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  • Could GTD be harmful? Part I.

    Sorry, I know this could be somewhat controversial, but I think we should face this openly, as it's a very important issue.

    We all agree that GTD is a great boon to one's productivity and general well-being.

    What if that assumption is dead wrong?

    What if implementing GTD blunts your effectiveness at the highest levels, while delivering benefits only in a limited range of functions... great for lettercarriers and corporate taskmasters, but a disaster for scientists and artists?

    I worry about this, as I plunge deeply into the GTD system - please don't kill me for saying this, it's a serious worry.

    Here's where my concerns come from.

    1)GTD might actually provide a poor substitute for low-level task performance abilities with no benefit. Example:

    Some years ago, when I first got a PDA, and started using it, a friend had a curious reaction. Basically, he said that he abandoned his PDA, because when he started using it, his brain switched off things he used to do effortlessly before. Whereas before he'd naturally remember appointments and tasks, once he got the PDA and started setting alerts and putting dates in the calendar, he'd be totally LOST without his PDA. He no longer remembered any appointments. He "offloaded" this task to his PDA (a GTD goal!) - but didn't feel he gained anything. It was simple substitution, and an inferior one at that: not only did he have to rely on the PDA hoping the battery won't die, the PDA won't die, won't be lost etc., but the substitution was actually a poor one: it cost him more in time to enter the data, to change the data (as appointments shift), and generally the penalty of servicing the PDA. He got a poor substitute for something he had before naturally, and got no benefits in return.

    The brain is like a muscle - use it or lose it. If you let that ability atrophy through reliance on a system, you'll end up weak should the system break or be inferior. It's as if you strapped on a "walking machine" that carried you around - your leg muscles would get weak to the point where you couldn't stand up unassisted without the machine, meanwhile the walking machine is a poor substitute - you can't run, you can't jump, you can't dance, you can't play in the stream.

    2)My REAL worry - project planning.

    I have read the chapter on project planning in the GTD book some 12-14 times.

    The GTD method of project planning might work - will work - well for a number of projects. Yet, it might be inadequate for whole classes of projects. I think that mapping out many classes of projects is just a hopeless affair in principle. The primary reasons are that you simply cannot plan for actions which only suggest themselves once you're engaged in the execution of the task.

    Trivial example: over the weekend, I bought a new computer, and decided to put in a new hard drive in it, and transfer some of the data from my old computer.

    I prepared a detailed list of the order in which these tasks should be done: first put in the drive, then install the OS, then transfer programs in this particular order etc. It took me some 2 hours to generate my detailed list.

    The next day, I sat down and executed my list. The first 5 minutes went according to plan, then I hit a snag: since I was working with macs, I should have formatted the drive first. That wasn't on my list. So, my list went out the window. Now, should I be blamed for it not being on my list? Not really - there are a million things that can happen, which there is no way on earth for anyone to anticipate. So why lose the hours in constructing a list (all of actions which were more than 2 minutes each), which will be so easly obliterated? Isn't that true for MOST projects? You really CANNOT anticipate everything? And if you can't, why not just DO it and resolve things as they come up instead of trying to pre-plan them? When I ordinarily did this (computer setup etc.) in the past, I'd resolve issues as they came up, I didn't refer to lists, in fact, as I was doing things would suggest themselves which there was no way of anticipating whatsoever.

    Now, if it was just a matter of inefficiency - useless planning which merely wastes time, that would be regrettable but not actually harmful in a deep sense.

    However, there are things here which are actively, quantifiably harmful under some circumstances.

    Offloading things off your mind - the great purported GTD benefit. So you generate a list and cruise through your actions, executing with low stress. Except, because you naturally cannot anticipate all circumstances, you cruise right into a disaster - your list was faulty (nobody is clairvoyant) - all the while lulled into a false sense of security by your list. That's active harm - false sense of security. You cannot pre-plan everything. So any security you derive from such planning is going to be false. That's not a benefit - it's a harm. So why have it?

