I was cruising Dr. Mercola’s site again today and I came across a post about productivity.

It gave a list of questions you could ask yourself to get your act together.  The questions were plucked from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” program.

This man is highly revered for what he’s done to transform people like yourself into lean mean productive machines.

The questions below are great but I’ve spotted a flaw in some of them.

What you say to yourself is the most important factor when it comes to your success.  Everything you do is a result of the conversations you have with yourself.  Everything.

Some people’s dialogue allows them to live life on their terms.  To do what they want, when they want, with whomever they want, for however long they want and wherever they damn well please.

Some people’s self talk is so rotten they’re convinced themselves there’s no way out of this problem, things will never get better and they should commit suicide because of it.

Think of the movie Shawshank Redemption.

Tim Robbin’s character “Andy Dufresne” is wrongly imprisoned.  For years he was beaten, tortured, and taken advantage of.  Circumstances that are prime breeding ground for suicide chatter.

But did Andy give up?  No.

The questions he asked himself allowed him one at a time to get juiced in with the captain of guards, the warden himself and to cultivate an unbreakable bond with Morgan Freeman’s character “Red.”

There’s more.

The quality of questions he asked himself allowed him to escape prison, become rich and save his best friends life.

This movie moves me to tears every time I watch it.  Especially these parts…

RED (V.O.)

Those of us who knew him best talk

about him often. I swear, the stuff

he pulled. It always makes us laugh.

A wild burst of laughter. PUSH IN on Red. Feeling melancholy.

RED (V.O.)

Sometimes it makes me sad, though,

Andy being gone. I have to remind

myself that some birds aren’t meant

to be caged, that’s all. Their

feathers are just too bright…

269 EXT — FIELDS — LATE DAY (1966) 269

Convicts hoe the fields. Guards patrol on horseback.

RED (V.O.)

…and when they fly away, the part

of you that knows it was a sin to

lock them up does rejoice…but still,

the place you live is that much more

drab and empty that they’re gone.

A DISTANT RUMBLE OF THUNDER. Red pauses, gazes off. Storm

clouds coming in, backlit by the sun. A light drizzle begins.

RED (V.O.)

I guess I just miss my friend.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

This is the part of the movie that touches me most.  The language of this metaphor is so beautiful I don’t even need the music, the visuals or Morgan’s voice for this to choke me up.

I didn’t think it’d matter.  I should’ve known better.

Do you hear how Red talks himself into a un-resourceful state here?  Listen to this next part…

………………………………………………………………………………………………

INT — SHAWSHANK HEARINGS ROOM — DAY (1967)

Red enters, sits. 20 years older than when we first saw him.

MAN #1

Your file says you’ve served forty

years of a life sentence. You feel

you’ve been rehabilitated?

Red doesn’t answer. Just stares off. Seconds tick by. The

parole board exchanges glances. Somebody clears his throat.

MAN #1

Shall I repeat the question?

RED

I heard you. Rehabilitated. Let’s

see now. You know, come to think of

it, I have no idea what that means.

MAN #2

Well, it means you’re ready to

rejoin society as a–

RED

I know what you think it means. Me,

I think it’s a made-up word, a poli-

tician’s word. A word so young fellas

like you can wear a suit and tie and

have a job. What do you really want

to know? Am I sorry for what I did?

MAN #2

Well…are you?

RED

Not a day goes by I don’t feel

regret, and not because I’m in here

or because you think I should. I

look back on myself the way I

was…stupid kid who did that

terrible crime…wish I could talk

sense to him. Tell him how things

are. But I can’t. That kid’s long

gone, this old man is all that’s

left, and I have to live with that.

(beat)

“Rehabilitated?” That’s a bullshit

word, so you just go on ahead and

stamp that form there, sonny, and

stop wasting my damn time. Truth

is, I don’t give a shit.

The parole board just stares. Red sits drumming his fingers.

CLOSEUP — PAROLE FORM

A big rubber stamp SLAMS down — and lifts away to reveal the

word “APPROVED” in red ink.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

How’d you like the takeaway close here?

His conversation landed on anyone who heard it as genuine and from the heart.  Taking on the identity of a wise man who realized he wasn’t his mistakes is what made his statement so congruent.

In this next piece listen to how he has to talk himself out of being a quitter…

………………………………………………………………………………………………

288 INT — RED’S ROOM — NIGHT 288

Red lies smoking in bed. Unable to sleep.

RED (V.O.)

Terrible thing, to live in fear.

Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all

too well. All I want is to be back

where things make sense. Where I

won’t have to be afraid all the time.

He glances up at the ceiling beam. “Brooks Hatlen was here.”

RED (V.O.)

Only one thing stops me. A promise

I made to Andy.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

You might have had conversations similar to this.  You mind is telling you to quit.  This isn’t working.  Go get a real job.  You’re afraid because you don’t know where the rents gonna come from.

