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How To Be Idle

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  • How To Be Idle

    Am wondering if anyone has read this book, published in 2005, by Tom Hodgkinson, the editor of "The Idler" magazine? It is decidedly British in tone and content, but what struck me was the similarities between Hodgkinson's philosophy and David Allen's assertion that he is "the laziest man on the planet."

    So many of the threads in this forum discuss how to do more, be more productive, etc., so I wanted to inject this thought... I think sometimes we tend to forget that GTD is equally, if not better, suited to making an "idle" life possible. By that I mean that having all one's agreements objectified in a trusted system allows one more freedom to engage in daydreaming, in expansive, creative thinking, in doodling and dawdling, in just plain being. Perhaps it lessens the feeling that we are slaves to our work, our jobs, our responsibilities and gives us back a little autonomy and, dare I say, dignity?!

    Has anyone else found this to be not only true but a desirable benefit of GTD?

  • #2
    I absolutely agree

    I first started really applying GTD as I started a new job that was radically different from the previous one. I was completely overwhelmed, stressed out and thinking I made a huge error.

    After about 2 months of solidly applying GTD I felt totally in control and was sleeping better and starting to think about projects that moved from my "Someday/Probably Never" to my "Someday/Maybe" list.

    I don't know about being totally idle though, maybe productively idle? idley productive?


    • #3

      I dont believe David Allen when he says that he is lazy. GTD is way too much work for a lazy person. The truly lazy (I'm an expert) dont bother with gtd because its way too much work. Working smart is always harder than working hard - thats why so few do it.

      There should be a place in the world for people who want to get straight C's. GTD can help such people because it makes them better equipped to do as little as possible. I suspect that most at this forum are trying to do as much as possible.

      Am I even on topic?

      It used to be that recreation was considered a sign of true success. Busy-ness is the measure now. I think many people are too busy to live.


      • #4
        the meaning of "lazy"

        Not to get into a semantics game, but I think you are mis-understanding what David Allen means by being "lazy".

        When I've read DA, and heard him interview on the point of his "lazyiness", I understood him to mean that this system is all about expending the least amount of effort possible to accomplish whatever it is that you've decided you would like to. It is not about being productive every minute of the day, unless that is what you choose to do with your time.

        Really doing GTD is about epending less energy, not more. I think that this is the same impulse which drives genius in human history - the drive to "get more bang for our buck", which always takes an initial up-front investment, whether that is setting up a GTD system, or doing R & D to develop a new "labour-saving device" - the payoff on the backend is exponentially greater than the initial investment.

        David Allen has clearly illustrated how not doing GTD genrally involves a whole lot of unneccessarily duplicated effort - thinking the same thoughts about unprocessed stuff over and over; reading and re-reading the same email without making a decision about what it is and what to do with it. Trying to do something, with the extra psychic weight of all the unprocessed "stuff" on your mind - all of this wastes a tremendous amount of thought, energy, and effort, and is precisely what this lazy person has chosen to bypass by using the GTD system.

        Laziness, in this context, is not the same as idleness, nor does doing GTD mean non-stop, frantic productivity, without any breaks, recreation, or times of idlenessn or quiet reflection.

        David Allen is lazy - and in fact, he is a genius at it.


        • #5
          I just got back from spending the afternoon at a local museum. I was willing to take the afternoon off because I knew, thanks to GTD, exactly what wouldn't get done.

          So yes, GTD certainly supports idleness.

          For any creative person, idleness is an essential part of keeping the mechanism working. I always tend to forget that, but the number of notes I threw in my inbox when I got back was a pretty forceful reminder.



          • #6
            [GTD-Psychology] A Lizard's List

            Still convinced that the purpose of GTD and all the lists we have is to have the time, energy and open mindedness for the things that should not go on any list.


            After I had done my shopping this Saturday morning (shopping list) I worked on one of my small pine trees (an item on my “@home”-NA-list). Then I had a short meal and watched a tv documentation about the formation of Jupiter-sized planets somewhere out there in the galaxy (both items were not on my NA-lists). Got outside again to water my plants (a habit, not on any list). A small grey lizard that lives under the stones nearby came to visit me.
            The lizard (probably a wall lizard “Podarcis muralis” ) was busy running around while I was watering the plants. But then we spent some time staring at each other, relaxing, and enjoying the hot sun on our patio, although this wasn’t written on any list (neither mine nor the lizard’s).

            Last edited by Rainer Burmeister; 05-28-2005, 06:58 AM.


            • #7
              Frog and Toad are friends

              This reminds me of one of the stories from the children's series "frog and toad are friends", in which toad, the fastidious, more anal character can't go out and play with his friend frog until he completes everything on his to do list...

              As frog is helping him through his chores, a big gust of wind comes along and blows the list out of toads hand, which frog begins to ran after and says "toad, come on - we have to run after your list".

              and Toad replies "I can't run after my list - that's not on my list of things to do today!".


              • #8
                I think I can see where David Allen is coming from. I just finished up with our last week of school. Lots of stress, plus room cleanup for the summer, final meetings, etc. I spent today being very lazy. But, I was able to really enjoy it because if I had any ideas that needed capturing, I just recorded it and went back to whatever I was doing. It felt good to not worry about ideas that popped into my head. GTD can help you to not only feel good about working but to feel good about relaxing. You know that your bases are covered.


                • #9

                  Maybe it is semantics, but I know its easier not to keep all the lists. You just have to be able to block out the nagging voices asking you what you're not doing.

                  David Allen probably accomplishes more in a day than a truly lazy person accomplishes in a week.


                  • #10
                    Great to hear everyone's thoughts! For me, idleness and laziness are two different things. I should look up the dictionary definitions, but...I'm too lazy!!

                    I think of idleness as actually just a "slowing down" of thought processes and actions, whereby I can actually hear myself think. Idleness has a meditative quality, and doesn't preclude activity. I definitely see "laziness" as a negative and "idleness" as a positive state. Idleness can lead to action, whereas laziness precludes action... Again, just my own distinctions -- not Webster's...

                    And I agree that GTD does require activity -- but it ideally takes the shape of thoughtful, proactive strategising so that one can, as Jeff K pointed out (sorry, I haven't gotten the hang of "quoting" yet!), expend as little energy as possible to get the greatest possible result. Front end activity instead of back end "scrambling."

                    At any rate, thanks for engaging with me on this topic -- I really do think life is a dance between rest and activity, and, over the past 10 years GTD has really contributed to my ability to strike a balance...


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dal1mdm
                      Maybe it is semantics, but I know its easier not to keep all the lists. You just have to be able to block out the nagging voices asking you what you're not doing.
                      You're always keeping the lists. The question is where: externally or in your head? For me it's easier to know what I'm not doing than to wonder what I'm not doing.


                      • #12
                        Perfect, Gameboy70!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gameboy70
                          You're always keeping the lists. The question is where: externally or in your head? For me it's easier to know what I'm not doing than to wonder what I'm not doing.
                          Well said.


                          • #14
                            Also, is suppression of those nagging voices a good thing? They're nagging you for a reason, aren't they? Might suppression of those nagging voices hurt you in the future, by deadening you to the sound of a truly important reminder?