    The heart of the problem: pre-planning can be extremely detrimental. For a range of projects, planning is a disaster in principle. Planning necessarily results in disaster. Artistic and scientific projects come to mind. I'm a filmmaker. I know that for certain kinds of performances, or for certain actors, it is a disaster to rehearse. You need to just shoot them naturally, unrehearsed, with the first take being the best - don't plan, don't rehearse, take the reading of the room at the moment as the guide to your actions. Otherwise you end up with a rehearsed performance that feels false. Some musicians also - they go into a studio and their first take is their best, as they react to unanticipated influences and effects impossible to plan for.

    Now, there is a very concrete way in which GTD collides here with that process. If you plan out for example a given story development (film), your mind becomes subtly influenced by the process. Now, your mind will naturally tend to fall into the grooves of what you planned. This limits your creativity in subconscious ways. You overlook possiblities which present themselves, because your mind has been shaped by your necessarily imperfect planning. Whereas had you simply left yourself open to the experience of doing/writing/creating/discussing/thinking without pre-planning, you'd perform a heck of a lot better and more creatively. The "plan" creates a gravitational field into which your mind naturally falls into - with extremely limiting results. That is active harm.

    In a very good book on screenplay writing, the author gave this advice: wait until the last moment before you set pen to paper. Keep playing with the story in your mind until it is really good. Why? Because once you set down sentences on paper, they acquire a gravitational power. You'll feel bound to them, they'll have a false permanence, they'll limit and circumscribe you, you'll be subconciously reluctant to strike them. You cannot help yourself - it's a subconcious process. As long as things are in your mind, they are easy to remake and reconfigure - but once you set them down on paper it becomes infinitely harder to do so. THIS is a direct harm of planning with putting things down on paper (including the GTD way). It limits you tremendously.

    The same applies to all creative endevours, especially artistic and scientific. Young artists frequently can create new movements or are most creative when young precisely because they don't "know" the old stuff, and are free to do something unapproved or unthought of. Scientists often speak of a great discovery done because the scientist "forgot" about received wisdom, planning and expectations - instead, he/she looked at the problem with "naive" eyes of a child. Planning and PRIOR ASSUMPTIONS limit you. When you pre-plan, your mind becomes subtly bound by the confines of the plan, your mind is not free to be naive and as open. That's direct harm.

    Extrapolate that to all very high level endevors. You are at your best when all your actions flow from the moment, not from a list.

    Here's why: planning ahead of time means you never have as much information as you do when actually confronting the task at hand when new information which is impossible to anticipate presents itself. Once you plan based on limited information, your plan then starts limiting you subconsciously, and your end result is inferior. When you confront a project without planning, you are looking at the freshest information, without prejudice of a necessarily inferior plan - you are free to soar. More info + greater creativity = superior results.

    End part I.

  • #2
    Part II

    A different perspective on managment: a pretty famous and successful film producer (Lynda Obst) once wrote a book about producing. Her advice was the direct opposite of GTD. She advised to PUT THINGS OFF, ALWAYS until the very last moment. Never make a decision until you are FORCED to do so. She called it "putting things on the roof". Her reasoning and experience: there's always new developments and new information flowing which can change whatever reasons you had for doing something or approving a project - so why make a decision before you absolutely have to? Only then do you have the maximum practically possible input. Tons of things get resolved by themselves or fall off the radar for one reason or another when they are "on the roof" - and that way you didn't needlessly work on a project which came to nothing. Let things come to YOU. Don't go to THEM. If the proposed script/film/project/hire is really that great, it'll survive in a Darwinian way on the roof - and if not, well, it obviously had some flaw... so why put out unnecessary and wrong effort into a loser? Let the winner fight it's way to YOU. Put off. Postpone. Put on the roof. Manage by not managing. True zen. Not the busy beehive of GTD pseudo-efficiency.

    Now, by no means am I saying that GTD doesn't work well. Perhaps it's great for some classes of projects and tasks: accounting, huge lists of tasks or items to purchase etc. Perhaps it's great in a task oriented corporate environment, or for running errands at home. Yet, maybe it is not suited for the highest level of creative performance... how often do you think of a genius running endless little errands with lots of lists, and how often is the reality of an artist/scientist/visionary who plugs away on his project at all hours heedless of plans and schedules and dinner appointments.

    I am not saying GTD doesn't work or is necessarily harmful. I DON'T KNOW. I'm just raising the question. Why am I raising the question?

    Because what SCIENTIFIC PROOF do we have that GTD works, or does more good than harm for all projects, or all styles of managment, or all lifestyles or all psychologies or all human beings?

