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GTD a flawed system?

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  • GTD a flawed system?

    I started the thread "scheduling action items". I also reference the recent and related threads "too darn many todo's" and "comparing GTD to other systems".

    I think the points in these threads identify serious flaws in the GTD system, or at least in the system as it is defined in David Allen's book (perhaps seminars and personal coaching offer additional information). In particular, while I like the principles the system is based on, I'm going to risk getting flamed here by stating that I think the system is lacking in its implementation prescriptions. Reviewing the board, I am clearly not the only one that sees a gap in the methodology and inconsistencies in guidance among the GTD staff when it comes to managing significant numbers of projects and next actions.

    Quite frankly, I found the staff's posts in those threads to be vague and too high-level to be useful in any practical sense. I think all of the postings by users who have "adapted" the system and think its great because it allows you to "adapt" it are kind of humorous. Its not a very complex system; if you adapt it enough you've created your own system.

    I think GTD needs another book dedicated solely to implementation of the system. I believe I saw in a thread that the next book may focus on principles. This is the wrong direction to head in. Enough about the principles and benefits and more on implementation.

  • #2
    GTD a flawed system?

    Try something else, and see if it works better. If nothing works better, then go back to GTD.

    Go in peace,
    Mike Ogilvie


    • #3
      I'm not sure what you mean by "implementation"? Is it that you've gotten your next actions staged in the appropriate lists, but can't seem to get on to the "Do" stage? Or something else?


      • #4
        Barry Glenn

        I understand your frustration. GTD is the best system I've found, but I still havent found clarity on what to do next when there's a list of 200 todos and 70 projects. At best, it just gives me a clearer picture of how overwhelmed I am. Like you, I think it doesnt get down to the reality of day to day, moment to moment execution (you call it implementation).

        There's alot I like, but there's also this big barrier.


        • #5
          "Implementation" is definitely where I struggle. The idea of this system is to "clear the decks" to support the implementing. It can't take away the struggles -- difficult decisions that need to be made; people who need to be worked with; information that is hard to find or to clarify; etc. My feeling is that it is not the system that implements; you do.


          • #6
            Originally posted by csweningsen
            "Implementation" is definitely where I struggle. The idea of this system is to "clear the decks" to support the implementing. It can't take away the struggles -- difficult decisions that need to be made; people who need to be worked with; information that is hard to find or to clarify; etc. My feeling is that it is not the system that implements; you do.
            Hear, hear!

            As much as would like a system that actually made the hard decisions and automatically provided me with the discipline to carry through consistently, I don't think such a thing exists. One of the most memorable sayings I have seen lately was on a PBS gardening show. It went something like "Even very best planning eventually degenerates into work."

            If someone wants to find something to make those day-to-day decisions for them, they could try Life Balance--but then you simply trade one struggle for another. And it still won't do your work for you!



            • #7
              Buckets, I mean Triggers

              GTD is a great system for getting organized, but as previously posted, it doesn't do the Work for you. It may even exaggerate your existing faults! (Or as DM might say, it gives you a greater awareness of what you are not Doing.) I can be a procrastinator and use the "Incubate" bucket too much, and that just means bringing the items back into my Inbox when the Tickler date rolls around - back to square 1, except that my Inbox is getting bigger, not smaller. But sometimes I am too anxious to force an Action out of everything, so I can end up loading up a huge and unmanageable ToDo list - and still not get more done. So I feel that the most difficult part is "Processing", which really has been my problem all along, except that with GTD I have a larger inventory of items that need Processing because it includes Inbox, Calendarized Reminders, Deferred Ticklers and Action Items that shouldn't be on @NA Lists. I end up using the Weekly Review for re-Processing!

              I think that the most important part of Processing is having the right buckets to Process into, and the right buckets should be Triggers to action. This is where I have played with my system altogether too much - changing the buckets, looking for Triggers that will work for me. One thing I do know is that Location is not the right categorization for me - I simply expand Appointment times to accommodate "in the vicinity" NA's. I use both paper and Palm to try to get the right agenda view, and I would be interested to know how other people get from "Organized" to "Do".



