossed, one reaches an interim state at
which the task or project becomes enveloping. As a body of knowledge is
absorbed and connected in meaning, it begins integrating into a whole. The power
of intuition grows stronger. Playfulness quickens and incrementally seeks new
levels of basics, growing, and re-flowing into the work.

We begin to seek and look for questions and problems without quite knowing why.
We begin to write without clearly seeing or understanding an end. We take on
projects that are somehow enticing and feel important, though describing reasons
is as much a process of the work as any other. While organizing the sections of a
book, the components begin to make better sense and the book’s structure
increasingly dictates itself. The next steps for practicing a piece of music become
obvious. How to best arrange files becomes increasingly clear.

As writing teacher Don Murray notes, one’s writing begins to inform itself: “To learn
what to do next, the writer looks within the piece of writing.”67 This is true of any
project; it is the point at which the seed, or the work’s potential, quickens. Much of
designing the context in both time and space, setting time aside, repeatedly sitting
in the context, waiting during silence, etc., is geared toward reaching this

It is in this interim state that the compulsion to follow distractions, such as
checking emails, is reduced, and one “gets into it.” The flow itself aids in a further
clearing of the path to its own fulfillment. An inherent tendency to seek
stimulation finds its objects within the boundaries set.

67 Murray, Don. "Writing as Process: How Writing Finds Its Own Meaning." Trans. Array The Essential

Don Murray: Lessons from America's Greatest Writing Teacher. Thomas Newkirk and Lisa Miller. 1st ed.
Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc., 2009. 11. Print. (Hat tip to Merlin Mann for
suggesting the author.)

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 424

The strongest knowledge builds from this flow state, where a singular experience
of cohesion binds, clarifies, and contests details. In such states, we experience the
work’s details as facets of, perhaps, a central concept, found in a thoroughness of
detail. We find and correct irregularities, discover problems, or find something new
in our pursuit of what is basic to the craft or field. Motivations appear and
meanings are developed as we seek.

Josh Waitzkin, the famed subject in the film “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, says in
his book The Art of Learning,

“A curious thing happened in that time. So far I had been grinding my way
through this game. It was the first round, I had no flow, no inspired ideas, the
pieces were alien, the position strange. After about ten minutes of thought, I
began to lose myself in the variations. It is a strange feeling. First you are a
person looking at a chessboard. You calculate through the various
alternatives, the mind gaining speed as it pores through the complexities,
until consciousness of one’s separation from the position ebbs away and
what remains is the sensation of being inside the energetic chess flow. Then
the mind moves with the speed of an electrical current, complex problems are
breezed through with an intuitive clarity, you get deeper and deeper into the
soul of the chess position, time falls away, the concept of ‘I’ is gone, all that
exists is blissful engagement, pure presence, absolute flow.”68

The work is hard, but it is also a joyous work. When we look at the face of someone
who enjoys hard work, it is clear that he or she has arrived in a state of cultivated
play. Some threshold of work and play has been reached, and the work, the
dedication, the care, and joy have begun to grow together.

68 Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance, (New York: Free Press,

2007), 119-20

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 425





Error, Meaning, & Decision

 Every intention 
 is an infinite depth and breadth of smaller intentions. overlapping or alone.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 427 .
 Every experience 
 is an infinite depth and breadth of meanings and perceptions. ! ! ! ! ! Coincident and conflicting.
 Every vision 
 is an infinite depth and breadth of meanings and motivations.

! ! ! Do not fear mistakes—there are none. Miles Davis (1926-1991) Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 428 .

An example in work will be explored shortly. Mistake. We distinguish error. despite the authority with which Miles may make his claim. The lesson. there is a beauty and truth within the phrase “Do not fear mistakes—there are none. I am convinced that no one can avoid making mistakes. & Lesson I make mistakes. then it is an error. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 429 . Yet. even in the moments of improvisation. mistake. its presence as a path in art is undeniable. I imagine that at least some of the concept bears truth in all endeavors. perhaps by way of not seeing its unconscious elements. error Error. Deviations are influenced by whatever reality throws at us. we assume a meaning of something to be different than what it does mean.” While I do not know for certain if "no mistakes" is applicable to every craft beyond art. for instance. including those external to the self or even meaning itself. Reality may include any object. as I understand it. and lesson: An error is a perceived deviation from a path toward vision. If. is of learning and adapting to what is originally perceived as error so that it becomes a part of the path towards mastery.

A lesson is an acknowledged opportunity to learn. The degree to which an error is acknowledged in a depth of its details is the degree to which the lesson it provides may become useful. Even an earthquake is not a simple point on the surface of a planet. habits. such as an acknowledged error. we may realize a much greater meaning found in a sense of an irritation with the work itself and that we have just unconsciously acted out against it. systems. It is the result of a complex interaction between large plates of mass slowly rubbing or colliding against each other. so much as they are misalignments between vision and reality. Agency allows us to create the playgrounds. we may discover some incompatibility between vision and reality. Alternatively. or we may instead decide it is meaningful to sleep and therefore make arrangements for an earlier time for bed. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 430 . We may then decide for or against developing the lesson as an intention for learning. In the case of the alarm. In setting the alarm clock for 6am to begin a 7am workday. we may ignore it or chastise ourselves for being “lazy” or incapable of predicting time. Acknowledgement is precisely the difference between a mistake and lesson. thereby converting it into a lesson. workspaces. and other means of organization to effectively develop any intention based upon the error. as acknowledgement brings an object's consideration to agency. Acknowledgement allows an error to become a lesson. we may have neglected to take into account the preparations for the morning and the commute amounting to 75 minutes of time. Alternatively. It becomes clear that errors may be viewed as not necessarily objects unto themselves. A mistake is an unacknowledged error.

If. we must rest in a silence to reflect upon meaning. and gaining courage and confidence to continue moving forward. though. If we realize the path before us is mistaken or its meaning has been lost. We break down the obstacle before us into smaller and smaller components until. All the while. While this may ring true in some sense. not in completing some specific project. The energy of our lives. we find we must repeatedly drop or change varying projects. that smallest aspect of the obstacle may be overcome. is not failure. We do it again and again. learning from our errors in presumptions. such a process can be tremendously disheartening. Any potential lessons offered by error are mired in feelings of futility. we must acknowledge that the onslaught of unrewarded attempts may very well continue. however. The degree to which we can acknowledge the discrepancies between vision and reality is the degree to which we can begin to see the depth of meaning behind errors and consequently turn them into useful lessons. Wading through the confusion of repeated incomplete visions threatens to drown us in a lack of confidence. What we thought was important may only have been a facet of something deeper. It is learning. then consciously and carefully recalibrating. measured in motivation and time. Deciding that we have made an error in placing efforts poorly. is limited. We fail if we stop trying to find and develop a meaningful flow. finally. Error & Meaning A troublesome societal comment is that we only fail when we stop trying. The compass may yet change. A compass of meaning. as a union of play and work. can provide continuous direction. organizing and reorganizing. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 431 . it does not take meaning into account. as daunting as they may be.

whether because of its lack of development or because the myriad conditions for its communication were unsuitable. Each attempt to reach out in intention or question is a fumbling of sorts. I define success as the process of bringing play into work such that the world feeds back and sustains that person in play. The elegance. There are many artists whose works are not accepted when an audience is unable to hear or see the meaning of the work. The mistake is in not adapting or learning. honesty. It is not that we do not perceive error. among other reasons. If we are without error. finds a receptive audience. Every attempt to connect with the world requires adjustment. and attempt to learn from our inevitable misalignments between vision and reality provide a continued path towards mastery. For this. or cultivates a good path for the communication of the work. Failure is when we stop the continued attempts of finding and fostering the conditions for play that ultimately develops a sense of meaning. by which there are “no mistakes”. Sometimes we do require luck. Creative works may require a degree of being in the right place at the right time. We may decide to continue forward despite the hostility of conditions before us. and there is no guarantee that one ever will. so much as it is the grace with which we fumble. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 432 . Years and years may be spent in isolation before one matures a craft suitably. then they are failures. it is only because we have never tried. If they are viewed as ends. Yet continued persistence is required for meaningful work to have a chance at finding a community. Much of the groundwork to develop one’s art and its communication is below the radar of a community. integrity. Mistakes are a matter of perspective.

Here. While meaning has been left for the end. however." Kenneth Higbee. a repeating morning task. The iterative development of that idea. 2nd edition. (Da Capo Press.70 69 This text began in the days following my attempts to develop and present a solid system of task management. p55 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 433 . 2001). conscious and unconscious. eventually became this book. the meaningfulness of a word frequently has been defined in terms of the number of associations it has. we revisit several of the concepts already covered.69 Meaning is a developed depth and breadth of connection between thoughts. emotions. meaning Meaning Defined The term “meaning” has been mentioned repeatedly throughout this text. it is a most important concept of creativity and productivity. nagged at me. this time through the lens of meaning. 70 The definition proposed is an adaptation of psychological research definitions: "… in research on learning. The question of choosing and pursuing meaningful tasks. and experience. Your Memory : How It Works and How to Improve It.

so much as it is the degree. An object’s nature is its composition of basics. the more an idea. It is not that there is some number of “things” to which an idea connects. emotion. the meaning of an object is the nature of its existence in the medium of the mind. or other aspect of mind tends to imbue the mindscape. Meaning As Parallel To Nature The proposed definition of meaning is parallel to that of “nature” made earlier: The simpler a characteristic. The more a concept coalesces and resonates with other existing concepts. and richness of connections composing the emotional and intellectual landscapes with which an idea resonates that constitutes meaning. the more natural it is and the more it tends to imbue a concept or craft. the more meaning it has. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 434 . In a sense. Here. the greater meaning it has. depth. Mastery of an object becomes the degree to which that object's meaning is able to accurately reflect the object’s reality.

Play is the essence of creativity.Meaning Is Developed While to some degree meaning may be discovered externally. Let us reexamine several definitions with which this text began: An Intention is the potential created between a present state and a proposed reality. suddenly crystallize into ideas. or when stumbling upon a larger meaning for the book we have been writing. A Creative Intention is an intention with an unclear vision. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 435 . it is perhaps more important that we recognize its development internally. A Vision is a developing proposed reality different than present state or experience. Creativity is the guidance of play in resolving an unclear vision. We may not always appreciate the often significant amount of work done before suddenly realizing that a person’s offhand remark meant much more. conscious and unconscious. when finding a sensible order where one had not been recognized before. The sudden realizations we have are usually the results of extended periods of thought. which perhaps upon reaching a catalyst.

thereby resolving a vision. When we find something meaningful. cultivated into what may be termed “work”. thoughts. The musician sees music. Much as we do not always know what we are making until it is being made. Along with vision. we often do not understand an intention’s meaning for ourselves until it is being developed or even afterwards. The clarity of vision for our intentions is not often clear. We develop and maintain meaning from the raw material of present experience. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 436 . It is not uncommon for a person to begin finding metaphors between the things they care for and other aspects of life. Our work is to make the conditions for play favorable to actualize in the forms we desire. The meaning of an intention is often developed in the process of regularly resolving its vision. the lover sees love. It is not necessarily that one does so consciously. Visions and their respective intentions form as the projected paths of meaning's continued development. and so on. Meaningful thoughts and ideas often invite play fueling their creation into the world. one practices a creation of meaning. the clarity of an intention’s meaning is not always clear. Recall: Mastery and meaningful work develop from guided play. For adult or child. when provided the conditions for play. and emotions and pervades our perceptions and possibilities within them. If a craft does not emanate from some developing sense of self. We may not know the end result of “Write a piece of music” or “Draft a business plan”. it attracts other ideas. the author sees stories. it can be neither mastered nor meaningful.

We contribute to and guide the development of what is meaningful.Reflecting Upon Meaning Even considering what something “means” is an attempt to connect one idea with other ideas. but the tools with which we surround ourselves to actualize our intentions. the stronger. The understanding we gain of what is meaningful better allows for agency. But by asking. not by some force of will. we can wonder about the meaning of the individual tasks and consider whether they truly reflect what is Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 437 . and therefore trustworthy we will make and find the system to be. Agency. past. By looking for connections. then. The meaning of events and thoughts develops as we re-examine how they became the way they are and how they continue. if not begin a path of developing more meaningful intentions. our means of deciding. What does this mean to me? we find ways to make an intention more meaningful. but by an understanding of its connections within ourselves and with our surroundings. more resilient. and in potential. For instance. an intention is hollow. The greater the personal meaning we discover and invest in our work. the better we calibrate a task management system to a meaningful compass heading. In other words. we enhance associations and create new ones. a search for meaning guides its development. the more meaningful the work itself becomes. how they are associated with each other in time. present. Without meaning. By examining a list of tasks we ourselves have created. provides the means by which we choose and direct the development of that which is meaningful. Doing so helps strengthen not only our confidence.

unimportant at all. Even if we do not subsequently change course of our work. As such. intention by which all our other intentions find relevance becomes a profound creative act. what needs to be adjusted? How may it be adjusted? How may the calendar be adjusted? What next steps are needed to make those adjustments? Each question answered becomes a more meaningful next action. why not? If not. we bring stronger focus and footing to our motion forward. Their relative nature does not make the distinctions. one may recognize the job itself as an organizational intention supporting multiple other intentions. its meaning and purpose may be to support one's self and family. however. climbing. to get away from work. If not. “organizational” and “primary” being relative terms. and traversing the larger landscapes of meaning. to do something that feels fulfilling. In fact they are quite vital to building. Perhaps all intentions support or clear a path for another intention. or perhaps even fundamental. Searching for the existence and nature of some primary. In one sense. etc. to earn money. a search for what is most meaningful to the self. to go on vacations. As an example. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 438 . meaningful to us. by taking a moment to acknowledge what we are doing as meaningful. a simultaneous action and reflection. and a vision brought into focus and realized as it is made. observing one’s employment. all intentions are organizational in nature.

Developing an intention that carries meaning offers the best chance for its internalization and. the more the thing created and the act itself come from the unconscious world built of the many associations. Meaningful work presents greater opportunities for a lasting change in memory and creativity. the better the work before us can be arranged to fit our lives. our immersion in it stems from how the intention relates to what we think is important in life. we also find that we do not do good work. and essence of meaningful work. co-created by self and world. While the meaning of an intention for a person and those nearby may differ or overlap. it is the sense of play in the work’s details that allows others to find a meaning for themselves. in turn. and the better we can arrange our lives to be involved in it. We must recognize our responsibility to ourselves to find and develop meaning in our lives by providing the time to listen to ourselves in play. Understanding what a piece of work or play means to the self anchors it. resilience. The more play involved in the act of creating. Meaning is the essence of good work. They are cultivated. consequently. and most help foster the development of the maps of our minds and the worlds we construct with them. So much of an intention’s importance and. and wordless experiences integrated over time. provides a good foundation for future intentions. play may become a strength. Meaning and play are not found like some fountain in the wilderness. If we find that we do work without meaning. It is the things that matter and have meaning that connect with. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 439 .Meaningful Work When guided. Knowing its meaning is ultimately of profound influence in our conscious and unconscious prioritization and degree of involvement. feelings. The more actively the meaning is considered. give credence to.

it is useful to ask of what is in our attention: What does this mean to me? If I wish it to mean more. With some regularity. so that it may mean more? If it is time away from other things that are more meaningful to me. why am I doing it? How can I return to more meaningful action elsewhere? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 440 . to what else that carries meaning may it be connected.

I learn focus. or how it may help to influence a future of more meaningful development such as might be provided by a constructive intention. The former is the attempt to simultaneously develop many intentions. emotions. I think about lunch and then practice gently bringing my mind back to the piano. I enjoy sound. What makes an intention meaningful is a useful point of reflection. The latter is the development of a depth and breadth of connection by a singular action.Meaningful Intentions Rather than only prioritize a next task or attempt to do several unrelated tasks simultaneously. conscious and unconscious. I think about what to study to improve my craft. I learn a means by which I can write about a creative process. I think about optimizing conditions. I learn about learning. we may instead consider the next most-meaningful-intention: A meaningful intention is an intention with a depth and breath of connection between thoughts. I think about what I enjoy. I think about the nature of sound. I play without thinking. I think about organization. I become better at a creative act. We may distinguish between "multitasking" and developing a meaningful intention. and experience. We actively consider the depth and breadth of how it touches upon what we develop in our lives. I think about playing regardless of conditions. I think about play. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 441 . In playing music. etc. related or not. I think about the singular mind state that might encompass all of these. I think about an audience. I practice movement with immediate feedback.