    Where are the published verifiable, peer reviewed studies showing that GTD works? None that I'm aware of. As such, it doesn't mean it's not true or not effective. It just means we CAN'T PROVE IT. Anecdotes and personal testimonials are of limited value - otherwise we'd accept the testimonials of supplement users or dieters as to the scientific validity of their cures. Unfortunately, we have no science behind GTD. All we have is our ability to reason and exchange information and tips. Which is why I raised the issue of HOW SURE ARE YOU that GTD is not harming you? How can you know, that all that planning is not just a waste of time, but also a harm done to your creative-in-the-flow execution of projects, tasks and endevors? How do you know that you are not performing like a little corporate drone, instead of a creative force in all situations: talking to people, interviewing for a job, having a party, painting, drawing, playing an instrument, making a sale, creating a business? All the while subtly undermined and limited by the effect of GTD? Proof please.

    I'd think that before you took a plunge and committed years of your life to the GTD way, you'd be interested in knowing if it's actually beneficial - since there's no scientific proof, you should at least examine the issue.

    Again, I am NOT making any claim - I'm asking a question and raising the issue. My loyalty is to the truth, not to any system. My hope is that GTD is a benefit, and not a harm - don't we all wish to have the certainty and security of a system that actually works, instead of the chaos and uncertainty? Me too. But it must be based on truth, not illusion. Which is it with GTD? I haven't made up my mind one way or the other - just asking.

    Comment


    • #3
      Um.... I'm in the process of rereading the GTD book, and DA doesn't seem to advocate planning at anywhere the level of detail you seem to be implying. (Chapter 3 discusses the natural planning model in more detail.) Just the opposite, if anything. So while your critique of planning may be valid at some level, it really isn't relevant to GTD. In your hard drive example, the GTD model might have suggested just one NA: @Online Verify Mac drive replacement procedure.

      I'm also not sure I quite follow your argument anyway. It's one thing to say that overplanning before you know the situation is bad. I would certainly agree with that statement, and I suspect DA would, too. But it's quite a leap to suggest that *all* planning is bad. As a filmmaker, I'm sure you can appreciate the difficulty of lining up funding if you don't yet know whether the script will run 15 minutes or 15 hours, how large the cast will be, or whether it is set in the Himalayas, the Nevada desert, or on the Moon. Planning at some level is the only way to get from "i'd like to make a movie someday" to "we start shooting next Tuesday in Ottawa."

      (It's also a myth that only young artists without structure or preconceptions can create anything worthwhile. For every Picasso, there's a Cezanne; a Beethoven for every Mozart. In film, Clint Eastwood is winning Oscars in his 70s. And in the sciences you'd be hard-pressed to find a major contribution from anyone whose research *wasn't* meticulous to the point of obsession.)

      On your other points: peer-reviewed studies? Probably none. Who cares? Can you find *any* peer-reviewed study of *any* personal planning methodology? The only evidence for any of these methods is anecdotal personal experience. Which is probably just as well, since people and their work environments are so different.

      Degrades ability to keep things in memory? Isn't that why humanity invented writing in the first place? If my brain capacity is finite, I'd a whole lot rather use it thinking about the structure of my next book, not trying to remember whether my dentist appointment is at 9:00 or 9:30. (Or scheduling a root canal because I neglected routine dentist visits for too long.) Here, as elsewhere, you're setting up a straw man argument anyway. Your friend's PDA was clearly *not* a trustworthy system, and therefore did not meet the first criterion for a GTD tool. There are many alternatives between keeping everything in your head and forgetting everything because your PDA's battery died.

      If you can't decide whether GTD works, don't waste your time arguing theory. Try it--as described in the book, not as mischaracterized in your posts--for six months and see.

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        Interesting questions!

        As with all in-depth and interesting questions, your posts stirred up a lot of disparate ideas. So with your permission, I'll just dump them out more or less as they came to me.

        First up, I don't plan in the way you talk about. When I plan, I'll sit down and think about what the end result should be: getting a good, 3-dimensional, all-singing all-dancing, image of the goal. I try to be as specific as I can here, because if I'm clear about what I want, it's much easier to work towards it. Then I'll jot down all the things I can think of that need doing, or things that depend on other things, and so on. This is just the administrivia, making sure that I don't forget any persnickety details. Then I'll work out the Next Action, and when I work on the project, I'll keep working until something stops me, at which time I'll work out the next, Next Action.

