The Warmth Of The Radically Mechanical

04/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Many business and personal relationships could warm up if they were more mechanical.

When I coach people through their immense piles of work flow and "stuff," there is invariably a significant amount of communication that emerges as the next action on many items. "Oh yeah, I need to talk to my spouse about that." "I should ask my secretary to look into that for me." "I ought to check with my boss on this..." etc. A common habit is for people to hold off handling those items they have for other people until they see them, and sometimes even to interrupt everyone concerned while it's on their mind to deal with it. Especially when the person is close to them personally or professionally.

I constantly am asking, "Can you put that into an email?" or "Can you put a post-it on that and route it to them?" -- even when the person is only in the next office! People often stare at me (some glare at me!) like I've got three heads. Why on earth should they use what seems such a mechanical form of communication, especially with their "special" people they ought to be warmly communicative with? They find it hard to believe that I email things to my wife Kathryn, even when she's at her desk working a few feet away from me!

Well, the last thing in the world I want to take up time and space in my face-to-face relationship with Kathryn is all the communications and agendas about the mundanity of life and work. I can offload that while I'm thinking about it, without interrupting her work in progress. She can then deal with it in her own timing, much more appropriately. Our real time together is then really about what I'd prefer our real time to be -- warm, informal, intuitive, spontaneous, and free.

Perhaps people just think they need something to talk about to give them an excuse for warm interactions. There might be exceptional situations where that's true. But I read of a study once that estimated the typical married couple spends over 85% of their communication time together with stuff like, "Are you going to pick up the kids on Friday?" "Did you order the new door handle?" "What time is the party on Sunday?" Not my idea of the most fun way to spend a relationship.

Get your spouse and your kids their own email addresses. Put notes to your secretary in his in-basket, even with him sitting there. Warm things up.


You can find out more about David Allen and GTD at

The David Allen Company is a professional training, coaching, and management consulting organization, based in Ojai, California. Its purpose is to enhance performance and improve the quality of life by providing the world's best information, education, and products in the fields of personal productivity and work/life balance.