Are the intentions they store related? May they be consolidated. more meaningful intention? Better yet. we do well to consider. I consider: How well does a singular action fulfill several related intentions? How are several intentions encompassed as a singular intention? Better yet. rather than simply do one after the next. instead. What is the most meaningful intention of the moment? The answer may not be clear but. not as doing many tasks at one time. What is the meaning of a particular intention? In examining a list of tasks. but as a simpler. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 442 . may provide a step towards a vision in continual resolution.

it cannot be done in some mythical “free time”. While we can go far with a few minutes each day. The development of meaning is not some passive consumption. To learn a piano piece may require several hours per day for months and that time is just not available. keeping that fire alive. We cannot force time to be free for play. I continue to touch the keys of the piano daily. If there is not enough time now. if only for a few moments a day. and organize them as they might support our desired workflows. we might like to go farther. examine. That I may not have written a magnum opus or have mastered a particular style of play in the meantime is not the point. regardless of being able to actually achieve a clarity in its vision. The fact that it simmers in the background still brings its spirit to imbue other works. To learn a language well may need some degree of immersion. Creating meaning takes time. Structuring the time to play is of profound importance. and address each experience with care. regardless of conditions. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 443 . We create it in the time of reflection and action upon a kindling of organization and fire of play. intentions.Time. While writing this and previous books. If we decide to actively question meaning. We may wish to avoid play because we know that a certain threshold of time and attention is needed to achieve a vision. We acknowledge. Meaning. & Play We must dedicate time to play. And yet we must act in developing a primary intention of finding play regularly. and relationships. we must work towards gaining enough.

and so forth would be time spent on the desired activity and. Meanwhile. but to consider its potential meanings. Reading. aspects of the gaming lifestyle may be quite beneficial. 71 Disclaimer: I enjoy video games. 71 It would seem that one could abstain from playing video games if the games were simply made unavailable. though perhaps not all. Stopping would then appear to be as simple as arranging a setting where the games are not present. “How may I best contact them?”. it is often useful to not only remove its conditions of maintenance. 72 Kourosh Dini. therefore. one can begin asking “What about this is problematic?”. “Who have I not spent time with?”. such an example is simplistic and perhaps unrealistic as there are a multitude of meanings involved in gaming for those who have made it their lifestyle. “What else might I enjoy doing?” . “What small change may be made?”. not spent on the less desirable activity. “What is beneficial?”. By recognizing problematic symptoms. (iUniverse. exercising. However. 2008). etc. Some.72 One can actively consider where a habit may be fostering self- destructive tendencies and where the same habit may be a benefit in other areas.Example Of Problematic Video Game Play When we desire to end a habit. Mutually incompatible realms of play or work may be used thoughtfully and strategically to support or discourage one another. “What makes this change difficult?”. Video Game Play and Addition: A Guide for Parents. more desirable actions may be pursued in place of the previous habit. Let us take an example that moves from a simplistic view to a more complex and hopefully more useful stance: A person wishes to change the habit of spending too much time playing video games. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 444 .

we discover means for their adjustment. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 445 . While it is not that the initial attempt of replacing one action with another is incorrect. the actual details of change are best implemented using a compass of what the act of gaming means to the individual as well as what goals he or she may have. By recognizing habits not as simple actions. so much as they are embedded in meaning.

desires. Our minds dream much larger than what reality allows. We cannot follow them all. feel haunted by the experiences we’ve dropped. hoping they may be kind enough to stay or wait for us at the end of whatever it is we are doing now. internal or external. Many choices are made with our without us. But I do believe that decisions are best made consciously: A decision is a choice between intentions. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 446 . let alone reality. In fact. interrupting the present flow. We do not have much control of our worlds. led by whatever promises we’ve told and continue to tell ourselves. decisions Decision Thoughts appear and pass on. We may try holding them. We may write down our ideas. Or we may give them chase. We may ignore them or even accept the possibility that they may not return. while we. in turn. and fantasies are often incompatible with each other. our wishes.

New York: Crown Business.73 One potential collapses into a reality while all others are eliminated or transformed. Therefore. can no longer be. decision involves loss. . Chip. 2013. they encourage the reevaluation of decisions as they may be prematurely considered concrete. They would not be decisions otherwise. What could have been. and Dan Heath. It may also be other intentions. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. All decisions have opportunity costs. For example. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 447 . we commit to a decision. some idea that might slip away if I choose not to write it down just this instant … 73 Note that this definition departs from other potential very useful definitions. By some action. Of particular import.Heath. other potentials. the excellent Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath considers decisions as creative intentions. What is lost may “only” be the time needed to make the decision.

Decision & Acknowledgement The time required to decide is directly correlated to the time of acknowledgement. By acknowledging even massive loss. chi. we address and enhance the same thing: a recognition of experience as it stands. Without that acknowledgement of loss. Some ideal fantasy is lost. psychic RAM. Much of acknowledgement is more easily said than done. all the while acknowledging adversity in all its forms: lost opportunity. buffer mania. lost momentum. “choosing” inaction by default. lost resources. the potential for error. improve focus and energy. whatever it may have been. We must dedicate time to acknowledge what we believe to gain and lose as well as the emotions that relate to our decisions. we paralyze ourselves. the loss of a perfection once imagined. Such acknowledgement has a tendency to ease depression. constant due dates. the resources once spent to deny its presence are freed. quell anxiety. mental resources. and enhance confidence. Though we sustain regular loss simply by existing. or otherwise. Acknowledgement of loss is an acknowledgement of imperfection. Whether termed libido. flow. allowing the time it takes to do so. but its process in decision-making is crucial. we can still grow by regularly making decisions to develop those things we find to be most meaningful. and more. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 448 .

settle. At some point. Making decisions is a practiced skill involving time and attention. we would then close the present session of our intention to decide. We can consider: ! • What would help to make the decision? • Is the the decision as concrete as I believe it to be? • What do I lose in the time I do not decide? ! But similar to any session. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 449 . To decide well. but also the options that can no longer be. Should we have an honest luxury of time. It would seem that we might never make a decision were we to consider every possibility.Dedicating Time & Attention It is useful then to take the time and attention to consider and acknowledge not only the option we choose. considering in depth when we might revisit it again. we gather and protect at least some of our resources of time and attention in order to allow thoughts to form. such as a long distant due date. however. we must also acknowledge the limits of our time and attention. A rippling of acknowledgement does occur. and then make the decision. then we may prefer to revisit the issue before deciding. we must acknowledge the illusion of perfection. In reality. such that the thought can be trusted to be off of the mind.

I am limited by time to take only one. They are both very enticing. I curse some more. I consider that both are quite meaningful to me.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 450 . I still have time before registration ends. “Decide between classes” and set a date of tomorrow for it to appear. I write the task. The sign up period for one of the classes ends in one week. Upon revisiting the issue. I register for the screencasting class. I take a moment to consider both classes. One is about music production. I acknowledge the limits of time and the related frustration. the other about creating screencasts. Still. I have a greater momentum presently developed for the topics I would like to develop in screencast form. ! The choice for the screencasting class does seem to be the better choice. I want to take both. I review my larger projects. I acknowledge the loss of the music production class. of the problems that exist. It seems to be the better choice. it is a good problem to have. “Decide between classes” and set a date of the next day for it to appear again. However.An Example In Decision I find two interesting online classes. I set another task. I cannot decide at the moment.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 451 . ! ! ! A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.

throughout the hours of the day. or lifetime. Even the checking off of a task can be examined by a question of whether or not the action represents the completion of the intention to satisfaction. or some similar sought-after state. The chef who takes pride in his or her work does so as the work connects with much that is meaningful. For example. we must decide upon and do meaningful work. when checking off a task that says “Exercise”. that it brings nourishment and a warmth and joy to young and old are all thoughts considered. Within these words hides a potential compass with which to decide and develop play and work. flow. Our own approval becomes a meditative point upon which intentions may be both created and fulfilled with a sense of depth. That it is good. whether day. Its reflexive nature brings a focus and reality to the intentions we set before ourselves. consciously and unconsciously. To find any real comfort. we musk ask ourselves as honestly as possible: What would it take to gain my own approval? An answer offers powerful grounding for either the individual session of work or a span of time. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 452 .Meaning & Self-Approval Twain’s pithy statement belies its strength. We cannot approve of ourselves without a sense that we are doing something meaningful. year. Doing so provides play a means to develop both meaning and comfort. does the action of clicking the checkmark adequately represent the feeling of an honest attempt at a session of exercise? Any flow without one’s own approval is empty. that it is offered to and even creates the community. To find flow and approval.

with a conscious acknowledgement of loss. spend time with family. instead of checking. Now I have that much more time to devote to piano practice. We must make decisions: Sacrifice is a decision to pursue one meaningful intention over another. For example. we may decide to delete or rearrange several of the tasks to increase the time and attention available for more meaningful intentions. Whether in a small daily task or a large vision of the future. Play is the sap of meaningful work. Sacrifice There are many times when there is no way for two meaningful intentions to be brought together. We cannot simultaneously climb a mountain. and subsequently ending the work of one or another. and read all the classics of literature in any transformative depth. play is the strength and resiliency in the intentions cultivated through the meaningful work we do. can free considerable time and attention. However. be able to reproduce all forms of jazz and classical music. downloading. A careful consideration of what is most meaningful to develop. Sacrificing intentions of lesser meaning is certainly simpler than for those of greater meaning. there may also be larger developing intentions competing for attention. maintain a clean home. then set a related repeating task in the task manager. and installing daily updates for my phone applications. master all types of cuisine. in examining a task list encumbered by meaningless routine. For example. run the parent-teacher’s association. raise a large family. I decide to do so weekly. or see clients. The Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 453 .

This person may then search for alternative means of gaining friends in a community. thereby creating much turmoil within ourselves. the constructive intentions which may build meaning. Perhaps it has been sensed as intruding upon his involvement in the community. Whatever was considered negative about game play. By examining what the intention means to him or her. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 454 . we aid the process by considering the meaning of the intentions we may wish to end. the person may find other means of accommodating these intentions of personal development. How one goes about sacrifice is of import. achievement at school or work. or other undesired impact. Using agency. Even the depth to which one decides to make such considerations is a choice. and the subsequent decisions made is a process of personal reflection. A person may find that the continued intention of game play has some negative impact upon his or her life. this individual may decide to end the intention. Recall the example of the person who wished to give up video game play. identity. may then be reflected upon. or a place to find control. or even finding a sense of identity. a difficulty with career or academics. We may simply decide to never do one thing again. or we may decide to decrease the frequency of visits to an intention as a gentler approach. for example a loss of agency. iteration of discovering and distilling that which is meaningful for the individual. Throughout. whether in terms of community. mastery. but in a way that fully maintains interests and at least the sense that play may be found in other realms.

influenced by meaning. We can appreciate the relative nature of meaning for any individual as there are those. The meaning influencing the motivation is a very connected and pervasive sense of bodily health and integrity. too. Motivation is an inherent tendency.Motivation & Shifting Grounds We support our workflows with organizational intentions: primary is supported by secondary. To review. yet we find we must go to work to make money so we may live? Many of us find ourselves in such positions. we cannot find meaning within what we do beyond supporting other intentions. one may be motivated to avoid a present experience of physical pain induced by the poke of a needle. Their constructive nature is difficult to maintain. Learning to write supports an ability to write a story. A Vision is a developing proposed reality different than present state or experience. who find it very meaningful to develop some conscious relationship with pain and may then be motivated to subject themselves to it. It may be that. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 455 . secondary is supported by tertiary. with or without careful titration. But what of the times when our work is not enjoyable? What of the times when our days are regularly difficult. which in turn supports an author's life and play. many of our motivations are multifactorial. and onward. A vision may even include the desire to avoid an aspect of present experience. despite our best efforts. For example. In other words. to design and resolve a vision.

but the hope is that we do not have to accept such circumstances. To find flow as a union of play and work. as containing some form of adversity. but also consider a meaning of an enjoyment of taste. Acknowledging adversity. In the example of ice cream. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 456 . We may acknowledge the pain of hollow work. there are clearly forces working against such desires. the childhood meanings and methods of rewards. and we consciously consider a path there. it may mean more time away from the family. Especially if the work is not felt to be particularly meaningful otherwise. While there may be conscious and unconscious desires to resolve a vision. we begin a vision. such a path may become a less favorable choice. It is here where we may re-examine such complex intentions. In the case of work. In addition to the definition suggested above. motivations may do so. amongst other conscious and unconscious associations. We acknowledge present experience. The intention transforms. the thoughts of reward. and we see that even what appeared to be simple is not so simple after all. Combine these with a difficult day at work influencing a sense of unfairness in general. We may both want something and not want it. instead. motivation may be characterized as the conscious and unconscious maintenance and development of that which is found meaningful. we hope to create and maintain a vision without the degree of adversity in which we now find ourselves. Ice cream is one example. we may find meaning in maintaining a healthy self. too. supporting the continued development of our family. blurry as it may be. Examples are found from the simple to the complex. we attempt to find our own intentions that would best resonate with both ourselves and the intentions of the world around us. But while a promotion may hold the promise of more financial support. a promotion at work may be another. But as meanings may conflict. too. if we only do so to make money to support ourselves and family. a more meaningful primary intention. it may be that our work serves its function as an organizational intention. taking one step at a time.

we risk consuming without creating. and adjust the barriers and catalysts as they would best guide us in development towards the vision. is a part of our acknowledgement. are in positions where they must trade some degree of agency for the safety and care a parent may provide. Visions cannot form without the use of agency to build the creative spaces that would actualize them. consuming is never as fulfilling. what is unknown. Interestingly. Visions risk dying as they have no access to the world in the form of tasks of actual play and work. without a sense of meaning. We may dupe ourselves into some sense of safety and stimulation. recognizing full well the imperfections of decision and the potentials for loss. We decide what is known. too. the habits. as a trellis would guide a growing plant. for example. Children. We examine errors as lessons and continue. as it is not the consumption itself that creates a sense of fulfillment. without creating. Whether we decide to find a fulfillment of meaning within our present work or develop new work. we may decide to sacrifice agency. the stations. thinking it to be a type of play. We may fail. It is the continued cultivation of a sense of meaning. However. and act.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 457 . That. The loss of agency often leads to a loss of meaningful play. But I would hope others agree that to find and do what is meaningful is a more vital path than one exclusively born of a search for safety. Like caged animals. The difference between one who acts from a depth of reflection and the one who acts without thought is precisely agency. Agency & Fear Perhaps for safety. we design the individual intentions in support of the grander intention. We design the sessions. such as with the banal consumption of media. Such is the nature of meaningful intentions. they refuse to reproduce. perhaps for ease.

! ! ! ! Connection

goodreads. the foundation of all invention and capacity-to-envision Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 459 . and. 
 In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity. therefore.J. ! Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not. it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared. Rowling74 74 http://www. .

The project’s development may have been derailed too early by way of feedback. Discussing the work too early may have any number of effects. travel & return Disconnect & Reconnect Meaningful work develops from a depth of the individual. allowing it to infuse the work before presentation. an artist must travel away from the common paths of one’s community for periods of time. beneficial or otherwise. some moments of introspection are necessary to Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 460 . Certainly the example of writing this text reflects something unique to my own creative process. of course. The degree of privacy needed in the course of the work’s development is. As an example. I would write thoughts and see how they related to each other. transform. but even when our work involves a direct contact with other people. and offer time and attention to nurture and understand play. in writing this book. one requires some degree or occasion of disconnect from the world. Time in privacy allows one to change. How one goes about discussing a project or any aspect thereof should be carefully considered so as not to inadvertently lock in parts that may yet change. I did not want to discuss the ideas too early as I did not have them fully formed myself. unique to the work and myself. In a sense. The process of writing was one of discovery. I spent at least a year determining what it was to be about. In order to delve into a meaning crafted in play and presented as work.

may not be considered. the people nearby. its language. This allows a communication with its surroundings while maintaining a different internal state. regardless of caliber. then at least for purposes of translation. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 461 . one must retain the knowledge of the community’s language. to function well within any system. One dissociates from the frequency of the world. the television. let alone accepted. and respect the limitations we all have. To present work. and its present discussions. leaving a community risks a divergence of language from that culture. One needs to know its culture. Some period of immersion in the community is required in order to learn and even empathize with an intended audience. one risks alienating him. one must be able to maintain channels of communication while also respecting an internal milieu. A biological cell has channels which periodically open. consider our position among others. Similarly. Disconnecting allows the mind to wander. The ability to communicate with the community is subsequently lost. As a result. and the myriad media in which we all communicate.or herself. the internet. if not to speak it. protect. organize the time we wish to spend. the radio. the work. Cautions While disconnecting is useful to develop one’s own sense of what is meaningful. and discover. By leaving the village.