        I don't plan steps in detail for exactly the reason you suggest: things never go according to plan. But as long as I know what the end result is (clear goals) and have a bookmark of what to do next (Next Action), I'm planned up, as far as I'm concerned.

        As regards 'use it or lose it', I'm much happier letting a paper system handle the mundane remembering chores, because that leaves my mind free to do all the clever stuff. And I've found that when my system is up to date, and I'm disciplined about writing everything down and reviewing and so forth, I do have many more creative ideas. It's as though my central processor isn't bogged down with administrivia, so it's free to do more interesting stuff. True, this is my perception, so it's unquantifiable and unrepeatable, but that's how I feel.

        Scientific proof: it would be immensely difficult to get any sort of study, for a lot of reasons. First and most importantly, it's almost impossible to quantify: the benefits of GTD are perceived by each individual, vary widely, and thus are impossible to measure and compare. Even a simple survey, which would have to be based on individual perception, still wouldn't capture the degree of improvement or the various other abilities that might have been compromised. Too many variables, too much flexibility, and everything subjective: no real statistician would spend time on such a study, because the data would be so vague as to be useless. So that's why there's no peer-reviewed studies.

        I'm sure there was something else I wanted to say, but for now I'll stop there, and wait to see what others say.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Issue of no scientific study backing GTD. I am not disputing the difficulty level of performing such a study. And I'm not slamming GTD for that. The only reason I mentioned it, is to signal that greater than ordinary skepticism is warranted in accepting the GTD dogma unquestioningly. After all, if I don't trust a medical treatment, but am shown controlled peer reviewed clinical studies that show the treatment effective, I'll accept it despite my initial doubts. However, if the treatment is based on a home remedy with no scientific backing (for whatever good reason), I'm under a much greater obligation to question and investigate and ascertain. Wrt. GTD, I'm simply saying: it is reasonable to question it, since we don't have scientific proof - it is not irrational.

          Re: use it or lose it. There's a fine balance here, isn't there? It's like the argument about memorizing the multiplication table at school. Some claimed it was a stupid rote learning waste of time and energy since every kid today has easy access to calculators. In time it transpired that there were unanticipated effects of knowing the tables by heart - not just in simple efficiency of not having to use the calculator each time, but in abstract mathematical reasoning, where quantative relationships between numbers were much more readily apparent to those who knew the tables by heart than to those who had to rely on their calculators. There may be a base level of memorizing you need in order to function at a higher level, and the GTD habit of mind-offloading is counterproductive. The example of tea/coffee in the other thread may be a humorous instance, but more imporant in other situations, where you need to remember things instead of trying to rely on lists, or consulting a list is not practical. You could be handicapping yourself by letting GTD atrophy those "muscles".

          Re: level of planning. What if the very act of planning with physical markers - such as list making is limiting in and of itself for some kinds of projects? I gave examples before, but more generally this could apply more broadly to some classes of projects - where the GTD act of putting things on paper psychologically inhibits you by making "grooves" your mind falls into, instead of being left to spontaneous inspiration of the moment when actually confronted with the task. This is a real effect, and something that has to be addressed by anyone practicing GTD.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
            The example of tea/coffee in the other thread may be a humorous instance, but more imporant in other situations, where you need to remember things instead of trying to rely on lists, or consulting a list is not practical.
            For example, consulting reference materials is not only impractical, but against the rules when playing in a chess tournament. So strong players spend a great deal of time memorizing openings and can often reconstruct entire games from memory. Strong players have also been shown to have above average visual memory, often being able to reconstruct entire positions after just a cursory glance. Young players are often given exercises intended to develop these skills.

            However, strong chess players do not appear to do any better than anyone else in non-chess related memory tasks. They also do not have particularly good memories for random configurations of chess pieces, as opposed to those that arise from games.

            Therefore it seems unlikely that forcing myself to remember my dentist appointments will improve my chess game in any measurable way. Perhaps the opposite, if the need to remember trivia breaks my concentration during a game.

