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GWTD: Natural Planning for Intentional Community

February 2, 2009

In which I observe that my inbox is not full of the same stuff that most GTD practitioners’ inboxes are, and describe an effort to steer a pagan intentional community planning meeting closer to the natural planning model.

Rereading and re-implementing David Allen’s Getting Things Done this time around has been an adventure. While I can feel how much more committed I am to the project of becoming more productive than I was last time, and how much more self-aware I am with regard to my particular challenges in this area, I am also more acutely aware of the internal resistance created by the fact that the stuff I have to do looks quite unlike the stuff Allen has his business executives collecting and processing.

Yesterday, my inbox contained, among other things: plant ginger, draft agenda for the pagan intention community planning meeting, three dishes to cook for the potluck, wash and dry cloth napkins, order medicinal plants, clean the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room, and my bedroom, and practice awareness meditation for at least ten minutes. And today, a workday, while my inbox does in fact contain such mundane items as follow up with members who have missed payments, it also includes a Purim planning agenda, items for designing flyers and publicity for a class on Hebrew letters and the life of King David, cleaning the kitchen at the synagogue, and watering the newly installed lawn.

It’s not that I can’t see how the methods and processes that are applicable to an account executive with a wife and a regular golfing appointment are also applicable to a synagogue administrator who gardens, thinks about museums, and works on creating intentional community. It’s that I don’t care to read or think about other people’s stuff that I personally find boring; it doesn’t help me find my own stuff interesting enough to care what happens to it. Obviously I have to care what happens to it to get it done.

So this will be a series of blog posts entitled “Getting Weird Things Done,” about the unusual things some people are using productivity tools to accomplish.

For this post, I present the use of the natural planning model for the aforementioned pagan intentional community planning meeting. Now, in most planning meetings that Allen is familiar with, if you present an agenda and there are no real problems with it, people will at least make a show of accepting it and trying to follow the outline. In a group of pagans planning intentional community, if you present a predetermined agenda you have already done something suspect, something that erodes trust and triggers hostility—you’ve introduced hierarchy into their egalitarian consensus-based process. So while it was essential for me to create an agenda, and I definitely needed to be reminded of the natural planning model to keep myself on the right track, the goal wasn’t to make sure we stuck to the agenda but to introduce the natural planning model in a way that felt… natural.

First we invited folks to throw out ideas about what they wanted to talk about. One of the first items to be proposed was talking about people’s personal timelines—how soon did people want to have this done? (Mind you that while this group had been talking about what “this” is in different configurations, these particular people had never all sat down at the same table before.) Another was where—what location criteria did each person require? I proposed that we first go around and say why we wanted to live in community, and why pagan community. We did that first and then moved on, almost without interruption, to the other topics mentioned—the “what would it look like” and “how do we get there” visioning. While this was primarily a social meeting and the most productive thing we managed to accomplish was to set a future meeting date, familiarizing ourselves with our own and others’ whys, wheres, and whens was really a step forward as well. However, we have a lot more to get done before we can take concrete steps, and our “how” thoughts are not very organized. At our next meeting, I will propose an agenda that follows the natural planning model and see what happens.

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