7 (1959): 459-483. Amer. Empathy involves both the self and another. we would never be able to connect with others. The audience must be affected by that statement for a process of communication to have taken place. Psychoanal. Furthermore. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 462 . described empathy as “vicarious introspection. Heinz Kohut. If an audience is 75 Heinz Kohut. in the service of empathy. Assn. An artist makes a statement in the form of an item or idea.”75 Introspection. empathy may be practiced. If everyone created their own language. and Psychoanalysis—An Examination of the Relationship Between Mode of Observation and Theory. a psychoanalyst of prominence in the 1960’s and 70’s. creating one's own language from scratch and then convincing others to use it would not be an easy endeavor. Empathy." J. we could never speak to each other. communication The Case for Empathy A Trifold Task If there were only play and our own structure. "Introspection. Let us consider a discussion between an artist and audience. empathy is imagining oneself “in another’s shoes. In another sense.” Similar to other mental constructions. is a vision one develops within oneself of the other’s experience. We must study the world around us in order to connect.

or otherwise supported and nurtured. is alluring. A Primal Desire To Be Understood The desire to have one’s thoughts simply understood without forming them into words is powerful. The desire to have a well-honed product sell simply by existing. An artist must have in mind both his or her own thoughts and the state of mind of the other in order to have a meaningful communication. One formulates their own thoughts. Examining and learning the organizational systems of others helps one to communicate well and enhances one’s own abilities to create useful systems for one’s self. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 463 . promoted. It is therefore very useful to find some degree of empathy with the audience with whom one’s work is meant to connect. Each aspect may also be constructed and practiced with play and meaning. left unchanged. even if unrealistic. We tell ourselves this with trite phrases such as “cream rises to the top” which implies that one simply needs to be good at something in order to be noticed and awarded. An overall process of work is a trifold task of: ! • Creating work • Understanding an audience • Presenting one’s work to the audience ! Each step benefits from active consideration. any form of work is a connection and communication with the world. there is no communication. too. or not being able to sense it due to poor presentation. whether by way of ignoring the work. More than art. and uses that information to create a frame for presentation. considers the thoughts and mindset of the audience.

warmth was always at the ready. Crying brought a change of diapers. One is therefore tasked not only with creating something. but of constructing the bridge by which an audience will understand the work. moving one’s mouth presented food. but vestiges often remain. As we grow. This gradual disillusionment is a painful process that often continues throughout our lifetimes. despite the wish. if ever. all hopefully within reason. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 464 . Purchasing advertising without thought as to how it may actually improve matters for one’s product or how it may actually be seen by an audience would be an example of simply hoping that one is understood. and the importance of crafting one’s thoughts for presentation may be lost. One must be aware of this wish to be understood without speaking or to achieve by simply creating. The desire to be understood without effort is subtle but powerful. Such thoughts may manifest in ways that are not immediately apparent. the injuries to a sense of infantile omnipotence taper. granting our parents imperfection. Stemming from infancy. The work itself will rarely. our caretakers catered to us. rage and fear were soothed. deliver itself.

e. ! • Avoidability .i.e. I consider a primary intention of presenting a piece of music to an audience.e. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 465 . ! • Accessibility . I consider the point of view of the audience: ! • Awareness . an opt-in for a mailing list ensures that those who receive the announcements are interested and may stop receiving them when no longer interested. the knowledge that a piece of music exists. As an example. internet radio. ! The information may be delivered by email. For example. or via a post on my website. that the knowledge is easily reached. ! The information of the piece of music is not spammed or advertised in clearly unrelated places.i. an audience would need to be made aware that a performance is taking place or that a piece of music is now present. that the information is avoidable by a potential audience when it is irrelevant to their interests. ! For example.Empathic Organization We may use the essential pillars of organization as a guide in communicating with an audience.i. social networking sites.

! I have a continual practice of improving the ease with which I may post a new piece to my website. ! • Avoidability . in turn. the better I may arrange for and subsequently engage in a meaningful communication. I may consider myself and my audience as points in the nodes of an organizational system.There may be a way that I can create music and share it. • Accessibility . Every node has intentions and conscious purposes.How well I can avoid the music work when unrelated to other work ! The degree to which I believe the workflows of creating music and connecting with an audience are continually developing is the degree to which they are off of my mind when I am not focused on them. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 466 . otherwise drafted and arranged in storage as projects and tasks.The ease with which I may create and offer music. etc. I also consider my own point of view: ! • Awareness . place a piece in rotation on my internet radio station. These thoughts. The more I may imagine the intentions and experiences of my audience. send out emails to my mailing list once posted. each of which may have some considerations as pillars and details of organization. may create a constellation of organizational intentions which I may pursue.

too. However. we are often able to maintain a singular focus by considering what is meaningful to both self and other. we have an idea from which we may find a depth of communication. the greater the potential for it to connect with an audience. When writing for an audience. the greater the sense of shared meaning. This would seem to suggest that focus must be divided. we must spend time not considering our own play or work. “Necessity Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 467 . Meaning For Self & Others Being limited. one may consider if it is a frustration to others as well. we may yet find similarities and variations with others. the better the musician can place themselves in both their own and the audience’s shoes. The 3 A’s of organization center around relevance. Finding a solution then may aid others. space. To reiterate: Relevance is an object’s connection or relationship to an intention in meaning. The closer we touch upon the human condition in our speech. When creating music. too. If one finds frustration in the work environment. the better one can access that which is meaningful to the self that may. As all minds are unique. If we are going to consider the mindset of another. have a universal relevance. and in our works. the meaning of something is unique to the individual. if we can at least imagine the meaning of something for others. the greater the potential for impact. attention must be spent as a resource. and time. While we cannot assume to know someone else’s experience. However. in our thoughts.

it could become a process of contributing to a community and a source of support in revenue. As an example. that individual may have a greater chance of finding support from the community. if developed as its own intention. This text is an exercise of thought for myself to consolidate. understand. Still. Not only could it be useful to oneself and others. disparate islands of thought. the program may become a reality. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 468 . if frustrated while writing. separate from the original intention and context that inspired it. one may consider designing a new writing program. While at first it may appear to be an absurd practice of procrastination. an attempt may be made. I have written also in the hope that doing so would benefit not only myself. once composed of partially-formed. When an individual's development of something meaningful is at least parallel to that of a community's. but others as well. and cultivate a landscape of workflow. We can never fully know the degree to which we may share an experience. is the mother of invention” is an apt phrase.

We need to be able to continually question what is accepted. There is a lot of positive and useful information. with what we disagree. when I first read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Creativity. The rise of emotions often make it too easy to neglect the vital step of defining what is talked about and what a topic means to the people involved. I read with interest. regulations. The more we question and test the grounds upon which we stand. especially when emotionally charged or when one’s sense of identity feels tied to a topic. or suggest modifications. but somehow felt some disagreement with the definitions given. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 469 . One may be able to better engage in a conversation when recognizing we each have different experiences. But one must also learn what is accepted before being able to agree. This is vital. we will find that the accepted rules. Then Challenge Another point at which the meaning of work appears significant is in the example of disagreement. Disagreements are inevitable and important in strong learning. reject.Learn. But something still nagged at me. and I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a good book. the stronger is the center from which we work. or other aspects of a craft somehow do not agree with our own experience. A significant amount of time and energy spent in emotional furor may often be saved by simply stating and discussing definitions. As an example. Some of his writing has helped inform my present thinking. We may have a general intuitive sense. Imagining the path by which a disagreed-upon notion grew helps the process of understanding. concepts. Often in learning. Disagreements have a tendency to develop into arguments. It wasn’t until later that I realized my own definition of creativity as coming from a very different place. or even know quite specifically.

perhaps. however. which I have separated into its own section. Reiterating.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 470 . My own definition. is more experiential in nature. A specific example might be Einstein. His definition. the discussion could readily devolve. if I have interpreted it correctly. Knowing this. His definition. however. which can only be accepted by a field of experts. A Vision is a developing proposed reality different than present state or experience. were we to discuss a person as being creative or not without having defined creativity first. Creativity is a guidance of play in resolving a vision. focuses more on a communication of my definition of creativity. who made a tremendous impact upon the scientific community when the community accepted his work as valid. This may also occur in any other field such as artistic fields and the like. notes that creativity is an act that makes a change to a domain. perhaps I can one day enjoy a conversation with Csikszentmihalyi. If. though surely we must begin with a stating of our definitions.

Joss Whedon76 76 http://www. It grows up and talks back to Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 471 . ! ! All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn't your pet—it's your kid.

acknowledged and addressed as well as possible. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 472 . given a form of gestational space for nurturance. for example. The same principle seems to hold for the amount of attention it receives from the size of an audience. for opinions of those I trust. a part of the world. one must continue the practice of empathy and attempt to understand how the work is received. perhaps just one other person. becoming ready for presentation to the world. it is useful to present a piece to progressively larger audiences. they become their own entity. for helping me to clarify this work. However. What a piece of work means to an audience is often different from the meaning it has for the artist. though nearing an end. An idea I keep to myself undergoes a different path than when it is presented at a meeting. A metaphor used in the creation of works is that they are children. While still developing the work. As the work is presented. I continued to seek larger and larger audiences. without whom I would not have even found areas that I had not thought through myself. Risk is sensed at all stages. For this reason among others.Receiving Feedback Perhaps for larger works especially. Communication is an iteration. somehow a part of the artist. By beginning the presentation of work to a small audience. After they are born and cared for in their initial stages. creative works tend to do well when begun in privacy. The development of any creative work tends to shift and change under the light of attention. but still distinctly themselves. we may discover where and how our assumptions impair the accessibility of the work's meaning to others. The work of empathy continues after a presentation. we must consider that at some point they will develop and ripen. There is no exact science. I am indebted to my editor. They grow up to be something else.

I hoped that what I wrote might eventually be of interest to others. the business offering the product may not even survive. Several months after the book’s launch. we can sit back again in silence and reflect. but also because it was beneficial as a means of portraying a style of work. Balancing the privacy needed for play to unfold into the words. let alone prosper. taking into account my own desires and interests for a direction of play and work.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 473 . and what it may wish from us. How much of what the world wants means something to me? Is there something in what is meaningful to me that I may yet present to the world? What work around me would best receive my attention? After writing Creating Flow with OmniFocus. I was quite happy with the success it found. I decided that Creating Flow had done well not only because of its nature as a practical guide towards using a task management program. I received feedback from readers and subsequently began writing about what I felt was heard as meaningful. In reflection. As we understand how our statements influence the world and how the world hears what we have to say. The workflow’s continued development was of particular interest to me. It is quite frequent that a customer will use a product differently than the developer initially intended. Without adapting to this. I found myself more engaged in writing about workflow in general.

! ! Infinitely unique and Sharing existence With the rest of the Universe. ! ! ! ! ! Every object.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 474 . Has both Something to say and A way to say it.

An audience or member of an audience considers. nothing. really. What is meaningful or not is then a discussion between individuals. uses. But it moves away from the point that an artist connects the work with audience via a framing of a meaningful experience. One attempts to describe something that is. A work of art is a framed experience. what stops a person from holding up a pencil and declaring it “art”? Well. shocking or soothing. and others will likely have their own definitions. An artist frames an experience. After all. much the same as with any art. presentation An Interpretation Of Art & The Frame Beauty in music is a presentation. with this definition. It may seem simplistic to define art in this way. It is not necessarily what is good or bad. or participates in a work of art. but rather an understanding and presentation of a meaningful experience as it exists. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 475 .

Perhaps better said, an artist attempts to honor some aspect of human experience.
It is not a capturing, as doing so often kills beauty as it does a butterfly. It is an
honoring of an experience. The moment one begins a practice towards finding and
sharing these experiences, regularly reflecting on and presenting what is
meaningful, one acts as an artist. In this way, constructing the frame is much of the

The frame is everything associated with the work’s presentation. Beyond simply a
box around a work of art, it includes communicating with the people who make up
the field, the websites involved, the conversations one has with customers, the
price of the work, etc. When done particularly well, the frame may even be a part of
the work. The frame can take a significant time of thinking through, and sometimes
even more so than in creating the work itself.

The title of a work, too, is a significant part of the frame. Not only is it a label
functioning as a container in organization, it is a signal to an audience of the care
and thought with which one has considered the work. When a good title appears
from the incubation of thought and reflection, an entire project may quicken, not
only from the point of view of play, but of work.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 476

Streams Of Attention

Communication at a community level involves streams of attention, of which there
are often many. The notion of advertising, for example, is a matter of presenting
ideas in the periphery of other things for which a potential audience already cares.
A press release is a means of presenting information to editors and other filters of

Whatever it is, one attempts to connect not only in language, but also in medium.

Consider how similar thoughts and meanings reach their intended audience and
how the audience seeks new related information; both are important aspects of
relaying work.

The better the language and its media are understood, the better one may be able
to speak and be heard. Similar to the distillation of one’s own work, one does well
to master the basics in all paths of production and delivery. One learns from what is
popular and what is not, not necessarily to aim for popularity, but to understand
what is on the mind of one’s audience.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 477


Attention streams form by way of filters. We create filters both as individuals and as
a society, as the amount of information and their paths of delivery increase.
Voicemail is an example of an individual type of filter that allows a person to not
immediately respond to another’s call. Another filter may be habitual, such as in
creating a habit of checking email twice daily to reduce the compulsion to
repeatedly check and interrupt present flows of attention. In one way or another,
we maintain a diet of information via filters.

At a larger level, filters are co-created. An audience trusts others who seem to
immerse themselves in a particular field of interest. Those with similar tastes may
be considered “go-to” sources for their information. For example, at every moment,
there is a tremendous amount of music being produced. An individual cannot go
through it all and find what he or she will enjoy most. Instead, we rely on and even
pay people to filter for us. Reviewers, for example, are paid by subscribers and
advertisers to present opinions of music.

The same structure of filtering occurs outside the domains of music and
entertainment. For example, the sciences are held by the fields of academia, where
those who have studied for years upon a specific subject can read and review the
works of others until they present in a journal. Even here the amount of
information is tremendous. These journals are sometimes even summarized by yet
other journals, whose subscriptions are then sold to clinicians.

Even within a company, in order for change to be accepted, one must discover and
address the “field”, as there are those who have the position to make changes, and
those who do not. The “field” is a term described by Csikszentmihalyi in his work
Creativity as a group that guards and maintains the domain of work.77

77 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, (Harper

Perennial, 1997).

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 478

To present our work, we must address the audience as composed of consumers,
customers, and people who filter the work. Consumers, bosses, and audiences
have their own desires and means of consuming filtrated works and this must be
understood as well.

One must consider at the very least: where does the audience read? How? RSS
feeds? Newsletters? Podcasts? Whom do they trust for their information? How can
one respectfully present them with a product?

One must recognize, in addition, that those people who are trusted generally have
that trust for good reason. Whether it is because they have demonstrated a deep
interest in the material to an audience or to others in the field, the trust a person
gains in a community is something to be respected. In order to become a guardian
of information, a field of art, a place of work, or a domain in general, one must be
credentialed by the field itself, implicitly or explicitly.

Trust is a belief, developed over time, that something (or in this case
someone) will continue behaving as he or she has in the past, such that he or
she may be relied upon.

The trust these people have garnered of an audience develops gradually.
Respected journalists have more than likely worked very hard to gain their
position. Consciously or unconsciously, they cultivate, guard, and tend that trust
with their time and attention. They are therefore understandably and rightfully
protective of their time and attention.