            While we're talking about peer-reviewed studies, I would actually love to see one in support of the claim that writing things down degrades memory. Most memory research that I've seen suggests the opposite: that the physical act of writing actually helps reinforce the knowledge. (An argument in favor of paper systems, FWIW.)

            Re: level of planning. What if the very act of planning with physical markers - such as list making is limiting in and of itself for some kinds of projects? I gave examples before, but more generally this could apply more broadly to some classes of projects - where the GTD act of putting things on paper psychologically inhibits you by making "grooves" your mind falls into, instead of being left to spontaneous inspiration of the moment when actually confronted with the task. This is a real effect, and something that has to be addressed by anyone practicing GTD.
            Actually, it has to be addressed by anyone using any form of planning or tracking tool. GTD is well to the unplanned end of the spectrum compared to many other tools. And yet, somehow, people have been using planning methods for millenia and human creativity has flourished.

            Again, I agree that it's possible to overplan. I can also provide examples where lack of planning can have disastrous results. It seems to me that the balance is one that each individual must find for themselves.

            *shrug*

            I'm not sure I understand the alarmist tone of your posts. It's a productivity system, not an untested medical procedure. Some people find it enormously helpful. Some don't, and try different approaches. Life goes on, for both groups.

            Katherine

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
              After all, if I don't trust a medical treatment, but am shown controlled peer reviewed clinical studies that show the treatment effective, I'll accept it despite my initial doubts.
              This is really appeal to authority, because most physicians are not competent to evaluate such studies outside a narrow range of their own clinical expertise. David Allen suggests that you try what he suggests and see if it works for you. I agree with him. Your example based on your friend's Palm usage may indicate more about how your friend related to the Palm than anything else.

              Re: use it or lose it. There's a fine balance here, isn't there? It's like the argument about memorizing the multiplication table at school. Some claimed it was a stupid rote learning waste of time and energy since every kid today has easy access to calculators. In time it transpired that there were unanticipated effects of knowing the tables by heart - not just in simple efficiency of not having to use the calculator each time, but in abstract mathematical reasoning, where quantative relationships between numbers were much more readily apparent to those who knew the tables by heart than to those who had to rely on their calculators. There may be a base level of memorizing you need in order to function at a higher level, and the GTD habit of mind-offloading is counterproductive.
              As a theoretical physicist teaching at the university level, I do feel qualified to comment on this. While I am sympathetic to claims of the deleterious effects of calculator use, there is no indication of a strong correlation of memorizing arithmetical tables with abstract reasoning ability.

              The example of tea/coffee in the other thread may be a humorous instance, but more imporant in other situations, where you need to remember things instead of trying to rely on lists, or consulting a list is not practical. You could be handicapping yourself by letting GTD atrophy those "muscles".
              Perhaps GTD instead redirects the effort to other areas? In any case, one can remember birthdays if one is inclined to do so. Some people tend to always know the calendar date, just as I almost always know which direction is north. A gift, a skill, who knows?

              Re: level of planning. What if the very act of planning with physical markers - such as list making is limiting in and of itself for some kinds of projects? I gave examples before, but more generally this could apply more broadly to some classes of projects - where the GTD act of putting things on paper psychologically inhibits you by making "grooves" your mind falls into, instead of being left to spontaneous inspiration of the moment when actually confronted with the task. This is a real effect, and something that has to be addressed by anyone practicing GTD.
              From your other posts, you seem like a nice person, so I will tell you I think you have really misunderstood what David Allen has said about projects. DA has explicitly recommended doing the minimum amount of planning necessary for you to feel comfortable with each project. Nowhere does he suggest writing out a lengthy plan that may quickly become obsolete. He has explictly stated that one benefit of GTD he has experienced is increased spontaneity, as well as what other would call increased "presence in the moment."

              If there are aspects of what David Allen suggests that don't work for you, I suggest that you not do them.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think they are interesting questions. No answers

                I've worried about the use-it-or-lose-it myself. One of my friends used his Palm device and a program he came up with to do the opposite of what most people do - it created simple arithmetic problems for him to solve! He's improved this ability hugely. Memory does have to be practiced, so it's not good to have your memory never used.

