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Why Do People "Backslide"

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  • Why Do People "Backslide"

    Hello - Looking at that very funny "The Scary Place" thread made me wonder about why people sometimes abaondon using GTD because I've been living out that scene with a colleague.

    I was very fortunate to be able to to attend one of the seminars a couple of years ago with him. Great guy...really talented. We came back to work and got ourselves all set up - he was actually more eager than I to get it set up and it was really helping him; however, for some reason - we never discussed it - he just stopped using it. He is notorious for not following up on email; he has no in box in his office anymore, so if you walk into his office and hand him something it goes into one of many piles; he couldn't find a folder for a key project for about three days; if you look at his email inbox, every other email is read - so he is cherry picking email; I was getting folders from our used folder box and I found folders with Nov, Dec. 1, 2, 3 etc. in there which I guess used to be his tickler; he has a general aura of stres around him, etc.

    I've had to have some very delicate conversations with my boss about not taking on more and more of this guys work which has helped, but I've had to set some pretty firm boundaries. My boss just came out and said that the other guy requires a lot of handholding. The other problem is that I SEEM less busy because I am less frantic (usually!).

    It really IS scary and I feel badly that he struggles.

    He tends to have high ideals, so my guess is that his perfectionism got the bet of him...or for whatever reason he stopped trusting his system.

    Any theories out there on why people "go back"?

  • #2
    Your Backsliding Buddy

    Your colleague might be one of those people who tries to be so meticulous and perfect that he is easily overwhelmed. These people create systems that are so complex that they can't keep them up, and end up falling into total chaos.

    Another possibility is that he is consciously or unconsciously using chaos and clutter in order to avoid doing parts of his job that he is confused about, afraid of, or simply detests.

    The fact that his work is finding its way to your desk may support the latter theory.


    • #3
      Why Do People "Backslide"

      Any theories out there on why people "go back"?
      I spoke with one of my (many) coaches this week. He mentioned something that made me sit down:

      He said that the seminar I deliver, and the style in which I deliver it, combines two important elements. (1) What I do to stay productive, and (2) Who I am to be productive.

      I have to admit I'm a thief and a spy when it comes to the first one. If I see someone doing something, or hear of an idea, to be more productive...I'll try it. If it works, I'll keep on doing it. (I've learned SO many productivity tricks from others!)

      The second one is not as basic. Rooted in my past, built and strengthened over time: I consider myself a person of integrity. I tell the truth, I keep promises, I build relationships.

      Because of this, I manage my agreements. I'll be honest and say it's not easy. It's not always easy, and sharing with others how and why I do it can be challenging.

      How do I share with someone that I believe unkept or broken agreements causes stress, and more than two thoughts about things at the same time distributes focus beyond produvitity? Why do people argue a position of obvious discontent, while maintaining a focus of crisis and fatigue? And, how, I seek the answer, can I more effectively share information and resources with clients wishing to increase their productivity and decrease their stress in sustainable and successful ways?

      I'm working on it, and time will tell.


      • #4

        I'm afraid that successful implementation of GTD may require at least 99% of inegrity (telling the truth, keeping promises and building relationships).
        Many people are not considering keeping promises as important thing during their life. So I do not believe that they are able to change. They will NEVER successfully implement GTD. In my opinion you cannot teach someone to keep promises.
        As in water skiing - if you are not able to water start after 3 attempts, you will probably never learn this skill.


        • #5
          Re: Integrity

          Originally posted by TesTeq
          Many people are not considering keeping promises as important thing during their life. So I do not believe that they are able to change. TesTeq
          What is interesting (apalling) to see is how the cultures of some organizations create that kind of attitude and behavior in their members. When members of the organization are constantly expected to promise delivery when 1) they have no idea if they can deliver as promised when promised or 2) when they already know that they cannot deliver as promised when promised, they will get to the point that they start to view promises simply as statements of intention. That attitude can eventually bleed over into the rest of their lives.

          I disagree that it cannot be changed. Just as integrity can be unlearned, it can also be relearned. The re-education effort requires honest self-examination, a lot of humility, and persistent effort. It's hard, but not impossible.


          • #6
            Integrity learning.

            I think you cannot learn or unlearn integrity. It is too deep in your character. You can only pretend that you are reliable or unreliable person according to the environment you are in. So Jason's permanent coaching for a given person can be a solution - he creates appropriate environment for successful GTD implementation.


            • #7
              Isn't the issue of integrity to "act" with integrity? I am on the side that says that acting with integrity can be made into a habit by practise. To "have" integrity sounds abstract and overly subjective - cf: Burns - Robert, not David or George - the greatest of all the poets - ok, I am Scottish and a little biased:
              "O wad some gift the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as ithers see us."
              ("O would some power the gift to give us, To see ourselves as others see us!")