              • #8
                What is the real meaning of "implementation" of a system?
                What is the expected outcome?
                The answer, I think, is : new habits.

                Adopting new habits is a very difficult thing for any human being.

                In the book David Allen describes it in a deceptively simple way: work hard a weekend and you are set.
                Well, in real life that is impossible, because we are not able to change our habits overnight.
                I have been struggling with the implementation for almost 2 years now, and am not able to follow 100% GTD yet.

                I Collect well, my Processing is still very slow, my filing system is far from ready, my Planning is weak, the Doing is getting quicker at last. I feel I'm getting better every day, and that's a good feeling.

                I have included in my weekly review an evaluation of my performance with GTD. The implementation of GTD is in itself a project, and has next actions also, like any other project. Isn't this a great system?


                • #9
                  GTD a flawed system

                  I don't know if I would be to quick to label the GTD system as flawed vs misunsterstood. My grasp is that it is organizational targeted as oposed to motivational. DA has ventured gingerly into motivational tips when lured, but the system's main focus from my view is to organize all the loose ends whether it be 20 or 200 projects. In any event, if we follow and implement the system we will be better off than we were before because of the simple fact that we will have all the loose ends identified and in their proper contexts.
                  To get motivated to accomplish the tasks and projects is another avenue that I don't perceive DA and company as outright staking a claim on. The GTD system is a positive component that will aide in the motivation process, but it appears by no means to be the driving force.
                  We have to find appealing motivational solutions to thwart procastination resutling from what apears an overwhelming list of tasks and projects, the overwhelming feeling that "there is no way I am going to do all of this"
                  In short, GTD will get it all in focus, it is up to the user to complete the picture.

                  Just my two cents worth,


                  • #10
                    Weaknesses in the system (?)

                    I "feel the pain" here. My wife (semi-correctly, IMHO) thinks I've gotten more stressed seeing all my work defined before me. (Part of the stress is that I fit well into the chief-of-staff w/ young kids example from the book...) A couple of semi-random thoughts:

                    Any system can only do so much for us. GTD is good at getting a complete inventory of "stuff", and then transforming that into work. What it isn't good at is making us focus explicitly on our top priorities. There's always the lure of "stuff" that needs to get done sometime (the water the plant example from the book). Yes, that gets us small wins, and at some level it has to get done. Where I see a challenge is that I tend to gravitate to water the plant--completely consistently with the decision-making criteria in the book (e.g., I have low energy and 10 minutes available)--but then not get around to important things (the major proposal isn't done yet; the contract isn't signed yet). Most of us only have so many high-energy hours in the day; other times, we're OK, and sometimes we're zombies. The challenge is most of us have more high-energy tasks (with deadlines) than we have high-energy time in the day. We have to find a way to cram high-energy tasks into zombie-energy timeslots.

                    Part of the answer is to not keep plants around (I say that in jest, but we have to get better about getting things OFF our lists once they're on them, and by that I mean deciding it ain't gonna happen and removing them. If that's too tough, at least move them to the someday/maybe list.

                    While I definitely agree there are some practices in GTD that seem to be applicable across broad-ranges of situations, the academic in me has often wondered if 1) there aren't probably some aspects that are more suited for certain personality types, or jobs, or, and 2) it might not be true that for many people, seeing all the work creates more "psychic" pain than simply saying each week, "Here's the most important things I need to do in each area of my life, and anything else that gets done is a bonus" (a la Covey)?



                    • #11
                      I agree with Gentek and Bryan. No system, book, program, speaker, etc. is going to make the decision for us about what is the most important, rewarding, etc. thing to do at any given moment.
                      Similarly, no system, book, etc. is going to reduce our workload.