It is therefore of utmost importance that one present work to these people clearly
and cleanly as one would to an audience in general. To do so, one must anticipate
and focus upon their means of attention.

In general, one has a single opportunity to make something understood.
Afterward, their belief in your respect of their time wears thin.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 479

Consider, for audience or field:

• What are their interests?

• How do you believe your work would be of interest?

• How do they prefer information presented?

• How would your work best be presented to them?!

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 480


Perfect Empathy

The world expects many things of the individual, most of which are impossible.
Material takes time to absorb. When a lecturer presents a stream of information at a
pace faster than it may be learned, as there is no ability to stop and rewind, a
student may well become lost. Different students may absorb information at
different paces, but I believe this says little to nothing about the intelligence of one
who absorbs more slowly.

If, for instance, a student listens to a lecture about a year of history and begins to
daydream about what it would have been like to have lived in that year,
considering the fashions, the ideas, the people, the cultures, etc. — he or she is
likely internalizing concepts more fully, more richly, and more usably than another
student in class who only dutifully writes down the next sentence provided by the
lecturer. However, the latter may well receive a better grade as the former is not
doing the work to be tested on an exam.

Meanwhile, the teacher may actually prefer to discuss the time period to the same
depth of imagination as pursued by the daydreaming student, engaging in an
enjoyable exchange of ideas of what may have been. But the often unreasonable
time and performance pressures upon academic instructors prevent him or her
from doing so. The teacher cannot, therefore, perfectly connect with each
individual student at their unique levels of knowledge and learning. Meanwhile,

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 481

many students may be unable to connect their style of learning with the teacher’s
method of presentation.

We find these impossibilities throughout both childhood and adulthood. The
infamous End User License Agreement is often many pages long and often
presented at a time when such information cannot be consumed in any reasonable
amount of time. A person would like to use the item or service and the conditions
under which it may be used are not understood. While it is not necessarily a duty
for the content creator to set up the conditions for the relationship in a reasonable
manner that takes an empathic connection with the customer into account, it sure
would be nice.

In other words, the terms of our relationship are better when organized. To arrange
for the end user’s need to know and accessibility of that knowledge, one must
utilize empathy.

Our places of work, our families, and the people around us often expect us to use
things, understand things, make agreements, etc., in ways and manners that are
unreasonable and counter to our own experience. The lecture room and the EULA
are only two of many forms. The result is either that one maintains a grasp of their
own experience while acknowledging the absurdities of the world, or—as I believe
happens more often than not—we begin to doubt our own experience.

While I seemingly blame the outside world for impossible demands—and I do—I
also blame the internal one. Desires and thoughts are often in conflict not only
with reality, but with themselves as well. I may wish to have a beautiful relaxing
space in a cabin at one with the forest, but I'd also like no insects, while living
simultaneously in the city with high speed internet. During this time, I plan to
conduct a taste test of both New York and Chicago style pizzas simultaneously.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 482

Finding Direction

Whatever the field of study, there is simply too much information for one person to
learn, even in a lifetime. We live in an age in which the attempt to consume
everything in a field would leave no time to create.

Regardless, we are in a position where we must select what to study and spend
time in creation, too. It is impossible to know what is best to study without some
degree of direction from others, as we cannot learn everything there is to know.

For this reason, one cannot simply browse the entirety of a subject before deciding
where best to focus. And yet we must. All we have for direction is finding a trusted
teacher, browsing, and occasionally diving in with a best guess.

The best guide, on any of these paths, is to stop and reflect on one's own
experience. One seeks what speaks to the self, asking "what is its nature? what
makes it enjoyable? what makes it meaningful?" and continues the study, though it
never ends, for as long as it remains meaningful.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 483





An Example in Creating Music



The germ of a future composition
comes suddenly and

if the soil is ready.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)78

78 Felix Borowski, "Fourteenth Program," Chicago Symphony Orchestra Program Notes, 31: 163,

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 485

A Sliver of Time

Music is emotion and intellect,

Each piece a crafting of years,

Distilled into a momentary sliver of time.

The basics of breathing,

Attention, and heartbeat,

Flow through emotions and realms without language,

Enveloped by symbols and ideas,

Seen and unseen,

Billowing through words, sounds, and motions.

Our awareness stands at the edge of this ocean’s shore

Watching the emanations of other, self, and the archaic.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 486

making objects and ideas to present to an audience. A work of art is a framed experience. An artist frames an experience. creating & using Life Into Words Into Life Artist and audience engage in a form of conversation. or does neither. Note that the definition for a work of art includes the potential for consumer products. An audience or member of an audience considers. or participates in a work of art. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 487 . making a work of art involves creating a space to invite an audience for their own development in work or play. uses. an audience responds. Just as an organizational framework involves a structure using space. participates. An artist frames the unframed.

encouragements. By allowing play a flow into work. This is true in any communication. create spaces in which meaningful conversations may occur. audiences may well support artisans. producer and consumer. Play may be spoken in the language of work. programmers. items or ideas. and nourishment for types of play that a user may shape into work. It is the user who breathes life into their existence. A program allows a user an ability or an ease in making things. artist and audience. thoughts or discussions. Play is heard from the language of work. and businessmen by way of finances. endorsements. and interaction. whether in sounds or speech. supporting and asking them to create more. learning. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 488 . Any product is only a husk. Any useful product is both born in and delivers an essence. In return. support. much as words are lifeless on their own. A piece of music offers a listener an experience affecting paths of perception. and the like.

play. not only be the creative aspect to which the word calls attention. As long as one is living. Instead. Any two authors will describe different methods of writing. For our purposes. Improvisation Every moment is unique. An end product as well as the structures that have gone into the support of its growth may have commonalities with other creative acts. of what use is the term? It must. So. but the process is ultimately its own. It is a statement from one’s mind in the medium of the moment. I will begin with thoughts on the process of improvisation and practice and move into other concepts touched upon throughout this text. is of import. then. and productivity from which I hope you find ideas to generalize to your own play and work. until it is Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 489 . The practice to be described is a means intent upon further improving my studies. Whatever the work. he or she is improvising. It is an example of study. The word improvisation is not so much about engaging in an act of “making stuff up” as it is a bringing of one’s self and a consequent expression within and from a structure. before examining a piece in detail.A Unique Act Creative acts are necessarily unique as they are the products of an individual or group of individuals. I will present a part of my own developed style of musical improvisation and its study. we search for a beauty found in guiding play into maturity. though perhaps unclear of what that something is. It is a saying of something. too. and craft. it is the creating or living within some structure that. with the clear caveat that it is a process of its own. creativity.

the stronger the improvisation. for instance. To improvise. where neither are infinite. I need only time and repetition to learn how to do so. For example. one exercises attention. scales. the audience listening. and the world being built before our ears. The better and more smoothly these tasks are practiced. is an act of creating within the notes of an instrument. or play it backwards and forwards. its shapes and structures. The better I can remember what has been played. and short and long- term memory. one must be able to remember sounds created and the experiences billowing behind them in order to guide them into form. the present state of mind. A musical improvisation. It may be daunting to realize how much there is to consider. and finds an acceptance in one’s limitations. being said. its variations. and anticipating the future. It is a real-time act of creating structures from sound. the fingers resting on the keys. playing in the moment. strengthens what may be strengthened. and learn. what may yet be played. As with any regular focus upon some stable item or idea. it rests upon the very real limits of my attention. It is in attention that we observe. memorize. what is played. not to mention how one may allow play the relatively relaxed state it needs to thrive. learns what is possible. The mind’s worktable holds what has been played. the better play may manifest unhindered using these phrases. the more refined a riverbed of experience I may be able to represent in sound. As a musical improvisation is a structure made in the moment. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 490 . I may be able to recite it completely. a scale may be memorized and mastered. Sounds appear from unconscious realms and are observed in rapt attention as they do not return or wait. It is a practiced singular experience of remembering. The stronger the attention. and movements.

would quickly grow tired of such pieces. I try Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 491 . & a theory Strength & Beauty We find playfully developed pieces joyous to hear. All pieces would be essentially the same and not worth hearing or playing after one or two listens.or herself. The regular cultivation of a playful flow into a work of sound welcomes a listener to find the playful sense that nurtured them. While a meandering non-structure could well qualify as an improvisation. I organize for play. beauty. a listener. Whether by way of an easy reach to a musical score or a simplicity in recording and playing back of an improvisation. etc. Sitting at the piano is more than fingers upon keys and sounds upon air.. a desire to see or hear what others have created. all benefit from some optimization of access. playing whatever comes to mind. basics. Resting in silence. as well as the musician his. By clearing paths to the creation and study of structures of music. though I may work to enhance those very paths. A musical work composed in this manner would not find differentiation from the next piece. Mastery in musicianship is more about framing an experience via a structure of sound than it is of simply making a sequence of noises. Artists often describe a sense of creating as if they are not there or as if they were almost a path for the work. But it is the years of practice that have created the conditions to invite any such muses.

play is given respect from beginning to end of the session by resting in the basics. The motions and ideas flow from the individual through the language of the community. with seating arranged well. When each step is practiced at every session. Play forms within the channels of practice. with a quiet atmosphere. to minimize any impediments to play and my ability to observe structures of music. and a gentle nature are hallmarks of strength resting upon a firm knowledge of one’s limits and a grounding in one’s own experience. By knowing what can be done. Whether studying the work of others or reviewing one’s own work. We exercise technique in striving towards an effortless mastery of scales. and the Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 492 . too. ideas and emotions. and what may yet be practiced. etc. We see the basics practiced by a master for good reason. what cannot be done. Such. and cultivates an intimate knowledge of this true medium in which one works and plays. necessarily. Variations and repetitions. not to make those sounds. grace. It is a regular practice of each of these basics which allows play to grow and mature into a singular flow. Beauty. is practice. mastered and re-mastered. arpeggios. Distillation: An Evolution From Basics Finding play within the basics is a path by which one honors sound from simplicity. Any regular attention ultimately becomes a study of one’s own mind. but instead to have their motions function as the trellis gently supporting play as it matures. a smoothness of recording without thought.. Such is practice. one begins to find one’s own voice unhindered. and a means to dutifully set aside anxieties while maintaining responsibilities. play finds the boundaries it needs to feel safe. We must deliberately craft the conditions of a pleasing room. theories.

and sounds to integrate in their own time. or any new field of study is filled with endless detail. converse. speak.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 493 . lessons coalesce into the abilities to walk. chords and melodies. are all studied individually. In other words. Each block stacked is another subtle indescribable lesson learned in play. bringing focus even to the very simple act of touching a single key. The musician does the same in learning how to speak of emotions in sound. dance. If something is not able to be learned. notes. allowing the ideas. phrases. Rhythms. and find meaning. we practice the basics regularly. Each part is played as would a toddler with blocks. The process of learning a new instrument. held in a relaxed vessel of conscious attention as a moment’s experience. Only at that point does the project become whole and the details truly become details attached to central nodes of meaning rather than some seemingly inscrutable tangled morass. jump. write. one examines a smaller component. laugh. Much of mastery is a mastery of the basics. a new language. relations of volume and velocity. It is only after time in playful progress that some thresholds are gradually reached whereby unifying concepts grow and integrate into one's being. memorizing in a playful state. For the toddler. All are played with individually until they cohere. Practice is an integration of multiple dimensions of music into procedural memory. paths. run. motor memory for fingers running through arpeggios and scales. The same may be said of any craft. The goal is to learn. anticipated sounds of music are distilled into the present moment.

 Auguries of Innocence
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 494 .
 And eternity in an hour.
 Hold infinity in the palm of your hand.
 And a heaven in a wild flower. William Blake (1757-1827). ! ! To see a world in a grain of sand.

no matter how small. Here I approach music from what I sense as “basic” to myself. Every individual develops his or her own path. study. and play which nourishes experience into maturity. One theory began somewhere in my teenage years. has an infinite potential. the more reflective it may be of some natural experience. The theory has since evolved to include: The more attention invested into any object. etc.An Evolving Theory In Structure We examine the world in theory. The more one invests attention into a defined space. I chose the simplicity of the keys of the piano and continued practicing. common and uncommon chord progressions. adjustment. scales. All are worthy of the study and work they have demanded over the centuries. Theories upon the structure of music abound including those of harmony. counterpoint. we create a theory of the world through which we walk. the more this potential may be discovered in detail and beauty. It is its continued observation. To say a theory is incorrect misses the point. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 495 . By compiling perceptions in the moment and through time. The theory can be summarized as: Any defined space. which I believe was born after chancing upon an excerpt of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence.

A piano is only a piano because there are other instruments in existence. I decided that what worked best for me was an understanding of creating space by juxtaposing quotes/quotes/f/frankzappa403606.“A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules. But such definitions did not resonate with me as a practical means towards building structures in sound.” http://www. Even then. The iterative search seems to be the answer more than anything. After studying quotes from various composers and musicians and transcribing works of music through the years.99 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 496 .http://en. “What makes music?” Given definitions range from “organized sound”79 to wiggling air molecules. Better stated. It is not a complete answer. there is nothing inherently “one-measure” about it so much as it is shorter or longer and by what fraction or length difference. For years. An artist’s practice is the regular reflection of meaningful experiences and the construction of frames around them. An example might be that a one-measure phrase was not really one measure until there was a phrase of longer or shorter duration played within the piece. often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians. Whether I am right or not is not the point.wikipedia. That experience is already present. I considered.brainyquote. too.Creating Frames A more recent definition I use for “art” is that it is a framing of a meaningful experience. 79 Edgard Varèse . changing over time80. A phrase with single notes better speaks its single-noted-ness when there are chorded phrases elsewhere within the piece. there is no such thing as a one-sided coin. I continually change theories and 80 Frank Zappa .html#R882vR9gvV1JGB0M. Something exists only by way of some contrast. but it is my present answer.

of course. This is because I found some manner of meaningfully connecting the idea of music to my own needed simplicity of experience. As the structures were built upon such a broad and simple concept that had meaning to me. I am more appreciative of contrasts such as found in the phrase “the only constant is change”. If anything. are so delightfully delicate that a single errant note profoundly affects the listener?" Such questions do not have ready answers but provide excellent beacons for their own continued learning. I would attempt to create the simplest possible pieces. Other considerations have ranged from a simple and profound "How is beauty felt?" to a complex and confusing "How can some works be played differently every time without losing character while others. Having this concept of structure allowed me to eventually build pieces of music in ways that were meaningful to me. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 497 . There have been many occasions where someone will comment upon hearing a track I’ve done to say that it was clear that I had written it. the pursuit of such study of concepts generalizes to other knowledge. One note contrasted with two note harmonies. Instead. I would practice the ideas in improvisation. much of what I created had and continues to have a very unique sound. trying to master and re-master each step. In addition. like the Moonlight Sonata. I would build the skills and concepts of playful structures that I could use to create the pieces I do now. I composed by writing notes onto staff paper. scales. counterpoint. let us continue with the question of structure. The studies of harmony. and otherwise remain just as valid as they always have. etc. Later. This is not because of some talent. I can apply my own methods of structuring learning to studying any of these concepts. steady rhythms contrasted with changing rhythms. This is not the only question of music pursued. Initially. Taking one step at a time. I leave these questions aside for myself and the curious reader. Nowhere did I replace the societal knowledge and thought of music that existed.

When presented well. The sounds become a playground for the mind to play and grow. moving this way and that. The mind attempts to complete the patterns. Much of a pattern is perceived in constellations of characteristics that are the “same” or “different”. The frame is no longer necessary as the experience has been internalized. Each listen to a piece of music is a learning experience until the playground of the piece is mastered. we group “same” and sort “different”.! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 498 . when repeatedly sensed alongside it. In organizing. Its impressions remain. one cannot help but complete it. We place pictures of loved ones upon our desks at work for precisely this reason. When observing an advertisement which purposely leaves out a key component of a well-known picture. coaxed and guided. develop a form of momentum over time upon the medium of the mind. at which point a listener seeks the piece less and less often. continually shifting with delicacy or drama. Our minds detect and complete patterns. Music entices the mind with a presentation of patterns. It is grouped with past visions of a complete picture and sorted along the axis of time as a new version requesting completion. too. music provides a guide to these motions of thought into an experience. The piece fades. Patterns. Even an emotion may well be induced by an object.

