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Beyond the trusted system

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  • Beyond the trusted system

    Today I had one of those flashes where something suddenly dawns on you. I realised something which is in some ways common sense and should be blindingly obvious, but which I think bears spelling out explicitly as we tend to forget it...

    In discussing GTD, we often talk about the "trusted system". If we can't trust our system, we can't get to the "mind like water" stage. But what I realised is that you'll never be able to trust your system if you can't trust yourself first. For example, if I can't trust myself to systematically whip out my Palm or notepad or whatever each time something comes up that I have to remember or that I have to act upon, then "mind like water" remains an illusion.

    Stated differently, you might say that you are part of your system yourself. And in order to trust this important part, you have to develop the necessary habits, i.e. to acquire some automatic behaviours. Without this, everything else you may try is largely irrelevant.


  • #2
    My newfound 'distrust' of the system was due to loss of Calendar data (was using DB5 over the 'stock' DB app. Even with BackupBuddy 1, could not easily find or retrive the lost data). So-trust does extend to every part of the GTD picture, tools included...


    • #3
      Your the part of the system.

      That's a very good point. And since I do not believe that adults can change significantly, in my opinion GTD is not for everyone. There are three main kinds of people:
      1) GTD-born ones. After one reading of the book they are able to seamlessly adopt GTD using any tools.
      2) GTDers that need to be "refreshed" and coached.
      3) GTD-never ones - there is no hope.


      • #4
        Testeq, I think you're exactly right. Some people just won't use an organizing system no matter what.

        My girlfriend is as accurate as I am on appointments, etc. The only thing she has is a simple $2 phone number book. She sometimes writes things down on a big block calendar next to her desk, but not even all the time. I can't figure out how she does it. I've got my planner with me almost all the time. But as long as it works...


        • #5
          Trusting System?

          I am very (very) new to GTD, so I appologize if what I am asking is one of those commonly understood "things" that everyone who know the system "gets".

          Why wouldn't you trust a system that you yourself are putting into action? I t appears that people modify the system to suit their personal needs in any case.

          Is it a lack of trust, or a lack of dicipline? I lack 100% dicipline at times so please don't think I am throwing stones. But it seems that the system requires some up front (on a continuos basis) effort, and not everyone can consistently make that commitment. when someone falls off a diet, you don't say they didn't "trust" the diet. They just decided that the immediate desire of eating poorly was more important then the long tem desire of beauty and health.

          Many people have very little ability to put off immediate concerns for future benifits (Suposedly us "Americans" spend 8% more on average then we earn).

          Am I completely missing the point? Or am I just not understanding the "jargon." As I noted above, I am very (very) new to GTD.


          • #6
            Trust in the GTD sense is totally different from discipline. A big portion of the methodology centers around "putting something in front of the door." Have you ever needed to take something to work that was mission critical? You couldn't afford to forget it? What did you do? Right, you put it right in front of the door so you would see it and not forget it. You "trusted" the system of putting it in front of the door. If you were basing if on "discipline" you might have put it under the bed knowing that you would be "disciplined" enough to pull it out because that was the method that you chose to use.

            Another part of the GTD methodology is that we don't need to think about stuff other than during our weekly review or when we are processing our in basket. At all other times we are just working from our lists. Our minds are free to be creative because all the thinking has already been done. You might find this post enlightening:

            Thanks for asking the challenging questions! You're making us think here!


            • #7
              Let me relate my original point to your analogy. If I put something in front of the door in order not to forget it, then this is a system I can trust, as I can't miss it on my way out. (By the way, I've actually a plastic bag hanging from the front door knob right now with some things I have to take out tomorrow ).

              But my point is this: if I can't trust myself to put it in front of the door in the first place (which you may call a lack of discipline if you like), then the system simply won't work. So I'm really part of the system, and in order to make it work, to be able to trust it, I must develop either the discipline, or better still, the habits to make it work.

              Habits (routines) are better in my view, as they eliminate the need for discipline and conscious decisions: they are behaviours made automatic, and as such eliminate the resistance that often gets in our way. Of course, in order to develop these habits, an amount of discipline will still be needed.

              An additional point about the analogy. If you put something in front of the door, you really can't miss it, unless you have several possible exits. A GTD system is not so self-evident, as there you still have to remember to use that door (disciplin/routine again).


              • #8
                GTD requires some discipline!

                I fully agree with you! GTD requires some discipline as the base of the system implementation. You must maintain your lists and do a weekly review regularly. Only internal motivation can force you to do it.


                • #9
                  earlofmar11 - I was actually replying to russel120's post where he asked, "Why wouldn't you trust a system that you yourself are putting into action?" Below is a response to your original comment. Sorry for the confusion.

                  I have been implementing the GTD system myself for a year and a half. After this amount of time it has only been in the last few months that I have come to fully trust my system. To reinforce your original posting, it has taken me that long to really develop the necessary "habits" that allow me to maintain that system:
                  - Getting all my inboxes to 'zero' daily
                  - The weekly review
                  - Maintaining a projects list
                  - Asking "what's the next action"
                  - etc.

                  I agree with you that habits are better than discipline. With habits we don't think about them, we just do them. And of course, as we seek to have a "mind like water", we need to get as much off our minds as possible.

                  David compares this with driving a car. When we first begin learning to drive we have to be totally focused on the road. We make quick, choppy turns of the steering wheel, we're tense and unsure of ourselves. As we get more comfortable with driving, our movements smooth out. We are able to drive comfortably and we can even have a conversation, listen to the radio, or think about the corporate merger while driving.

                  So, earlofmar11, I agree with you totally.


                  • #10
                    GTD may not work when you're overwhelmed.

                    There is an interesting blog post at about the reason why GTD may not work when you're overwhelmed.