              • #8
                Been thinking about this some since posing the question. I really hadn't thought about it being an integrity issue, but now that I think about it, I do believe it has a lot to do with that. And the point about the culture is very interesting - in fact, when I first started in this department, it was very acceptable to blow off deadlines - to just say "oops, sorry, I didn't get to it - can I have a couple more days" the day the work was due. We used to pad the deadlines we gave people to the point of being silly. This has been changing over time though.

                Here are a couple things I think might also contribute to making GTD a habit:

                1) How a person feels about himself/herself. I had a big breakthough in my ability to not live such a chaotic life when I realized that it was the same as any other commitment we make to taking care of ourselves - excercising, eating a healthy diet, etc. I view GTD as a way I take care of myself which in turn helps me with the responsibilities I have to others. It takes committment at first, but OVERALL, it an easier way to live. And then once you have established the habit, it is really not hard at all and you can't imagine going back (hence, "The Scary Place" postings).

                2) A persons ability to personalize their system and use their intuiition - which means taking ownership of the process. I know the person I was referring to was having some struggles with determining which contexts were appropriate for his NA lists (@ calls, etc.). I know for myself once I personalized my NA contexts and my weekly review list, it became much more useful to me. I imagine that really making the process "your own" is probably a major tipping point at which things stick - which is probably where the coaching can be a big help.


                • #9
                  GTD customization

                  I think everybody must customize GTD using general guidelines for creating the 100% reliable external memory system. For example there is no standard context list and one must create the set which is best for him (in current living environment). If the environment changes the context list may need modification. I think the necessity of the change can be easily spotted during the weekly review.


                  • #10

                    It's really good product. Thank you.


                    • #11

                      Please understand that I am very new with GTD (actually I am just starting). I became interested in GTD through the Atlantic Monthly Article, and I just received GTD yesterday. I have had his most recent book longer, and I looked at items on the website.

                      I understand the importance of honesty (provided it is not an excuse for rudeness). Integrity and reputation are extremely important.

                      But where do they fit with GTD? Have I not gotten to that part yet?
                      Why couldn't a louse be an organized simplified louse? They could get there work done and then would have more time to politic at the water cooler. They could put tasks like "get Bellaisa to do more of my work" into their PDA.


                      • #12
                        Russel, Welcome to Getting Things Done!

                        David's system is a workflow management system, plain and simple. Although he does talk about the higher altitudes:
                        Runway - Next Actions
                        10,000 - Projects
                        20,000' - Areas of Responsibility
                        30,000' - 12- to18-month goals
                        40,000' - 5-year plan
                        50,000' - Why do I exist? Why does my company exist?

                        A lot of the principles come from David's training in the Martial Arts. Although the training is for self defense, there are people in the world that use thier training offensively in a negative manner. The same could go for the GTD methodologies. I had never thought of this before, however.

                        Since this is the "Art of Stress-free Productivity" a louse could certainly use the methodologies to be even more stress-free as they push their work to others. However, I would question as to whether this person would even have the motivation to read the book and set up the system.

                        David isn't selling a religion, morals, or personal values. It is merely a workflow management system. When James referred to us as "The Cult of David Allen" in the Atlantic Monthly article, he wasn't talking about our morals, he was referring to our zeal for the methodology.


                        • #13
                          Thank you for your posts Ricky and Russell. Oh that my colleague were proactive enough to have a "list of my work to give Belllaisa" category (although that was a bit frightening when I read it1). Then we could sit down and talk about it specifically. The issue is he not proactively taking control of his areas of his responsibility so certain chunks of it just seem to drift my way - mainly via my boss rather than him. I don't think he is actively thinking about this....that is the problem. He just seems to be in a bit of a fog.

                          I enjoyed Ricky's post about values. I agree that this is just a work flow processing system; however, I do think it does promote integrity in the sense that it helps you to keep your commitments to both yourself and others. You become more highly intentional. How a person uses that is up to them and their values... I suppose Osama bin Laden could have used it to orchestrate flying planes into buildings, etc.


                          • #14
                            Thank you both (Bellaisa and Stargazer Rick):

                            Your answers were helpful. I can see now how GTD would dovetail with integrity via an ability to assess situations more honestly and keep your commitmants. Much poor behavior (but not all) is caused by stress related to a lack of either quality.

                            It is interesting you brought up Osama Bin Laden because I thought of him too.

                            However, I was thinking more of the selfish personality type really, and I suspect Rick is correct when he says that type of personallity is not likely to use this system.

                            Unfortunately Mr. Bin Laden is a utopian and his actions are based on what he percieves as the greater good (a very dangerous mind set). Therefore, I suspect he could make use of of the principals. What is likely to hold someone like him back is the fact that he already thinks he knows all the answers and is not very likely to listen to knew concepts. We can hope so anyway.