I think of the audience about to listen. Play born in these initial moments nourishes the basics of a session and of the entire craft. I attempt to focus my full attention on a single note. a session A Pause The very beginning moments of a session are the most prime to invite play. I begin with a simple understanding of where I am sitting. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 499 . one fosters a path of mastery both for one’s general ability to play the instrument and for the path of the session itself. A song’s creation begins before its first sounds are made. Each thought is allowed its own time. In caressing the sound of even a single note.

A Space for Silence & Structure

The depth to which one wishes to create something meaningful often requires an
ability to focus upon the moment. It is the focus upon present experience itself
that allows one to craft the conditions of play and work.

Creating begins in a womb separate from the world and in a context that is self-
referential, comfortable, nonjudgmental, and resilient. It is a private world where I
may entertain any notion, free from concern. I do not pay attention to all the music
that has been made, all the thoughts that have gone into music, all the ideas that
are “out there,” though some of it may remain in intrinsic and unconscious memory.
I, instead, focus upon the unique moment.

Before any sound, of course, there is silence. In silence, we find the strongest and
most profound contrast from sound. It is music’s most important frame. When a
single note is played upon silence, I must recognize that this is the greatest
difference I can create in composing: that of sound and no sound.

Upon playing a single note, I listen to the sound trail back into silence.

There is an importance to hearing the beauty of a single note. Resting the mind
upon the sound triggers a circuit from mind to finger to key to sound to ear and
back to the mind again, at a depth that encourages play. Recognizing beauty in its
simplest form within the intended medium presents the foundation upon which
an intricacy may be built.

Upon playing two notes, the experiential universe of sound is expanded.

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Video 1 - Single Notes

While we hear a repetition of the same sound, there is still a difference to be
considered. Each note is different, as the first comes before the second and the
second comes after the first. Such a difference seems laughably trivial, but this is
the depth of detail to which one may wish to go in order to do well in a craft.
Again, it is a mastery of the basics that creates a foundation for growth.

Beyond these fundamental differences, there may well be a difference in the
volume of the sounds. On a piano, the velocity with which a note is pressed
translates to its loudness. Pianos have evolved to be highly sensitive to velocity,
thereby allowing the musician a wide range of dynamics to draw upon. It is difficult
to play the same note at exactly the same volume, and so this natural variation is
yet another difference created.

These tiny details are heard by the mind consciously and, more often,
unconsciously as they reflect upon a mental landscape. Even with two identical
notes, one creates a form of structure as several dimensions of experience appear:

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• Sound vs no sound,

• A difference in time, and

• A difference in volume.

The sounds are their own universe. The note of “G” may be understood in the
contrast of all other notes ever played, but in the universe of the moment, a G has
no meaning until other notes of the scale appear. That there even is a scale, major,
minor, or otherwise, does not appear until several notes establish one. In a sense,
that it is played on a piano is not important in the world it creates for itself unless
another instrument appears, thereby establishing one voice as “piano” and another
as “not-piano”.


Video 2 - Simple phrase

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As simple as the phrase is, we already establish several structural components:

• The phrase is repeated 4 times

• Each phrase is composed of 4 notes, the first and last of which
are identical.

We already create dimensions by way of contrasts:

• The notes of figure 1 last for 4 measures each. The phrases of
figure 2 last for 2 measures each. This simple difference between
2 measures and 4 measures now creates a dimension in the
lengths of phrases.

• The notes of figure 1 are single in nature. The phrases of figure 2
have 4 notes apiece. We now have a dimension in terms of
number of notes per phrase.

• The phrase of figure 1 repeats twice. The phrase of figure 2
repeats 4 times. We now have a dimension in terms of number of
repetitions to a phrase.

It may not seem useful to be making such atomic distinctions when, admittedly,
the piece is not very exciting. Yet.


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Video 3 - Initial Phrasing

Video 3 brings an initial phrasing. It is something that one may even say sounds
more musical in nature. Let us consider, again, its structure and how it sits in the
context of the other phrases.


• The phrase is 4 measures long

• The phrase is repeated twice

• It is composed mostly of 8th notes (shorter notes than before)


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Each phrase is made of 3 sets of 6 notes:

• There are 4 types of notes involved- Lower G, D, F-sharp, and an
upper G:

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The second phrasing is “missing” the first note:

The contrasts created include:

• Eighth notes instead of the quarter or whole notes predominate,
further establishing a dimension of note length.

• An additional note of F-sharp further establishes the key of the
scale, though not yet fully.

• The additional note of F-sharp also increases the number of
notes in a phrase.

• The missing first note introduces a dimension of “imperfect”
repetition. (Further changes may become variations and even
types of variations.) Some phrases vary, some do not.


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Let us introduce the melody:

Video 4 - Melody Introduced

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This section brings in new ideas:

• A new voice is introduced

• The key is established as major

• The new voice is in a higher register

• The new voice repeats, though its second occurrence is a greater
variation than any variation heard earlier

• The new voice has a smaller range of notes than the lower

• The new voice is subjectively more of a melody than the
previous voices

• A ninth bar is added, making it no longer an easy multiple of the
previous phrasings

Each of these structural elements introduces new dimensions and therefore
expands the space in which the mind may consider the patterns. These are the
spaces in which the mind is invited into a structured and guided play.

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Video 5 - Melody Developed - Part 1

The first development of the melody is a variation upon the initial phrase. Also,
only half of the melody is played, then repeated — thereby simultaneously making
a component shorter and the entire phrase longer. Each development introduces
new subtle and not-so-subtle dimensions.

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Video 6 - Melody Developed - Part 2

Part 2 of the melody now brings the melody to a higher register, introducing a new
difference. It also ends with a new phrasing that bears resemblance to the initial

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Ending Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 511 . Video 7 .Simple Return Video 8 .

they are more feelings than they are these specific phrasings. Another improvisatory piece will also be presented as a contrast to this more structured work. lengths of phrases. Each is a practice to repeat. and consideration does best to be examined and played with in its own time. rhythms. numbers of repetitions. But the return after the improvisation is a time to study the play itself. The piece may be heard in its entirety at the end of this section. The depth to which the simple “same” and “different” may create a profound complexity is staggering. transitions between scales and chords. chords against strings of notes. Many dimensions may be created in the world of music. one can begin an iteration in which the play created can become quite complex and elegant. Different notes. During the time of the performance. variations. only a few of these elements are consciously considered. Each occasion. question. patterns of disappearance and return. When the unconscious self is supported by a conscious framework. variations upon variations. directions of phrases. scales and types of scales. What was it that I did? My attempts at answering are listed above. Each practice forms and refreshes riverbeds of memory between mind and muscle. and even then. ear and mind. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 512 . melodies and cacophonies… we begin to see the degree of detail with which an experience in sound may be built.

rather than curse. it is best to learn the potentially unconscious motions the errant path describes to guide it. The paucity of errors seen in masters is only evidence of time spent nurturing errors as seeds into fruition of learning. or pressure some change it cannot accommodate. Each had its own direction and decisions. Regularly. each improvisation sounded different and more developed than the ones before. I would guess that the presented result of any creative endeavor is less than one percent of the work. But that error turned out to lend a subtlety to the piece. The first “mistake” is where I do not make an exact copy of the initial phrasing. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 513 .Errors As I play. then its basics may be considered and practiced. When a path of music has gone in an unanticipated direction. It is what one does with an error afterward that moves one towards mastery. Other errors not presented here may have been glaring and detracted from the piece. as with improvisation. Much of creativity is an iterative intention. The previous example was not the result of a single session. avoid. Each practice. I still entertain the possibility that my unconscious mind somehow “knew better” and it is in my conscious reaction to it that the error lies. a momentary snapshot. in sessions much like the one described above. All the while. How one approaches “errors” is of profound importance in creating. the piece may be better off with an adjustment of vision away from the original I had intended. In other words. The patterns and variations of the phrasings were practiced over the course of several weeks. and development of the entire process. They exercise an understanding of the inherent beauty of what exists. it is useful to pause in silence and reflect. And I forget. I attempt to remember what I had just played while remaining in the spirit of the moment. organization. If the phrase somehow sounds “wrong” without any clear reason as to why. If there is a lack of technique.

are the result of a musician’s practiced ability to listen for the inherent beauty as it exists and guide it to an audience. I listen for the play that may be behind them. These sounds. I listen for structures I had not considered. An error is a perceived deviation from a path toward vision. Some will be crucial in moving a project forward. if one grants a limit. one begins to respect the inherent beauty of mind and world. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 514 . and natural movements beyond what one may consciously hold that allows growth. however. A musician may remember occasions that seem better than what is occurring now — an amazing performance. a distinction. but we may yet tend the garden. the better the improvisation becomes as the music begins to carry the voice. Whether in “retro” synths or a common voice and guitar. Beauty is more recognized and presented than created. motions. an emotion captured “just right”. when I head in an unanticipated direction. and even then. Every direction away from the recollections of that experience now feels like an “error”. the visions one may actually be able to realize become more apparent. The better reality may be accepted for what it presents. In music. it is the recognition instead that there are other motives. When practicing. if one lets the water of mind act as it does. or a reality the respect it deserves. The better I grant it its own space. mistakes are to be made. There may be nothing new under the sun. Whether in mind or world. as frequently occurs. Which are which is not apparent except in retrospect. learning its nature. only sometimes. when learning. Whether one feels a task is beyond one’s reach due to impossibility or to one’s own limitations. We allow an original vision to change. or when organizing. one can find profound beauty. a beautiful melody. when creating. granting accommodations by acknowledgement.

The best one may do is to remember it.! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 515 . but allow it to fruit naturally within and for the present. By acknowledging and accepting the sounds for what they are. one better senses the beauty within the single note. Memories are alive now. Accepting the moment and all the perceived loss that comes with that acceptance allows one to better experience the moment in sound. It will never be what it was. but it may be what it is. Any attempt to retrieve those previous occasions is doomed to fail. only reflecting a past. which in turn may be guided into beautiful structures of many notes.

I am even more distant from the material. I may remember some and be able to create based upon what remains of the recollection. I am in that world. it is difficult to remember the exact notes that I played several passages earlier. Upon stopping the piece. At some point. I consider what has been played at depth and in silence and return my hands to the keys. but the exact nature is often lost. and memory is not a perfect replication of the past. When I stop. phrasings of melodies and rhythms begin to form. In the midst of a passage. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 516 . memories are alive. Each phrase is a basic molecule in and of itself. As parts of mind and brain. I can remember only some of the music I have played. I am in a different world. iterating upon simplicity. though built of the atoms of notes. and therefore change. Who I am now is not who I was. When I am playing. They may only be a few notes. memory Remembering As the basics are mastered in session and over several sessions. As a structure in time. even moments ago. music relies upon memory. I have left the world in which the phrases were improvised and it is more difficult to remember the exact nature of the notes played.

The written words are only shadows of that moment's experience. and a powerful iterative process continues. Memorization of those sessions integrates what was unconscious into consciousness. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 517 . much the same process occurs in psychoanalytic therapy. Perhaps less important than the distancing of time. and can consequently guide oneself through life situations differently. The next time I improvise. It is the same phenomenon as believing one will remember something while in a lecture and then immediately losing those memories upon stepping out of the classroom. at a distance. after all. Every moment. begins to have a more conscious understanding of what happens in the moment and in relationships. We take notes to remind ourselves of the understanding we had in class. One speaks and relates in free association. The precise examination of notes above is only possible by way of recording and reviewing. I take what would only have been available to short-term memory. is a form of improvisation. Recording An improvisation may be recorded. and in a manner which allows any depth of understanding that I may desire. I can review and study it at peace. By recording a performance. examines patterns found. Interestingly. and do the work needed to move it to a long-term and intrinsic memory. allowing it to take as much time as necessary. I have a significantly more powerful ability to guide those playful unconscious elements into a structured whole. Reviewing recordings of improvisation sessions offers the opportunity to hear what happened. That improvisation can again be studied in turn. it is the disconnect of attention that removes us from that world. just as a recording is of a piece of music.

Practice is a study and a clearing of path for the intention of play to reveal itself in work. Flow as a fusion of play and work appears in the midst of practice. ready for play. Studying what has been improvised moves concepts from short-term to intrinsic memory. further feeding and developing meaning while opening the channels found through technique. the greater the propensity to find voice in a flow state. common among them all is practice. The mind is alive and a part of nature as much as anything else. and for improvisation in other works. The notes sometimes number in the tens of thousands. The phrasings and their patterns have a meaning and richness reflecting the piece’s living nature. It is clear that the unconscious has been at work in a depth of detail at which I would likely not have consciously arrived. The more the patterns are organized into intrinsic memory. Practice is the art of accessing that flow by irrigating the channels that encourage the growth of play into mastery. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 518 . It is not uncommon for a musician to have many pieces of music memorized. However. Practice Continued Many musicians. artists. What is fascinating is that even those parts which I played as variations upon impressions of memory become detailed structures that do not appear to be accidental or random. and creatives throughout the years have described similar flow moments in which they do not fully understand what was created. Those pieces that were created or integrated by the person are more ready for recall for the performance.

traditional study of theory. In distilling the work. Whether it is by a patterning of same and different. memory is a powerful aspect of organization. as I transcribe the works of other composers. (Da Capo Press. as I learn the improvisations created. The more one creates an organizational framework. I seek an iterative process to reflect in depth upon the patterns of sound. the more one utilizes play. and the more available the powerful processor of the mind is to flow into a structure of work. The more one considers how a pattern is constructed. I attempt to both distill and memorize the work. I attempt to understand the structure. The more play involved. In reviewing what I have played.81 Two keys of memorization are meaning and organization. In fact. 2nd edition. as I study theory. One must consciously realize that every reliance upon technology risks losing a chance to practice memory. Your Memory : How It Works and How to Improve It. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 519 . the better the understanding of its organization. harmony. As I study. One may practice and enhance memory with the aid of the computer. it may be of benefit or detriment depending upon its use. As with any tool. As there is no shorter distance to an idea than within one’s own mind. the greater the associations and meaning that develop. 81 Kenneth Higbee. much as I rely upon it to record my performances. Doing so inevitably aids the process of memorization. much as the internet cannot function as a physician. I look for whatever depth of understanding I may attain in its examination. the intricacies and interesting nature of what I produce improves. Another Caution With Tools Many musicians rely upon the memory of the computer. or otherwise. but we must know that it is a tool. as I continually work on the basics. 2001). some ideas will not crystallize without some required density of thought.

The better I respect its natural lifespan. It is when these changes cease that a piece has had its fill. altering and changing. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 520 . changes slow. A piece may only last a few moments or it may drift from session to session. each iteration. but they are alive now. This is also true of the end of a session in improvisation. endings Ending A Piece The play of a piece is owed its own respect. and integrity. it is done. the sweeter and stronger its overall sound. posing for the present moment’s demands. Playing a piece I am “sick of” does nothing more than irritate me and audience alike. The pieces are memories. alive now. Each repetition. they still carry the time they were made. The better I respect its death. sense of meaning. While pieces do shift and change. At some point. and it is dead. Any attempt to end it too soon is abrupt and jarring for both musician and audience. the better its teachings are available to compose and create again. Any attempt to force a piece to last longer than its due makes it grow bitter. and each variation develops a piece further and further as it interacts in the ecology of mind.