But there’s the part of you that doesn’t care because what you’re doing now makes you feel alive.  You’re days fly by because you love your work.  You haven’t made it yet but you’ve promised yourself you’d do whatever it took to make it.

In this next section, you can listen to Andy sell Red on the idea of living…

………………………………………………………………………………………………

ANDY (Voice Over)

Dear Red.

If you’re reading this,

you’ve gotten out. And if you’ve

come this far, maybe you’re willing

to come a little further. You

remember the name of the town,

don’t you? I could use a good man

to help me get my project on

wheels. I’ll keep an eye out for

you and the chessboard ready.

(beat)

Remember, Red. Hope is a good

thing, maybe the best of things,

and no good thing ever dies. I will

be hoping that this letter finds

you, and finds you well.

Your friend. Andy.

By now, tears are spilling silently down Red’s cheeks. He

opens the other envelope and fans out a stack of new fifty-

dollar bills. Twenty of them. A thousand dollars.

293 INT — RED’S ROOM — DAY (1967) 293

Red is dressed in his suit. He finishes knotting his tie, puts

his hat on. His bag is by the door. He takes one last look

around. Only one thing left to do. He pulls a wooden chair to

the center of the room and gazes up at the ceiling beam.

RED (V.O.)

Get busy living or get busy dying.

That’s goddamn right.

He steps up on the chair. It wobbles under his weight.

294 INT — BREWSTER — RED’S DOOR — DAY (1967) 294

The door opens. Red exits with his bag and heads down the

stairs, leaving the door open. CAMERA PUSHES through, BOOMING

UP to the ceiling beam which reads: “Brooks Hatlen was here.”

A new message has been carved alongside the old: “So was Red.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………

Andy made Red question his belief that he couldn’t make it on the outside as a free man.

Andy and Red made it to their glorious ending by asking themselves a better quality question.

So did real life redemption artists like Viktor Frankl, Ghandi and Nelson Mandela.

Everyone with a fully functioning mind has this power.  Especially you.  You’re being here reading this tells me that.  You could be reading a tabloid rag now but you’re not.  And for this I commend you.  You’re a rare and special being.

Below is the list of 11 questions David Allen says you can use for a weekly review.

I’ve listed his questions and re-mastered the ones I felt could be better in blue.  Use whichever you wish.   Ask yourself these question at the start of your week to maximize your effectiveness and lead yourself into a productive week:

What do you have to work on the next few days?  What do I get to work on the in the next few days?  I don’t like to feel forced into doing something.  I love it when I “get” to things.

What deadlines do you have coming up? What deadlines are going to be conquered by me?

Are there any new projects you have time to start working on?  Where is the extra time in my schedule I can use to work on new projects? You get what you look for.  It seems to me it’d be easier to say no to the first question.  The second one presupposes there is time and I just need to find it.

What went wrong over the past week? What lessons can you learn from that?  How am I a stronger, smarter and an even more sophisticated person from what I learned from mistakes I made or others made this week?

What went right over the past week? How can you make sure more of that happens?

How well are you keeping up with all my duties and obligations?  Duties and obligations are ugly words to me.  This question smacks of the parental/authority language I’ve shunned my whole life.  I like… Who or what is depending on my kick ass expertise this week and how can I maintain the impeccable reputation of a man who does what he say’s he will?

What is coming up that you need to be prepared for?  Once again a word that can be transformed; need.  Need here seems like I’m being sentenced to dreadful work.  Being prepared when an opportunity is anything but dread.  It’s magnificent.  Instead I’d ask myself “What do I get to do to prepare myself to make this upcoming project my bitch?”

What kind of help do you need?  Here again need sounds whiny.  I’d ask “Who’s my go-to-guy or gal I get to share the glory with of making this project our bitch?  What resources can we use to grease this process?

Is everything you’re doing contributing to your advancement towards your goals? What can you do about the stuff that isn’t?  What’s the list of things I can do this week that will contribute to the accomplishment of my goals?  What allows me to focus the majority of my time on these activities?

Are you happy with where you’re at? What would you like to change?

What are your goals for the next week? Month? 90 days?  What are you most happy with in your life now?  What part of your life can you change to make yourself even happier?  Meeting what goal will make my up coming week a week to be proud of?

David Allen is a bad mofo.  You should definitely use what he has to offer.  But just because he’s a bad mofo doesn’t mean you should relax and accept everything he tells you.

I know I don’t have to tell you this but I will anyway.

Be a bad ass bouncer for your mind.  Screen out the trouble making loser language and ideas that want to come in and ruin the party.

Just because someone has guru status doesn’t mean they’re perfect.  I live by this belief and that’s what made me question these questions.  They didn’t gel right with my thinking.

So, I modified them to suit me.  You should do the same if you don’t agree.  And then tell me in post here on the blog so I can consider adding them to mine.  I’ll be looking forward to hearing what you liked and didn’t like about this post.

I’ll talk to you soon.

Wishing You speedy and spectacular success,

Note Taking Nerd #2

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