The stoplights in my town are something to be desired. (That’s the nicest thing I could think of without using four and five letter words.) Ok, ok… they suck. Bad. At night, they’re exponentially worse. Here’s why: for some odd reason, the sensors don’t work right late at night. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled up to the light late at night, with a car across from me and one adjacent to me waiting for the light to change. And waited, and waited, and waited… I kid you not sometimes it takes 3 minutes. And three minutes of stewing about stoplights is like a half an hour. (There’s an eqaution out there somewhere for it, I’m sure. It’s related to the human years to dog years equation.) And the best part: once a car going in the direction of the green finally gets to the laggy light, the light changes and makes the unsuspecting car stop. It never fails. I almost cry sometimes.
You see, the frustrating part isn’t the fact that I have to wait. I’m not typically an impatient driver and I don’t mind waiting in heavy traffic. It’s a fact of life, and it’s going to happen. No, the painful part is when waiting doesn’t have to happen. In theory the light could easily turn green for me, let me go on my merry way and return back to green in the other direction, without anyone waiting.
Unfortunately, it almost seems as though the stoplight is too focused on the car that will eventually come, as opposed to the cars already there. I find myself doing the same thing sometimes. As opposed to stepping back and looking at the big picture, I’ve got tunnel vision going on and I’m only focused on one thing, as opposed to what is right under my nose.
An efficient stoplight would always be changing to suit the immediate needs of the cars as they pull up. The same could be said about our own productivity. The gist of Getting Things Done is mainly that you always have something that you could be doing, and knowing what the next steps are to get it done. By seperating the tasks into contexts (home, office, phone, car, flight to moon, etc.), you’ll always have something to do wherever you are. So take a lesson from a stupid stoplight and make the best of your surroundings.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
— Teddy Roosevelt