                On the other hand, I consider myself creative. I like making decisions late, when given the luxury. There are many things I'll just let soak until the correct answer emerges. But GTD's main benefit to me is not forgetting all the little things that I've spent a lifetime re-thinking. Things I don't care about being creative about and would rather they didn't irritate me by popping up yet again.

                So, I think it's possible to balance the two. If you worry about losing memory or creativity, practice memory exercises and don't put the creative stuff near your GTD system. Use it where you find benefit.

                Comment


                • #9
                  re: alarmist. I don't see my post or concerns as alarmist. Rather, I think they are an indicator of the seriousness of my interest. Perhaps some plunge into GTD without thinking through the assumptions underlying the system - to me that indicates complacency. If I ask questions, it's only because I think that's the responsible thing to do, before plunging in too far. Am I wrong? Is it more reasonable to accept things on faith particularly if they have no scientific backing? I come here because I have some concerns. I figure, people who have gone ahead with GTD or who already have a lot of experience with it, might have had similar concerns, and I'd be interested in how they resolved them, or what their experiences are. If my concerns are ridiculously unfounded - and I don't know one way or another - then it should be childishly easy to dispel them. I'm all ears. I'm here to learn, humbly.

                  re: appeal to authority. I'm not sure relying on peer reviewed scientific work is a stupid strategy. Nobody can be an authority on everything - we don't live in the time of Leonardo da Vinci where an educated person had at least a shot at grasping all major fields with any degree of authority. A physicist, like Einstein, might be in a position to evaluate at depth the validity of a given theory in his field. He also played the violin. I'm not nearly as interested in his views of what makes a good violin. Of necessity, I choose to rely on the authority of peer reviewed medical studies. That does not strike me as a stupid appeal to authority. It strikes me that it's an excellent strategy based on probability - the odds are higher that a scientifically peer reviewed study is valid than the odds of relying on the authority of an old wives tale. Good odds: Einstein on general relativity. Bad odds: Einstein on violins. I believe all humans are in the same position of not being authorities in all fields - so the best we can do, is play the odds. Scientifically peer reviewed studies are better odds - I'm willing on pragmatic grounds - to appeal to that authority vs undocumented claims. GTD has no such backing. Therefore, my asking questions is not irrational, or crazy or unreasonable in this case. It would be unproductive, irrational and pointless to ask such questions in the case of documented studies (unless I'm in a position of competence myself).

                  re: why don't you just take a plunge? What's wrong with asking questions about deep concerns? If I see people enthusiatically gobbling up pills which have no scientific studies behind them, am I totally crazy to ask: "erm... guys, I have these worries... what do you say?" They can't point me to studies, which would have immediately made me say "OK, it's rational to take these pills". Doing GTD properly will take more than two years (according to DA) - don't you think that a commitment that serious and lengthy warrants some questions? Or is it more responsible to say "hey, don't ask questions, just plunge ahead". If I do it for only 6 months, a GTD devotee can always say: it takes over 2 years. I don't think I'm crazy for asking questions.

                  re: memorizing, use it or lose it. I don't think being a mathematician or physicist necessarily qualifies one to assess the effects of memorizing tables vs using a calculator on developing abstract reasoning abilities. A cognitive or developmental psychologist specializing in the field is probably a better bet. Regardless, it seems that a lot of advice of psychologists give about training memory is more general, they advise to train one's memory - which would imply that such training is useful in any field. To be sure, one would have to appeal to the authority of properly conducte studies to be sure of that effect. But then again, one would have to do the same if one was making the opposite claim - right? Therefore, asking the question doesn't seem unreasonable.

                  re: project planning. It is entirely possible that I don't understand what DA is saying with regard to this. Since I'm just approaching this as a novice, I'd be rather arrogant to think otherwise. Which is the entire point of my asking questions of people with more experience with GTD. Perhaps I'm being dense, but so far, I have not had my silly concerns put to rest - I'm sure it's all my fault. However, I have no other choice but to keep asking, until it gets through my thick skull - to pretend to understand, when I don't, would be simply dishonest. Rather than lie, I'm compelled to say: I don't feel that anything said so far has shown my concerns to be nonsensical. I'm anxious to be educated.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Could be...

                    I think anything can be harmful if I look to it to save me from being overwhelmed but it is really just a potentially helpful tool.