The practice feels dull. etc. clear an empty space for new work setting aside present work. Perspective and agency return in this silence. There is no need to create. The time during which we pause and wait. It is at these times when I must remember that I may stop. to move from doing the work to doing nothing rather than to something else. It is important. though I would prefer the session to end. I may sit and reflect upon my own state of mind and allow the jostle to settle. The sounds I create are not enjoyable. If we are so irritated. I lose track of play. change an organizational framework. I have difficulty hearing the beauty behind error. The time needed is rarely long. why ever return? But we realize that it is in not doing something else that we establish a good rest. both being crucial to allowing a healthy play to flow into work.Silence Revisited At times. In letting go. sometimes only takes moments. We may decide to visit the same place left off. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 521 . There may be some subtle or overt pressures to continue. letting go of the need to play. move to something more basic. We can better see the landscape of work and decide if returning is warranted. Silence retains and restores agency and attention. and agitated with the present state of conditions and leave. however. angered. Play is mired and difficult. I remove my hands from the keys and rest in the realization that there is no need to play the piano. we may fear the desire to play may never return.

carefully consider the ending of the session. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 522 . These questions appear at the end as they are questions of maintaining a path of intention: ! • Where may I place signs to return me to this play? • How may I do so without impairing or impeding a future and therefore unknown. I may have many reasons to not continue the session in organization. And yet. and understanding. Time will continue creating that distance whether I wish for it to or not. play and agency. I would like to set the study of the improvisation aside. I know my mind will grow distant from where it was when the piece was created. Much of useful organization appears at session’s end. memorization. Or I am hungry. The flow between movement and study. Regardless. A freshly recorded improvisation is more easily memorized than one left lingering for days. cleaning up after myself as I go along. Or other obligations beckon. while I may decide to memorize a phrase or piece in a distant future. can be exhilarating and exhausting. state of play? ! When organized well. then.A Decision To End Improvisation and memorization are a delicate dance. both questions may already be answered well enough and simply turning off the recording software is enough to move on unhindered. I must. And. I may be tired upon completing a passage.

Video .Water Over Stones
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 523 .

There are many types of music and sounds out there. and made it more presentable. Notes were not changed. The piano roll is another means of presenting music. what I am playing. there are times where I would like to allow play a greater freedom. I still pay as much attention as I can as to what is played. of which this is only one particular example.e. Still. Contrasts and similarities are more easily perceived and studied. or studying its nature. the nature of the piece was changed in the process of presentation. and the sense of forward motion. The reasons for my choosing it for presentation is that it conforms well to a musical score. In an improvisation where I have no particular intention of returning. However. To demonstrate. I present the following piece in its original “piano roll” format. But doing so can be tremendously useful as a means of studying. though some volume adjustments were made. However. It is a case in which a conversion to work alters the original. The structure is fairly solid in nature. I can allow the notes a different versatility. The piece had been developing for several weeks prior to this particular recording which I then “quantized” — i. set the notes to be exactly on the beats. an improvisation Awaiting Autumn Water & Stone is a title specifically selected for this text. the notes resemble more of a casing in which an experience is carried. I made no adjustments to where Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 524 .

as well as my practice of accepting of them in order to maintain an overall flow. I want to acknowledge that without the regular study of pieces such as Water & Stone. The process represents my making “errors”. The vertical bars on the bottom indicate the velocity with which a key was struck. consider that there are several places where a note appears. I could not perform Awaiting Autumn as an improvisation. no sound appears. Awaiting Autumn
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 525 . watching and seeing the piece as it plays will better describe the concept. as it would on a piano. When too low. the notes land. though I present this piece in contrast to Water & Stone. I will play with the time more. Finally. Hopefully. Also. and so the vertical bars marking the measures have no meaning beyond their relative positioning. but no sound corresponds. Also. The incorporation of the study into my intrinsic memory allows the ability to play with the experience of sound as more complex versions of playing with the individual notes. note that as there is less constraint. whether it is a stretching of length between notes or an alteration of time signature.

! ! ! Appendix A: Specific Examples Of Decision .

actions and responses poorly accommodate and sometimes even perpetuate the intrusions and experiences we attempt to avoid. We may suppress our thoughts. Without acknowledgement. a decision to address interruption The Option Of Ignoring We can often find ourselves attempting to ignore adversity. ignoring can even drain our present resources. We hope that whatever it is will go away. We must expend some energy. by some unconsidered external force. We can ignore that “small” health concern. We can ignore the dripping sounds that are hitting the roof. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 527 . or by some poorly imagined future self. against our own mind. we may even find more work to avoid some experience. But ignoring an interruption often leads to further disruptions down the line and can even damage the things we find meaningful. The tendency to avoid an undesired experience by way of poorly considered unconscious compromise is a very human and more than frequent occurrence. This can occur at small or large scales. We can ignore that nagging feeling of an important call to make. we may find distraction. consciously and unconsciously. We can ignore a small interruption from a smartphone notification. Or that whatever is important about it will be taken care of “some other time”. Beyond the obvious damage it may cause.

Some discomfort is avoided and work continues. in the hopes that it will lift and even remain at bay. For example. Example Of Phone Call Coming To Mind As an example. much as we cannot yell at the fog to go away.A Decision To Address Interruption A colleague of mine once very eloquently said. it remains an unknown. we cannot directly fight depression. if not derailed. but we do have choice. full attention cannot be attained. However. my mind senses that a crucial window for the phone call has not been acknowledged. while working. but as the thought has not been given its due time in attention. But we can recognize and adjust the conditions that maintain or created the fog in the first place. I attempt to ignore it. There may not be a crucial window. the recollection of an important anxiety-laden phone call comes to mind. we barely have control over the internal climates we carry. But we can make choices that adjust the conditions of either. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 528 . Both the work and the phone call are hampered. thereby generating anxiety. We do not have control. Somewhere. Not only can we not control the world around us.

Important is not necessarily the choice of what to do. not necessarily following them. but at least acknowledging and potentially addressing them. While pausing to wait for silence introduces a longer time before we return to work. it is often useful to deal with any interruption. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 529 . Example Of Video Loading Notice the difference in difficulty between waiting for a video on a website to load prior to playing smoothly as more easily tolerated than watching it start instantly but continue with a choppy frame rate. create problems as the associated concerns may not have been well thought through into representative agenda items. rather. too. In addition. The latter presents many interruptions though the complete time of interruption may even be less than the former. directly upon appearance. a video game is often more immersive when its frame rate is fast than when this speed is traded for improved graphics. we can reduce the potential for additional occasions of interruption. Frequency & Time We must recognize that conditions will not always be ideal. It is time spent away from what we were once doing. Doing so provides agency with the clearest possible view of the landscape. simply making the phone call without addressing an underlying anxiety may. Meanwhile. We might fear a loss of flow. decision takes time. Similarly. it is the acknowledgement of the interruption and its meaning. For this reason. decision or otherwise.

I know I will face the task where I will also face the anxiety of the call. I know I will ask. “what is the worry?” and attempt to address that as well as whatever demands the phone call entails. I write “Call John” as a task and place it in the Inbox. resting upon my habit of processing the Inbox after every session. I pause and allow the thoughts to gather… I was working. ! While I may not immediately call the person upon reaching the Inbox. I continue working.Example Of The Important Phone Call Revisited I am working … an important anxiety-laden phone call comes to mind. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 530 . I have a phone call on my mind… I am frustrated … Must the call be done now? … No.

The internet and email are prime examples. try to find rest in some externally sought-after experience. we do not say. Until we can gain that sense of agency within ourselves. However. it becomes a loss of agency when we seek this work reflexively. Without boundaries. The compulsive checking of one’s watch. The infinite nature of such contexts does not create a natural end to our work. we risk becoming scattered. we do not form every intention into words. or some other negative emotional state. task manager. We may recognize a state of being scattered and unstable. We must be wary of the times we seek stimulation. looking for experience external to the self to restore a sense of stability. when playing a video game. when truly we seek stabilization. anxiety. or social networking account is often an attempt to escape or avoid an unwanted or unacknowledged present experience. For example. While working or playing. but instead of pausing. “I am now moving the mouse” or “I am now moving this block to solve this puzzle”. For example. as may occur when entering a large context without intention. whether composed of boredom. email. however. 82 Section adapted from Creating Flow with OmniFocus: Mastering Productivity Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 531 . a decision to re-focus or improve focus A Decision To Re-Focus Or Improve Focus Play82 is a reactive state of mind. going to the Inbox of an email program is a structured setting in which we may feel able to accomplish tasks.

a favorite social networking site. and the breaks in attention are perpetuated. the capacity for attention is actually damaged and results in feeling scattered. or whatever browser window happens to be open for guidance as to what to do next. Dave Crenshaw. We may find ourselves using the program as a crutch. Even a reflexive checking of a task management system can be a symptom of lost focus or agency. We must recognize that a task management system is to be consulted and not followed. it is instead called “switch-tasking”. each task is given its own attention and this attention is shifted frequently. Each shift requires a re-tooling of sorts. (Jossey-Bass. that takes precedence. as something else comes to mind. Multitasking is being increasingly recognized as a myth neglecting time and attention as the delicate resources that they are. Perhaps too many tasks have built up in the Inbox and even it seems overwhelming. the misalignment of intention and attention is the primary area with which we must deal to restore focus. We invite a scattered state of mind that reacts to the environment without active thought or consideration for the overall scheme of work and play. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 532 . 2008). Then. we jump to email. something else is dropped. any sought experience will likely further disrupt our sense of coherence and ability to decide. I would suggest that an additional consideration be added: as one repeatedly changes focus. The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done. When it is not apparent what to do next. bouncing from one task to the next without real direction. Rather. We rely on the environment for stimulation and react to it in a way that no longer respects the boundaries of a task. The author of The Myth of Multitasking83. Rather than considering doing several things as multitasking. We must gently return the mind to intention and improve the conditions to keep it there when found wandering and 83 Dave Crenshaw. When scattered. It is this re-tooling that is often ignored. notes that one does not really do several things at one time. phone messages.

regardless of the task or project. In the scattered state. To move through. our feet and ankles need to adjust to the environment. In an impaired state. it is injured. we cannot hold anything in mind for long without several other things (external and internal) jostling for their own attention on the stage. We can actively step back and ask: ! • What is it that is preventing focus? • How are we to understand these scattered states? • How do they come about? ! Being cognizant of intention prior to entering a context reduces the possibility of becoming scattered. similar to a muscle or tendon. the ankle Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 533 . For example. We must recognize attention as a natural part of the body. When walking through rocky terrain. It is in these cases that attention becomes difficult to maintain. The boundaries of the originally defined intention lose coherence. They are bounded arenas in which play may hopefully mature into work. to build the sense of agency so that intentions may be adjusted with clarity and grounding. Out Of Sync Creative intentions include a structure and an allowance for exploration by way of simultaneous safety and stimulation. "I will process my email Inbox to zero and close the program. stating an intention may help to clear a space in the mind within which it may find restoration to once again play in the development of an intention." If already in a scattered state.

needs to settle this way and that. However, repeated and unexpected shifts can
readily lead to a sprained ankle.

Similar to a sprained ankle, attention becomes easier to sprain again once already
injured. (Note that it is often easier to do something towards the beginning of the
day, before too many things have been taken on at once.)

Similar to a muscle, attention is something that can be exercised. For example,
some do much better after a warm-up, having hit a groove and been able to focus
deeply enough. When studying for an exam, it sometimes takes an hour or so
before information really starts to be absorbed and even enjoyed. Those who can
readily do well with academics have likely exercised their ability to focus even if
they have not consciously done so.

While a method for addressing these misalignments for every individual’s situation
is obviously beyond the scope of this text, there are some general principles we
can consider. To summarize the problem, our attention and intention, where our
mind is and where we would like it to be, are misaligned.

Reconnecting attention with intention

1. Recognize The Scattered State

The mind is the first space to clear when developing an intention or organizing.

The first step of recognition, while most obvious, is also the most difficult and
overlooked. When we catch ourselves following the next shiny thing on the
internet, and only thinking that what is important is whatever happens to be
coming to mind, consider that the ability to focus is impaired.

We are in a reactionary mode without boundaries. While play is reactive, it must be
harnessed to work well. When we’ve designed a good environment to get a project
done, then being reactionary in this sense may work towards building a flow. But it

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is very different when there are no boundaries. There is a truism that art does well
with boundaries. I’d say that most everything does well with certain boundaries.

Triggers for recognizing a scattered state are to be found in any number of
negative emotions such as confusion, exhaustion, headache, anger, anxiety, etc.
Regardless, when we are in a reactive mode and nothing seems to be going
anywhere, we must be able to step back and say, “something’s off here.”

2. Pause

The second step is to stop whatever it is we are doing at the moment. Clearly this
takes something of a judgment call. If we are in the middle of something that
cannot be stopped (driving, lifting weights, etc.) then we must complete the action
in process. But then stop. Giving the mind a moment to relax will help regain some
perspective on what to do next. Pausing is a return to silence for agency.

For example, if we are in the middle of one thing and suddenly remember
something uncompleted from the last thing, unless truly an emergency, we still
must stop. We are not there now. We are looking to improve focus and intention

When acting upon an impulse to "just" check email, we begin a process of acting
upon impulse. The "just" component may only last a few seconds, but the
momentum of action upon impulse is of greater concern than the time. In the
sense that an object in motion tends to remain in motion, so does the tendency to
act impulsively.

Especially in the attempt to regain footing from a prolonged period of a scattered
sense, I personally find a need to pause at least several times, even in short

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3. Define A Small Present Intention & Otherwise Defer

Any number of thoughts may have been running through one’s mind. A scattered
state often entails many thoughts about what to do. Some small ideas of needing
to call someone back, larger ideas of wanting to become the CEO of the company,
and the reminder of a pile of dishes all compete for attention.

Having paused, we have allowed desires to remain in mind without action, thus
incorporating them into the experience of the moment. It is from this ground that
better decisions, and hence actions, may then be made. Storing the individual
thoughts in words allows for further grounding.

As examples, we may define intentions such as:

• Return to an original intention that somehow derailed.

• Consider whether the original intention was clear enough.

• Consider how the original intention may be clarified.

• Consider whether an original intention even existed.

• Improve present conditions towards better focus, perhaps
addressing how it derailed. Consider whether the present
environment contributes to confusion by having too many
things requesting attention.

• Continue watching silly cat video.

• Close the present session.

Any and all of the defined intentions may be written or deferred. Meanwhile,
present intention is actively defined. This is different from what we believe we
“should be doing.”

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Attention is not found. It is guided. We respect attention by recognizing its present
object of study. By focusing on the strengthening of attention itself, we do not
break attention yet again to focus on something else.

Of the several thoughts jostling for present attention, choosing one, especially a
short and easy one, may help. Whatever it is that is in present attention may not
seem important in the grand scheme of things, but we are not focusing on only
that. Instead, we attempt to define a present intention in the smallest reasonable
terms, being specific and defining a clear end. A useful question may be:

“When will whatever this thing is that I am doing now be done?”

For example, if catching ourselves watching a silly cat video, we may state,

“This task will be done when I am done with this video.”

and not,

“I’m relaxing.”

4. Develop & Complete The Small Intention

By giving present attention clear boundaries of an intention, such as by defining an
end, one begins to regain composure. By remaining with the present focus and
keeping it small, one makes it something easy to complete. Completing
something, no matter how small, helps to realign attention and intention.

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Appendix B: Organizational Details


Depth & Detail

When we have understood the experience of an object at a depth we desire,
whether it is only briefly as in the case of an umbrella or with extended periods of
reflection such as the gradual realization of a fundamental idea in a field of study,
we can then consider where and how it will best support or clear paths for the
development of a primary intention.

The three organizational pillars of awareness, accessibility, and avoidability are
composed, to varying degrees, of their organizational details. These include:

• Storage: Security, Stability, & Redundancy

• Ease of Maintenance

• Ease of Use & Clarity

• Invisibility & Trusted Return

• Aesthetics

In our example of the umbrella, placing it near the door would be addressed by the
storage chosen, be it a hook on the wall or a bucket near the door. Its clarity and
ease of use would depend on its being easily seen and reached when needed.

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Other aspects, such as ease of maintenance, may be less of concern in this scenario
as an umbrella typically does not require it.

These details may be formed by any number of means. Containers may be
physically built such as a box, habitually maintained via the sight of a repeated task
for maintenance, held in a title or label, or memorized by repeated use, among
other options as will be described shortly.

Depending upon the objects involved, some details will be more prominent than
others. For example, a memorized list of words for an upcoming exam has little to
do with redundancy, but perhaps must be maintained by repeated use.
Alternatively, a picture on the wall, once placed, requires little maintenance, and
we are, instead, more concerned with aesthetics.

All aspects of organization, pillars and details, may overlap or even occur
simultaneously. Any of these characteristics may contribute to more than a single
pillar. For example, a type of storage can directly relate to both our continued
awareness and the accessibility of an object.

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Degrees of Maturity

However, the order of listing is presented by a suggested degree of maturity for
either organizational structure or process:

• Awareness refers to knowing an object’s relevance.

• Accessibility refers to an object’s use which can occur after we
are aware of its existence and relationship.

