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Jonathan Mariano headshot

Appropriate Engagement: A Strategy for Personal Sustainability

You have heard of stakeholder engagement, which covers social dimension of sustainability. But have you heard of appropriate engagement?

Appropriate engagement encompasses the personal dimension of sustainability.  The appropriate engagement strategy was developed by organizational and personal productivity expert and developer of Getting Things Done (GTD) David Allen.

David Allen was a featured speaker for a group of entrepreneurs at the inaugural Green Business Base Camp (GBBC) last week in Los Angeles, CA.  GBBC is an accelerator for Green Business and Cleantech Entrepreneurs.  During his talk, Allen described what it means to not only feel more engaged, but actually be more engaged with our everyday actions.

Tasks, tasks, and more tasks
We all have busy lives.  Our email inboxes are overflowing, voice mails filling up, snail mail stacking sky high, and Facebook or Twitter feeds to catch up on.  We may even have events to go to, meetings to plan, plans to write, and deadlines to meet.  On top of all that we may even have those spontaneous ideas and goals of things we want to do but don’t feel we have the time to do it.  Also, don’t forget the things we do in our personal lives.  We get stressed.

The reason we get stressed and feel like we are getting nothing done is that our attention is not where it should be.  We are trying to meet a deadline, yet our attention is on Facebook.  We are on Facebook, yet while reading the feed, our attention is on the deadline we need to meet.  In other word, we are inappropriately engaged, by placing our attention on more tasks than we can handle at one time.

Becoming appropriately engaged
To become appropriately engaged, Allen says, "If you do not pay attention to what has your attention, you will give it more attention than it deserves."  At first, this suggestion may sound like nonsense, but after a few reads, one may see the wisdom it imparts.

A key lesson is to have the ability to shift in and out of the tasks we are doing.  In other words, we need to be able to change and refocus where we place our attention and engagement.

When we focus on one task or goal, we need unfocus and let go of paying attention to the others. We also need to be able to unfocus on the first task, to focus on the next task.  Allen calls this rapid refocusing, “That is not multi-tasking, that is rapid refocusing.  You cannot consciously focus on more than one thing.”

Prioritizing personal development
Whether you are an entrepreneur or not, appropriate engagement may help you live a better, balanced life.

“Entrepreneurs are still very focused on speed of getting to market, but my observation has been that they are less willing to sacrifice their entire personal lives in pursuit of an economic set of goals.”  says Carrie Norton, Founder and President of Green Business Base Camp.  “Personal development does too often take a back seat, and I believe it should take a front seat, and not just for entrepreneurs, though that is our initial and primary audience.”

So, what are you doing to become appropriately engaged?  What other strategies do you have for personal sustainability?

Image Credit: Jaxxon via Flickr

Jonathan Mariano headshotJonathan Mariano

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

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