What has been said is confirmed by the fact that while young men become geometricians and mathematicians and wise in matters like these, it is thought that a young man of practical wisdom cannot be found. The cause is that such wisdom is concerned not only with universals but with particulars, which become familiar from experience, but a young man has no experience, for it is length of time that gives experience; indeed one might ask this question too, why a boy may become a mathematician, but not a philosopher or a physicist. It is because the objects of mathematics exist by abstraction, while the first principles of these other subjects come from experience, and because young men have no conviction about the latter but merely use the proper language, while the essence of mathematical objects is plain enough to them.
Of course, the dirty little secret of GTD is that it is impossible to comply with these abstract principles.
As a mature adult, I have developed certain habits over my lifetime. Right now, I am planning to go to bed tonight before 10 pm and wake up tomorrow by 5 am and take a shower. But if I weren’t writing this post I would never have gotten this commitment to myself out of my head into written form. I know how to shower and shave every morning and need no reminders. I only remind myself of things that I need to remind myself of.
How do I know what I need to remind myself of? To answer this question requires judgment. DA cannot answer this question for you. He can only ask you, given your knowledge of yourself and your past history, do you think that you will need to be reminded of commitment XYZ?
My shave and shower example may seem ludicrous. But the underlying point is of major importance. There are commitments we have which we do not put into our trusted system even though they are in our heads. We do not actually get everything out of our heads. We get the nonroutine things out of our heads. And whether something is routine or not is heavily dependent on our individual circumstances. So this requires judgment.
I plan on eating breakfast before I leave my apartment tomorrow morning. At work I plan on turning on my computer. I plan on checking the prior business day’s sales. I plan on replacing the backup cassette that runs nightly.
The prior paragraph lists a number of important commitments I have. But only the last is listed as a reminder in my trusted system. I do not want phone calls and other interruptions to prevent me from replacing the backup cassette.
When I first started replacing the backup cassette, I needed to break that action down into subsidiary steps. Activate the monitor of the server, log in to the server, open the backup program, confirm that the backup ran correctly last night . . .
How I describe an action takes judgment. “Next physical action” is a shorthand DA uses. But it really is not accurate. Even the simplest next physical action is always a project. It is always divisible into many physical subactions. But most of those physical subactions we do unconsciously. We only need to put into our trusted systems those actions that, in our judgment, we need to be reminded of.
So I am getting my commitments out of my head. But I am not writing down: “Put clothes on before leaving apartment.” If I were recovering from an injury or an illness I might very well write down, “Put clothes on before leaving apartment,” because that commitment might then require nonroutine action.
This is one reason why mastery of GTD takes time.