• Avoidability can only occur when we have developed a trust that
an object or its path will return to attention when it is relevant.

As an example for a piece of knowledge:84

• We first need to be aware of something relevant.

• We learn it in order to make it accessible when relevant.

• Finally, we learn it to the degree that it is stored in intrinsic
memory so that it may disappear from conscious thought,
reappearing only when needed.


84 Thank you to Ben Broeckx for the following concisely formulated example of an object of


Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 541

Similarly, the details are presented in a progression of maturity as they relate to the
3 pillars:

• Storage relates to awareness.

• Maintenance spans all pillars.

• Clarity & Ease of Use relate to accessibility.

• Invisibility relates to avoidability.

• Aesthetics spans all pillars and is a sign of an organizational
structure’s fullest maturity.

We will now consider each of the organizational details. As object spans both mind
and world, the characteristics unique to both will be investigated throughout.

While smaller examples are examined throughout the presentation of
organizational details, larger real-world examples are available in Appendix A.!

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Security, Stability, And Redundancy

Storage includes:

• Security

• Stability

• Redundancy

Security refers to longevity and protection. For instance, if an object degrades over
time, the protection of the object needs consideration. Backing up digital data to
two physical and two digital locations is a useful general guide, for example.
Reviewing memorized material regularly if not actively used may be prudent.
Regular inspection of an important physical cabinet for signs of wear and tear may
be necessary.

Stability is aided by having a regular home for a particular item. The old adage “a
place for everything and everything in its place” fits. A good home for something
keeps it out of the way when not needed but is easy to get to when it is. Having a
specific regular location for an item can help develop mental correlates for those
locations as associated with the items or ideas. A regular location for one’s keys,
wallet, and pen is an example.

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In addition, stability refers to the ability for a system to remain intact, useful, and
usable despite the entry and removal of items. A file cabinet may hold many
papers, but if it is too full, it becomes difficult to remove or enter new items,
thereby reducing accessibility and possibly even availability of relevant objects.

Optimizing redundancy relates to storage. In organizing computer files, for
instance, there is both benefit and issue with redundancy. While it improves the
chance that something may be found when wanted, it also may confuse matters
when paths are made unclear.

For example, I have a scenario where I have multiple copies of the same file so that
I can find it easily. Now, I wish to add information to the document. Finding the
document initially has been made easier by having multiple copies. However, if I
only add the new information in one place, then I may chance upon a non-updated
copy in a future visit. In addition, while I am adding the information, I may have
forgotten that there are additional versions or how many there are. All of these
questions detract from the primary intention, leave the mind unsettled, and
suggest a new intention for organization, whether or not it will be pursued.

In such cases, creating an alias file may be a more useful approach than making a
copy if more than one location is warranted. Alternatively, a location for the file as
more suited to its specific related intentions could work.

We can use the metaphor of associations to our thoughts. There is a central
experience to which associations connect. Similarly, we can consolidate our work,
its files, its tools, and other resources of space and time into some centralized
location. Access, however, can be constructed where it would be relevant as long
as it remains avoidable when irrelevant.

When backing up files, we may have multiple locations for the material. However,
usually by virtue of location and access, it is usually quite apparent which is a main
working copy and which is a backup. Automating backup significantly improves
confidence in the stability of an item. It allows for a beneficial redundancy without
confusing accessibility.

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Such considerations are best placed at the time of initial organization so as to minimize confusion at the time of a system’s use. Useful questions to consider in terms of the storage of an object may then be: ! • How will this be secure? • How will this be stable? • How will this continue to function as objects are added or removed? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 545 .

Writing a task helps us clarify an intention. The clarity and strength of a task’s writing directly affects the clarity and strength of the intention’s storage and support. the intentions they contain expire. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 546 . organizational structures. Tasks store intentions. the more avoidable it may be. Maintaining the system maintains our awareness of it and its general accessibility. and even allows it to become a part of an overall task management system. regardless of the skill in writing and placing tasks. Let us examine tasks. the tasks holding them instead remain still while the world changes around them. and the relationships between them decay in time. as an example. ease of maintenance On Maintenance Ease of maintenance relates to all pillars of organization—awareness. the less maintenance needed. accessibility. and avoidability. However. Meanwhile. gives the intention a place. On Decay Intentions. While they are not foodstuffs which may decay within some jar.

Every intention has a lifespan. perish within a pause. We iterate by repeatedly considering. organizational structures.. this among other reasons. Some intentions such as “plan a trip” may last a long time. checklist. the greater its risk of growing stale. container. such as playing a certain note on a piano in the flow of a phrase. Others such as “write report” may no longer be useful beyond a deadline two hours from now. be it task. we do not store every intention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 547 . The longer the time between uses of a system. Others still. i. implementing. and their relationships. or otherwise. Even the task. Iteration in play and decision continues the vitality of intention. memorized concepts. The more a system allows for iteration in the moment. suffers from this potential perishability of its contents. We do not create organizational structures for every process of work. and testing changes to a system. action. For. whether it reaches a proposed vision or not. and reflection. A disconnect between intentions and their organizational structures inevitably grows in time. Any aspect of organization. the shorter the distances between intention. decays in time as it relates to an intention.e. The moment taken to write such an intention as a task is more than enough time for it to wilt. the simplest means of supporting an intention. the closer the interaction approaches nourishing conditions for play.

money. such attention can be vital. rarely if ever completed. Attention on maintaining an organizational structure is time away from other intentions. Whether at the time of use or at some specified times. For example.85 Maintenance refers to the upkeep required in time. attention. Such costs can range from the trivial to the prohibitive depending upon the materials and project. 85 Everything should be as simple as possible. and other resources to maintain a system’s existence.e. Organization is a continual process. but potentially the further the travels possible. Some are simply a matter of using a repeating task to check something or recall a set of facts using a flash card system for memorization. The maintenance by way of one’s attention is particularly important.html Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 548 . as need be). too. it cannot be steered nimbly and becomes difficult to move at all. but no simpler. an organizational structure does well to be as simple as possible. but not simpler. if it is too large. includes the idea of iteration in utility.An Aim For Simplicity To paraphrase Einstein. i.” http://www. Maintenance. Regularly considering the attention it requires to maintain is crucial. Meanwhile. The weekly review batches the attention required for maintaining the system into a session of work (or a few sessions. while others involve a regular sizable investment of the day or week. A task management system perhaps can be likened to a ship. Such matters require continual consideration in building and cultivating a system. quotes/einsteinquotes. availability. a system is visited with some regularity for purposes of maintenance and/or improvement. the weekly review period suggested by the Getting Things Done task management approach is extremely useful for not only maintaining the system. but keeping one on course. The more robust a ship one builds. the more maintenance it requires.alberteinsteinsite.

as something that accommodates how we wish to work. we look to create a more or less living system. Each of the pillars need not be completely thought through every time an item is organized or retrieved. Instead. The less attention we need to devote to maintenance without negatively impacting its sustainability. We hope to minimize the upkeep and even give it a degree of a self-perpetuating quality when possible. the more attention is available for other pursuits. Useful questions to ask for maintenance may be: ! • How will this be maintained? • How much attention will I need to devote? Where? When? • Can this be organized more simply? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 549 . Any system of maintenance that requires an individual’s attention will rely upon habit.

The intention of having one’s kids play is supported with less attention to the boundaries so that more is available for focus upon the primary intention itself. and perhaps with familiar friends does not require the same level of attention. watching over one’s kids in a crowded playground requires vigilance. examples of maintenance An Example Of Kids At The Playground Sometimes attention is absolutely needed to maintain a setting. One may even be able to enjoy watching the kids play. On the other hand. a playground that is well known. as the exhaustion of staying too long makes the time to exit more difficult for all parties involved. For example. enclosed. One even has to monitor his or her own ability to maintain attention. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 550 . in this case that of enjoying time with one’s kids.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 551 . The task management system provides an overall framework to minimize attention needed for maintenance. the system reduces interruptions in flow by maintaining a stream of coffee beans. Each task is important in the flow. storing the intention to fill it. only to rely on my habit of looking at the grocery list when at the store. The intention to refill the canister is made plain by its being empty.k. “a grocery list”. grind them. When the bag is about half empty. I no longer need to remember to buy coffee. I never have too many bags of coffee growing stale in the cupboard (storage). The reason there is a canister at all is that it is easier (more accessible) to scoop the coffee beans and more attractive than the bag.An Example With Coffee Beans Another example may be found with the intention of having regular fresh morning coffee. I take coffee beans from the canister on the counter. In the morning.a. In addition. while still maintaining a steady supply of fresh coffee. but only receives the attention it needs at the point of utility. I write a task on a context list called “groceries” — a. and place them in the coffee machine. I fill it with the bag sitting above it in the cupboard. No written task is necessary as its emptiness is the task. In this way. When the coffee canister runs low.

one may miss options not easily seen. the knowledge gained from studying a manual for a new program takes on new life when one begins to use the program. the words become better memorized by their depth in learning. learning a foreign language requires a period of time where words may be studied by flash cards. However. its utility is limited. it must be used. with real people. While one may skip the manual to get at an integrated and playful knowledge more quickly. Sometimes.Examples With Memorization Memory is a particular type of storage that absolutely requires attention. that the item is being retrieved only by way of flash card. As another example. In order for anything to remain in mind. however. with practice in real sentences. Each retrieval is a further “use” of the idea in question. For example. the better the information will be retained and integrated into one’s functioning. one may wish to artificially create a utility such as using flash cards. however. whether consciously or unconsciously. for ideas that are not regularly reviewed. Flash cards are a means of presenting a trigger to oneself with the intent of retrieving the information. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 552 . a threshold amount of information held by these artificial constructs is needed to actualize the learning of something well in its environment. Thus. We must be wary. At some point. The more meaningfully the item is used. and real meaning.

An Example In Communications Another example may be in the way of communications. If needed. By doing so. one may also be able to reduce the periods of time for communicating by batching their occurrence. Communications are maintained with less time in attention. While one may need to respond to others regularly. one reduces the vigilance of attention spread over time into batched periods of time. one gives clients and co-workers a clear idea as to when messages will be received. By leaving an outgoing voice mail that says one checks messages at 4pm. but the attention spent during those times will be of greater depth and quality. one may provide an emergency contact number for communications that cannot wait. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 553 .

the time saved that would otherwise have been spent on a search task is a significant part of the payoff from an investment in organization. Later in this text. each step is made very easy. the process of memorization is aided by the repetition. In the coffee example noted above. In the example of study. A useful question to consider may be: How could this be made easier to access and use? Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 554 . That context list is regularly reviewed prior to leaving work to return home. a program with good accessibility may be started and closed quickly. For example. one is more able to write an essay when the details of the class are memorized rather than relied upon as written in notes. Additionally. ease of use & clarity Entry & Retrieval Ease of use relates to the entry and retrieval of items. The bag of coffee beans is in a cupboard directly above the coffee jar. we will examine the beginning and end of a work session itself. A context list for groceries is easily available at a quick glance. The beans are placed towards the front of the cupboard and are easily reached. “Starting” and “stopping” refer to how easily a process may be begun or ended. If the notes are reviewed regularly. perhaps immediately after class and with some regular frequency thereafter.

the jar of beans is on the counter top.An Example With Coffee Returning to the world of coffee. The grocery list is not considered until the time of return from work. A focus on the invisibility of each component of the system both removes it from mind and improves overall efficiency. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 555 . The bag of beans is hidden in the cupboard.

grouping. Grouping places like with like. In other words. may be grouped. Sorting is a process of organization in which items are arranged in an order by the differences between them. sorting. allowing time for the mind to reflect on the system as it develops. It is in their similarities where a central concept often forms. 
 and the use of labels Examine Differences And Similarities Any object may be observed to have some similarities and differences with any other object. it is useful to take our time. We may use the similarities and differences to arrange objects to learn about them and to enhance their access. in turn. and sorted objects. Grouping categorizes objects. Much of a pattern may be perceived and understood by way of similarities and differences. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 556 . It is useful to examine and consider the individual components of any system of organization one step at a time. Grouped objects may be sorted. It is in their differences where we consider communication and/or arrangement between them. Sorting ranks and orders objects. Grouping is a process of organization in which items are placed within a same or similar category due to similarities between them. The number of dimensions we can create in any system can easily become staggering. Sorting arranges by differences.

we arrange by sequence. The objective is. 74. We may use any number of concepts to make arrangements.86 If we alphabetize a set of named files. Dimensions Objects are grouped or sorted into any number of dimensions. If we gather resources by some common utility. Any and all of these methods may be used and combined in building an organizational structure. If we create a list of tasks that should be carried out in a certain order. as always. and to make it more avoidable when it is unwanted. all the while deciding upon the iterations of organizational intentions as investments. We attempt to reduce the difficulty of accessing an object when wanted. A list is a single dimension. but characteristics such as color and ambiance may be dimensions as well. First Thus edition. For instance. we sort by priority. Component. Sequence. a spreadsheet is two. a clearing and supporting of a path for the development of an intended flow or development. 86 David Allen. A room has three physical dimensions. (Penguin Books.part of the organization section of the Natural Planning Model Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 557 . 2002). . Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. we arrange by component. and Priority are sorting examples suggested in the Getting Things Done methodology.

! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 558 .

I may see a table. Providing a title or symbol is a means of encapsulating an item or idea and giving it a definition. frames are presented. but the seeing of the table is a representation in the mind. The symbol is a form of title. Associations are thoughts. 2003). (Cambridge. a handle is integrated as part of the concept itself. spaces are created. emotions.Titles (Labels) & Symbols The mind works by representation and association. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 559 . which in turn is surrounded by waves of associations. We use metaphor regularly when we call each other by name or put labels on cabinets. or any other sense that comes to mind when an idea is held in attention.”87 When we deal with ideas. symbols. memories. a 87 Arnold Modell. They are evidence of some form of connection or momentum of pattern. Titles and labels are useful tools by which works are encapsulated. the history of its construction. I generally do not consider the grain of wood. much as a sentence is a means of conveying a thought from one person to the next. patterns. 25. We even speak and think by way of symbols. In writing. Imagination and the Meaningful Brain. Massachusetts: The MIT Press. A word may clothe and embody an idea. Psychoanalyst Arnold Modell writes of metaphor as “the currency of the mind. awaiting potentials for consciousness. though the nature of that connection or momentum may not be consciously known. its position in the house. Even then. It is a vessel by which an idea or object may be carried. the better paved the path for an intention of conveying information. the strain it carries from the weight of objects upon it—I just have an idea of table. Symbols may even be useful to one’s own work or recall. Simplicity aids clarity. The better distilled the sentence without its losing coherence. it is not the full table. images. The depth to which I consciously consider the table and the details of association is a matter of dedicating time in attention. and handles are provided.

what is the simplest symbol. Somehow. word. how may this item or idea be most uniquely described? i. title may form in mind better than the one before it. phrase.e. written or remembered. that can recall the item or idea? i. At least two ideas require consideration: First. be it image.: What label would be simple but informative?
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 560 .: What makes this unique? Second. etc. We then look for the characteristics of a symbol.e.. the mental space the new title provides enhances the writing and suddenly a central concept forms more clearly from the prior miasma of words. by way of comparing and contrasting similarities and differences of other objects.

 I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world.html Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 561 . you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. but when you're finished.. (video) Richard Feynman (1918–1988)88 88 http://www. 
 So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing—
 that's what counts.

and words must be treated with care as much as any tool.Caution With Titles & Symbols The basics of a craft are to be distinguished from symbols or titles. as symbols. Symbols. it is also a major point of abuse. words. While seemingly obvious. a student who cares more for an answer than the knowledge it represents falls into this trap. titles. We must be cautious.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 562 . When taking an exam. A symbol is not the thing itself. and titles may obscure as much as they aid.

