Zen & the Art of Work – review part 5 – “Preparing time”

After a number of blog posts on the US elections, which I found too interesting not to observe and write about, I’m back to “touching the keyboard”, as Kourosh himself referred to it. I’m back to writing my thoughts about his excellent course “Zen and the Art of Work”. This is the fifth part of the review, of the fifth video chapter, titled “preparing time.” But first I want to make a general observation of what Kourosh, at least in my mind, intends to teach.

My current state of understanding the material

To date, what Kourosh has taught me is to make sure my desk is empty before I begin. I come out of the storm of daily life with its multiple impressions, I put everything away, make sure that I am settled, and then I can begin the work.

This is a strong approach, because it “forces” you (bad choice of words, but implore does not have the right tone) to be right here now. Only when you can do that, when you can be with the work, and let your creativity play with the work, that’s when you will approach the work the right way.

Note I’m not saying that you will be most productive, although it is likely you will be more productive than in a situation in which you have many other things on your mind. Note I’m not saying that you will get better results either, because that is not the purpose. It’s likely that the results will be better because the focus is there, but the purpose, in the end, is to be with the work.

This approach and the intent Kourosh shows here reminds me of the work of the late Stephen Covey. From him I learned that there are no shortcuts. This course gives essentially the same message. Do the work.

What is this chapter all about

Let’s return to this specific chapter. In this chapter, Kourosh explains how we can work towards a flow state, a state in which the work is done with the least possible resistance. Such a flow state is something we strive to achieve, but there is a whole lot going on around us all the time. How do we ensure that we are in the work and we stay in the work?

The genius of buffering

One of the first ideas Kourosh launches is the use of a reminder. However, this is an approach which is different from the traditional Pomodoro technique. It’s not about cramming as much as possible in an available time slot. It’s about creating a sanctuary in which the work can be done. Kourosh offers a good technique to ensure that there is room for dealing with distractions: he buffers.

His idea to employ buffering as a simple technique to ensure that the administrative overhead of my session will be covered, in order to continue the next time I revisit this work, is simple yet genius. It’s an idea like the cat flap: obvious once it exists, but darn genius to come up with. A reminder can be used as an indicator of running up to the buffer.

Kourosh details how this simple practice adds value to a session. It allows for more relaxed settling, because if at the end of a session you are stressing about capturing everything, you may end up losing some of the key insights you have gathered throughout the session.

What does this chapter mean for me?

As stated above, this simple idea of buffering a work session, to ensure that you can close it out in a relaxed manner, is genius. I’ve been a Pomodoro user for a long time, and I’ve always felt rushed during these sessions. Combining the lessons from earlier video chapters with this chapter has taught me a very practical technique that adds real value to my work sessions … which also accounts for the increase in material on this blog in the past days.

A final consideration on this chapter

I really like the encouragement that Kourosh gives at the end of each session. It cements that idea of accomplishment. I’ve started doing this for myself, and I intend to do it for team work sessions as well.

See you for the next part of this review.