                      I too felt even more stressed after I converted my old "to-do" lists into project and action lists and completed a mindsweep. However, I realize that I didn't have one additional piece of work after that exercise than I did before. I had just made myself conscious of all the commitments that I'd made. And that feeling of angst and stress that I was then feeling consciously was always there subconsciously, giving me the heartburn, high blood pressure and waking me up at night!

                      At least now that I know what I'm fighting, I feel like I've got a chance.


                      • #12
                        this reminds me of statement that david makes on the GTD fast tapes,
                        "people get mad at me for their lists, but they had those lists allready--just in their heads "

                        GTD was very stressful to me when I looked at my lists as "things I've got to do or else " after hearing the seminar over and over again ..I realized "these are lists of commitments that I've made to myself and others" It's up to me to decide which of them need done when or if at all. I still deal with stress sometimes viewing the lists but that's just "how am I going to get this stuff done this week ?? " general stress

                        sometimes the commitments made to myself take a back seat to the ones made to my boss.

                        If progress isn't being made on the lists then you deal with frustration --and that's natural.


                        • #13
                          "the system"

                          Just some general thoughts that I've come to realize about GTD.
                          (I used to think the system was flawed also)

                          but I can see some basic goals in the design of GTD, the way he describes it , it doesn't sound much like a design but something that developed over years of personal practice and coaching.

                          --it was supposed to move fast (and it can )
                          --it shouldn't require any special tools or software to implement (it doesn't )
                          --it shouldn't require a lot of upkeep from the user --if I'm sick today and don't work my lists the system doesn't fall apart because I havent' re-prioritized my lists or fwd'd all my daily tasks (ala franklin covey)
                          --it should be based on basic principles of thought/action (the next action thinking process and the natural planning model)

                          I think GTD does what it was designed to do very well.

                          If I want something to tell me ..where in my schedule I should try to do my tasks ...then I need Above & Beyond software and that requires a special tool (which doesn't sync well with palm)

                          if I want something to tell me if my life is in balance and arrange my tasks to do that ..then I need life balance software (which I use) but the decision on what to do is still up to me.

                          I think David could have made GTD system do all these things but then it wouldn't be as readily available and usable as it is. I don't think the system is flawed --I think it wasn't designed to do some of the things we wish it would.

                          just my .02


                          • #14
                            Since using GTD, I get a lot more done.

                            And the stress levels still can get high sometimes...but when I look at what I am doing now vs. before, I see that the stress is because I am taking on more than I ever did...and am getting it done. So the stakes are higher because of my choices.

                            Gtd is about action, not planning. The biggest benefit for me has been that now I can focus better on what I have to do in front of me instead of fretting about the size of my -to do- list. Yes, sometimes it is frustrating to think that there aren't enough hours in a day, but that appears to be universally true for most of us anyway, regardless of what our lives look like.

                            We make up our own lists...and with action, we can shrink them.


                            • #15
                              Yes, sometimes GTD seems to be great at making lists and not so great at actually Getting Things Done, but in my experience this is not necessarily the result of the GTD system. I think that I am far better off with GTD than without and I do believe that I now get more things done. At the very least, when crunch time comes I know where to find everything and am not wading through piles of paper and notes.

                              I submit, however, that one reason many have trouble with "implementation" is that there simply aren't enough hours in the day. I find some days when it takes me most of the day just to process my inbox and emails (along with the unavoidable interruptions). This leaves very little time to actually do any tasks outside of the 2 minute rule. My workgroup is also so lean and mean that on many items there is no one left to "delegate" to. In the business world these days I don't think I am alone.

                              For me I just have to look at the situation and put the best face on it that is possible and "renegotiate" some of these items and decide to let them go.

                              Finally, I think the real beauty of GTD is that it makes it easier to do little bite-size pieces of many projects and keep them all moving forward. In the past, I would let projects languish until I had "enough time" to really work on them which meant that they either never got done or became a major fire before getting action. Now, while I have many. many projects that stay on the list for some time, I can honestly say that they are moving forward incrementally and eventually they will be complete.