! ! ! Appendix C: On Meditation

Anything around which we place a boundary. I can only speak from my own experience. the clearest overlap likely seen in the sections of silence. and agency. etc. a suitable definition is for meditation as follows: Meditation is a process developed by a regularly practiced focus upon a predefined object. but I have found it to be tremendously useful. the session. An object may be a breath. in turn. an emotion. my experience has been that the simpler the object. I find I am always learning even years into its regular practice. clear or fuzzy. Some thoughts on it are therefore included here in the appendix. neither can I fully endorse the books or authors that I suggest. To reiterate. Meditation’s vastness of potential continually stuns me. an intention. I say this not only to encourage the reader’s own reflection. It may not be for everyone. In general. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 564 . Each of these words. a thought. Much of what I have learned through meditation is reflected in this text. Moving backwards. As always. An object is any bounded experience. but also as a means of portraying the depth of reflection upon one’s own experience that meditation itself seems to promote. a candle. as I can only present them in that they have been helpful to me. As far as I have been able to distill. need to be examined. it is important for the reader to consciously reflect using his or her own experience as a means for understanding and debate. constitutes an object. the stronger the practice of meditation. Similarly. let us begin with “object” which has been examined elsewhere in this text.

2012. but it would best be changed after perhaps several weeks. A very useful object is the sensation of the breath across the nostrils. we practice a focus upon the same object. or it simply does not seem to be a good exercise. therefore requiring some effort for focus. it is subtle. we risk changing the object and its boundaries in the midst of the work. “Regularly practiced” refers to meditation as an exercise. Focus is a process by which attention “favors” a chosen object:89 Focus is a process of aligning and sustaining attention upon an object. All minds do. too. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 565 . having forgotten the chosen object or become lost on rabbit trail #327. If there is a clear difficulty. with defining an object. If we do not. we gently bring the mind back to favoring the chosen object. The object’s image in mind continually resolves and dissolves as we repeatedly acknowledge the mind’s meanderings. Among other reasons of for its suitability. As we find it doing so. We may decide on a different object somewhere in the practice regimen. Perhaps once or twice a day. Deep Meditation . we may change it more quickly than that. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 89 Yogani. preferably at similar times or as part of a routine. thereby defeating the strength offered by the exercise. we may decide that our object should be focused upon for 5 minutes. and it is connected to breathing. much as we might do with weights for an exercise routine. Time is a consideration. For instance. always using individual judgment. It is a commonly described object in various literature for meditation. which is an unconscious mechanism of mind simultaneously influenced by conscious thought and action. Predefined refers to the idea that we are deciding upon our object of focus before we begin to focus.Pathway to Personal Freedom: (AYP Enlightenment Series). The mind wanders.

consequently. the vision and object of focus is present experience itself. while in the session we are lifting the objects of the day to day world. The idea of silence. many of which are difficult to put into words. the difference being at least that the object is specifically an intention.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 566 . It is not static in nature. Meditation. to the mindfulness found from a practice of meditation. the better we may arrange the world and ourselves in a continual cultivation. The session is the period of time during which attention is placed upon an intention. a reflection upon present experience. it is little different from the practice of meditation. much as improving the play of a single note upon a keyboard improves the ability to play a phrase or entire piece of music. Meditation is a process that has many benefits. among other things. The greater the degree by which we may reflect upon experience. In this sense. the greater the agency we may exercise. if not identical. is the art of learning and moving with the natural contours and currents of one’s own mind. and. The regular practice of focusing attention benefits most any work we may decide to do. Rather than react to the world. we consider the world’s reflection within ourselves and then consciously make decisions. Another difference is perhaps best drawn by an analogy: in meditation we are lifting weights. I use the word “process” since I am continually learning as the years of practice continue. For the silent intention. is similar.

! ! ! ! Appendix D: Glossary

glossary Ability is our capacity to decide upon and perform meaningful actions. Adversity is an object or set of objects blocking. Accessibility refers to the existence and clarity of a path between an object and a relevant intention. impeding. Acknowledgement is the consideration of an experience to the degree that it is accessible to conscious awareness. Agency is the degree to which we may create and decide non-reactively. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 568 . An Action is an attempt to influence change. Addressing an experience is the process of acknowledging its associated intentions. An action may include varying degrees of play and work. or obscuring the development of a meaningful intention or workflow.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 569 . uses. Attention is an active observation of the contents of consciousness. Associations are the thoughts and emotions that appear when considering an experience. A basic may be considered an object itself. An Audience or Member of an Audience considers. Avoidability is the absence of an object or a path to an object irrelevant to an intention. Anticipation is the degree to which resources may be sensed and arranged as useful for a workflow’s future. and vice versa. An Artist is a person or group of persons who frame an experience. be it a line or a description. Being an artist does not exclude one from being an audience or member of an audience. or participates in a work of art. A Boundary is anything delineating one side from another. Being an audience does not exclude one from being an artist. Awareness is knowledge appearing at a threshold of consideration A Basic is a simple experiential component of an object or group of objects.

A Concrete Intention is an intention with a clear vision. It is a developed sense of our own capacity to meaningfully decide and act. Consideration is the process of resting attention upon an experience. Courage is the willingness to create flow within or through acknowledged adversity. A Craft is a field of knowledge and/or skill. Confidence is a trust in our ability. Crafting conditions is an act of creating an organizational structure for an intention or its session. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 570 . and attention. A Context is a structure or configuration of time. A Constructive Intention is an intention felt as lacking in play but decided as useful to develop play either later or for other meaningful intentions. A Concrete Task is a stored intention with a clear vision. such that it may be relied upon. space. Cleanliness is the degree to which we arrange the environment to allow and promote agency.

A Decision is a choice between intentions. A Creative Session is a session developing a creative intention. highlighted by a relief of invisibility. Creativity is a guidance of play in resolving an unclear vision. Elegance is beauty and strength. A Creative Space (aka playground) is a designed set of conditions fostering play. Distillation is a development of the intention to understand what is most basic to our own experience of an object or group of objects. often simple in nature. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 571 . A Creative Task is an intention drafted towards realizing an unclear vision. It is the highest marker of organizational maturity. A Creative Intention is an intention with an unclear vision. Dedication is the regularity with which one uses courage and confidence to cultivate meaning. A Creative Question is an attempt to resolve an unclear reality from present experience.

conscious. An Item is an object experienced as external to the mind. An Idea is an object mainly experienced as internal to the mind. Focus is a process of aligning and sustaining attention upon an object. and any combination thereof. Habits are repeating actions with a tendency to continue repeating. Learning is a depth of transformation in meaning. emotion. An Error is a perceived deviation from a path toward vision. It is a constellation of concept. Grouping is a process of organization in which items are placed within a same or similar category due to similarities between them. An Intention is the potential created between a present state and a proposed reality. meaning. unconscious. A Guide is an object assigned the purpose of calling or directing attention. Flow is a union of play and work in a process of self-actualization and fulfillment. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 572 . It is often found when developing a meaningful intention.

Meaning is a developed depth and breadth of connection between thoughts. and experience. emotions. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 573 . conscious and unconscious. The opportunity may be provided by a teacher presenting information acknowledged as likely relevant or by the recognition and acknowledgement of an error. A Mistake is an unacknowledged error. Mastery is play matured within a craft. Loss is the experience of a vision resolving. and experience. Meditation is a process developed by a regularly practiced focus upon a predefined object. conscious and unconscious. storage. emotions. and retrieval. Memory is an internal process of organization including attention. Management is a system’s regular and iterative maintenance. A Lesson is an acknowledged opportunity to learn. encoding. A Meaningful Intention is an intention with a depth and breath of connection between thoughts. into an undesired realization. gradually or suddenly.

The simpler a characteristic. influenced by meaning. An Organizational Structure (also called Organizational Framework) is an object or system of objects designed to support or clear a path for a flow or development. An Organizational Misalignment is an unacknowledged uncoupling of an organizational intention from a primary intention. and decision. An object is a bounded experience. the more natural it is and the more it tends to imbue a concept or craft. It is a process of enhancing an object's organizational state. An object’s Nature is its composition of basics. An Organizational Intention is an intention to support and clear a path for another intention’s development. Natural is a relative term. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 574 . It is experiential. Motivation is an inherent tendency. A Moment is an experiential unit of time. to design and resolve a vision through action. understanding. Organization is a process of clearing or supporting a path for a flow or development. It is a conscious and unconscious maintenance and development of that which is found meaningful.

logic. and avoidable when irrelevant. intention. It is optimally accessible at a relevant context. between world and self. and avoidability of items within it based on relevance to each other and as a whole. It is Avoidable when it would otherwise impede our workflows An Organized Station is a set of stored intentions placed at their point of utility. and action. A Playground (aka Creative Space) is a designed set of conditions fostering play. An object’s Organizational State is the degree to which: 1. accessible and available when relevant. It is a connection and movement between intuition. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 575 . question. We are Aware of its relevance to our workflows 2. It is a flow between thought. often in a relaxed state of heightened attention. accessibility. emotion. conscious and unconscious. and reality. It is Accessible when supportive to our workflows 3. Patience is the skill to allow and accommodate for a process to develop at its own pace. Play is the essence of creativity. An Organized System is a system which optimizes the awareness.

space. Regular Sessions are the application of time. Present Experience is a momentary state of the overall thought and emotional landscape. with a conscious acknowledgement of loss. A Question is an attempt to perceive a reality from present experience. A Primary Intention is an intention supported by one or more organizational intentions. Relevance is an object’s connection or relationship to an intention in meaning. Sacrifice is a decision to pursue one meaningful intention over another. Purpose is an intention assigned to an experience. and consistency. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 576 . A Project is an intention. space. conscious and unconscious. often stored. Practice is a regular organizing of play in a craft over time. and attention to an intention with depth. frequency. incorporating a group of related tasks. Procrastination is an avoidance of a primary intention. and time.

and habits. and habits. used to shorten the distance between a vision and its realization. Stations are containers for intentions. sessions. stations. and attention used developing a workflow. often in words. A Task is an intention stored. Task Management is a management of sessions. space. Skill is an object of potential developed in learning. A Session is the time. stored in intrinsic memory. external to agency. stations. Silence is a state of attention resting upon present experience. A Skill is a developed ability. A Tool is an object. A Tag is an object adding a handle to another object by which the latter may be grouped and sorted. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 577 . Sorting is a process of organization in which items are arranged in an order by the differences between them. to influence change. A Task Management System is a centralized location and/or methodology for the management of tasks.

developed over time.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 578 . A Vision is a developing proposed reality different than present state or experience. time. Trust is a belief. A Teacher is a trusted source of relevant knowledge. A Workflow consists of the paths and components involved in moving an object or objects from one state to another in space. The availability of some objects may not appear until a Threshold of Organization is reached for one or several other objects. or experience. that something will continue behaving as it has in the past. Work is what we do for which we hope the world will support us. A Work of Art is a framed experience. such that it may be relied upon. A Workspace is a creative space organized for an intention’s development.

! ! ! Appendix E: Odds & Ends

Please note. 2002). ! David Allen. (Penguin Books. For Further Reading The following are a series of books I’ve read throughout the years that have been helpful in shaping my present system of thought regarding workflow. (Penguin Books. too. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. First Thus edition. But I do believe that much of what they have to say has been very much worth my attention and may well be for others. A distillation of workflow that allows the individual the freedom to devise and adapt one for themselves. Creative works are a synthesis of the world around us formed into a singular voice in play. I cannot and do not agree with everything these authors say. ! David Allen. as I am an individual. A continuation of the Getting Things Done book. Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done. 2004). ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 580 . Here are several authors who have been helpful in my path to the present.

! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 581 . London: Penguin Books. (Vintage Books. Fiore. About keeping an eye on and developing systems for all aspects of one’s work. 2007. Zen in the Art of Archery. The Now Habit: The Fiore Productivity Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. Ltd. ! Neil. (Crown Archetype. ! Michael Gerber. (Harper Perennial. a book aiming for efficiency in the attention one places on maintenance. 1995). Eugen. 1999). Third Edition. ! Herrigel. (HarperCollins. An interesting book on observing experience. Expanded Updated edition. and Join the New Rich. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5. The E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. 2009). A wonderful systematic observation and consideration of what this thing we call creativity may be. 1997). Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. ! Timothy Ferriss. Live Anywhere. Among other things.. A nicely written book on how procrastination is a motivated act and that understanding the motivation can help avoid the ill-practice.

! Stephan Nachmanovitch. ! Kenneth Higbee. An oddly slow read that has an immense amount of beauty to it. and Dan Heath. 2nd edition. (Plume. ! Julie Morgenstern. A practical description of steps towards mastery. Chip. (Little. Heath. New York: Crown Business. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. (Tarcher. Your Memory : How It Works and How to Improve It. Brown and Company. 2001). 2nd edition. An excellent means of reconsidering decisions. ! George Leonard. (Da Capo Press. Your Office. A clear and practical guide on organizing the physical world. ! Lawrence LeShan. A no-nonsense guide to considering memory and the mind. to instead be creative. Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. 1992). 2013. (Holt Paperbacks. and Your Life. Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home. 1999). ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 582 . once thought as concrete. An enjoyable book on meditation. Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery. 2004). 1991).

! Josh Waitzkin. Revised Edition. (Jamey Aebersold. practical way. Donald Murray. Another concise book on meditation. A tribute to the iterative nature of creative work. Stage Performance. An eloquent description of the conversation with an audience. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. (Heinemann. (Free Press. Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. An excellent read about various components of learning. The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America's Greatest Writing Teacher. ! Kenny Werner. Deep Meditation . ! Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 583 . Explores the concept of silence in study and creativity in a gorgeous. 2011). Truly someone who has been able to distill the process of play in work. 2009). ! Yogani.Pathway to Personal Freedom: (AYP Enlightenment Series). 2012. ! Livingston Taylor. (CreateSpace. 2008). 1996).

Programs Used Programs used in making this text included: ! • Apple’s Pages • Bare Bone’s BBEdit • Devon Technologies’ DEVONthink Office Pro • iZotope’s Ozone • iZotope’s RX2 • Literature and Latte’s Scrivener • The Omni Group’s OmniFocus • The Omni Group’s OmniGraffle Professional • Smile Software’s TextExpander • Stairway’s Keyboard Maestro • Steinberg’s Cubase • Steinberg’s The Grand 3 • Telestream’s Screenflow • Calibre • Sigil
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 584 .

he took a break by writing a booklet.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 585 . Before finishing it though. and then finds himself playing a ridiculously long video game. he attended Northwestern University’s Integrated Science Program where he studied physics. He thinks he’ll kick the habit after this book. Silly him. Then he thought he’d write a pamphlet on using a program called OmniFocus. he once wrote a book about video game play and how games can actually be pretty neat. math. In any case. He then had the pleasure of playing in bands while trying to figure out how music “works”. His family and friends keep supporting him. He presently continues his studies of the mind with the Institute for Psychoanalysis and is a practicing therapist and psychiatrist in Chicago.. That turned into a book. He’s still trying to figure that one out. he claims that he’s heading off to the piano. but their care is really just an enabling. He then took a hard left turn and went to medical school at the University of Illinois at Chicago. biology. About The Author Kourosh began playing piano at about the age of 5 with periodic private instruction until college. chemistry and music classes on the side. you’d think he’d find some. For all the talk he does about agency. We’ll see. For college. That turned into this book. In any case. Then he wrote stuff on workflow. again at the University of Illinois at Chicago. but he didn’t even know he was doing that until at least halfway through. Let’s see how well he develops those intentions. Kourosh has become a writing addict. though they have no idea. Having always been interested in the mind. he then thought he was done writing. and then child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Chicago.. this time about choosing a therapist. he decided on pursuing a residency in psychiatry.

md ! Creating Flow with OmniFocus: Mastering Productivity Available at A definitive productivity and task management guide. for the days. other books by 
 kourosh dini. Using the excellent task management program from The Omni Group. it is a companion guide to Workflow. and years so that you can work and play with a clear mind. In many ways. OmniFocus. Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 586 . weeks. learn to schedule and arrange. in detail.

Video Game Play and Addiction describes the importance of play and examines the technological world of video games as a learning tool. degrees. This 25-page pamphlet quickly gives the reader an overview to help a person find and decide upon a path of therapy.
 Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 587 . Choosing a Therapist Available at Amazon Navigating the myriad names. Video Game Play and Addiction: A Guide for Parents Available at Amazon Winner of Mom’s Choice and National Parenting Publications Awards. and types of therapies in the world of mental health is not straightforward. The potential benefits video games have to offer as well as their detriments when left unchecked are explored in detail with some suggestions to help guidance towards healthy play.

Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics 588 . ! ! ! ! ! We may grow old. But decay Only the day We’ve stopped Making silly faces in the mirror.