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Wednesday, March 3, 2010


In our normal life, we go through an information processing series whenever we're confronted with a problem or issue.  For instance, if we see some kid playing on a swing set, and he comes flying off - breaking his fall with his face - we rush over to see if he's OK and to render aid.

It's a natural series of events that we don't really think about.  We just do it.

In reality, we go through a series of steps called OODA - Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

In our example above, we Observe the kid go flying and land on his face.

Without thinking, we also Oriented ourselves to the surrounding scene:  Did the kid pick himself up immediately and brush himself off?  Did the kid's mom come rushing to his aid?  Is anyone else rushing towards the kid?

If the answer to all of these questions is 'no', we Decide that the kid is in trouble and needs assistance.  We then Act on all of this input and rush to his assistance.

All in the blink of an eye.

We can use this process in our everyday lives to help set a framework for getting certain tasks completed.  What's nice is that it isn't overly structured, but just lays things out in a logical manner, and we can re-apply the Loop whenever we get stuck at any point.

For instance, let's say you want to put together a home medical kit for your preps (possible answers to the questions are in parentheses):

  • I have little more than a box of Band-aids for all emergencies.  
  • If access to medical services was eliminated or reduced, I would have little or no ability to treat any sort of ailment.
  • I need a home medical kit.
  • What resources are available to me - money, time, training/skills?  ($100, 3-hours a night after work, one lapsed CPR class)
  • Does anyone in my family have any specialty medical needs?  (Yes - child with asthma, mother with rheumatoid arthritis.)
  • What types of medical emergencies or ailments should I prepare for? (Cuts, scrapes, broken bones, dislocated joints, burns, eye injury, colds/flu, puncture wounds, deep lacerations, dental problems, head trauma, common maladies such as rashes, aches/pains, indigestion and constipation )
  • Does anything need to be completed or researched before I build my medical kit? (Yes - Buy basic first aid and trauma procedure books; Research online sources of medical supplies; Sign-up for re-certification for CPR/First Aid; Look at other "pre-packaged" first aid and trauma kits to see what they contain, so I'm not overlooking anything; Research natural or non-prescription alternatives for asthma and rheumatoid arthritis problems)
  • What time frames do I want to get this done within?  (2 weeks)
  • I'm not going to leave myself without the ability to render basic aid to myself or my family.
  • I have the time, money, motivation and access to information resources I need to get this done.
  • I'm going to build a home medical kit and get the skills and/or resources needed to render aid.
  • Read first aid, trauma, dental books and websites for common lists of first aid supplies.  Build a list of suggested contents.
  • Contact doctors for emergency supply of asthma and arthritis medications.  If declined, do online research and add the natural or non-prescription alternatives to the list.
  • Cross check this list with typical contents of pre-packaged kits.
  • Source the best prices online and compare with in-store prices
  • Buy products and how-to books, and complete the kit
Take note in the Orient section about setting a deadline.  Remember:  If it doesn't have a time limit, it's not a goal, it's a wish...

Do this with any preparedness issue (or any other issue for that matter) that you want to get done.  Food storage, personal safety training, weight loss/gain, alternative energy sources - whatever floats your boat!

Accept The Challenge

We find it all too easy to procrastinate.  We know things must get done, but when we think about them, they can tend to overwhelm us, and we put it off.

Using an OODA Loop or any other type of project management/decision process tool can help get projects prioritized AND completed.

One of the keys is to break large, complex tasks into smaller, bite-sized pieces.  Structure them to give yourself some "wins" along the way to help keep your spirits up and motivation high.

If you happen to come to an impasse at any point along the path to completing your task, start a new OODA loop at that point.

In the above example, let's say your research said that peanut butter was the best non-prescription alternative to rheumatoid arthritis (I'm just making that up).  Let's say your mother will go into anaphylactic shock if she even brushes up against peanuts.  Start a new OODA Loop at that point to work through your new problem towards an acceptable solution.

Here are a couple of examples of how to continually re-evaluate a situation using the OODA Loop.

Image Credit:  Patrick Edwin Moran/GNU

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