                    What will really save me from being overwhelmed is being truly honest with myself about my commitments, my resources and my interests. If a tool like GTD helps me do that, then it's useful. If the tool starts to get in the way of my self-honesty, I need to re-jig the tool or find another.

                    I'm framing this response in the personal because I believe the answer is personal. GTD, because it's "cool"- especially the links on this forum- and very wide in scope, has tempted me to get wrapped up in it- trying to "get it right". But I have learned how to trust myself and pull back to find out what works for me. Progress not perfection.

                    A little more than a year after reading the book, I have a helpful system set up at work and a basic system for home. That's a lot further than where I was a year ago, and people (including my supervisors) have noticed.

                    In the next year, I'd like to keep up with my system at work, and expand my system at home so it's more helpful. That's all I need.

                    Hope you find what works for you
                    Laurie

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      *shrug*

                      It's your system and your life. Only you can decide whether exhaustive research is a better use of your time than just trying it for yourself.

                      Investing the time in exhaustive research is unlikely to cause any harm. Nor is it likely to bring any real benefit other than that of knowledge for its own sake. You may or may not get the answers you're looking for -- I'm not sure the degree of rigor you want actually exists -- and at the end nothing fundamental about your life will have changed.

                      Only you can decide how worried you are about the potential harm of trying GTD. Obviously those of us who use the system are not particularly worried, but we are also clearly biased. However, it does seem likely that any risks would accrue over the long term. You aren't going to instantly lose the ability to keep things in your head, or the ability to think in a creative way. On the other hand, the initial set up is extremely likely to reduce chaos in your surroundings, help you grasp your current workload, and so forth. That alone may change your life for the better, regardless of what you do next.

                      *shrug*

                      Your time, your decision.

                      Katherine
                      Last edited by kewms; 08-31-2007, 10:30 PM. Reason: fix typo

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        GTD Addiction Clinic.

                        Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
                        We all agree that GTD is a great boon to one's productivity and general well-being.

                        What if that assumption is dead wrong?

                        What if implementing GTD blunts your effectiveness at the highest levels, while delivering benefits only in a limited range of functions... great for lettercarriers and corporate taskmasters, but a disaster for scientists and artists?
                        Congratulations. You've just found a perfect market niche and business opportunity:

                        GTD Addiction Clinic.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
                          Perhaps some plunge into GTD without thinking through the assumptions underlying the system - to me that indicates complacency. If I ask questions, it's only because I think that's the responsible thing to do, before plunging in too far. Am I wrong? Is it more reasonable to accept things on faith particularly if they have no scientific backing?
                          I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill here: there's really little need for "scientific backing" because the claims made are not at all technical. And no-one is accepting anything "on faith": at least with most of the people I've talked to, the general process is (a) read the book, (b) think about it for a bit, (c) apply the system, and (d) monitor how it works. No faith is needed, just as no faith is needed when using a shovel: you try it, and find that it works.


                          re: appeal to authority. I'm not sure relying on peer reviewed scientific work is a stupid strategy.
                          But in this case at least, there's little need. Did you ask for peer-reviewed studies before using a filing cabinet? The underlying assumptions that you're worried about are essentially the same.


                          If I see people enthusiatically gobbling up pills which have no scientific studies behind them, am I totally crazy to ask: "erm... guys, I have these worries... what do you say?"
                          The difference here is that most of the chemicals used in pharmaceuticals are either actively toxic, or are artificial and hence we have no knowledge of what they do to human physiology. GTD is simply a better set of In Trays.


                          Doing GTD properly will take more than two years (according to DA) - don't you think that a commitment that serious and lengthy warrants some questions?
                          No-one is saying that you shouldn't ask questions, and no-one is saying that you have to commit yourself to it as an acolyte for 2 years or more. If it works for you, then you'll want to continue to improve. If it doesn't, then you'll give it up and find something else. The 2 years is simply a rough guide to how long it will take to achieve GTD nirvana, not how long it takes before you get some benefit: that happens practically overnight.


                          Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
                          I don't think being a mathematician or physicist necessarily qualifies one to assess the effects of memorizing tables vs using a calculator on developing abstract reasoning abilities. A cognitive or developmental psychologist specializing in the field is probably a better bet.
                          Okay, I've got anecdotal evidence from 2 viewpoints. As a mathematician who grew up when kids were still taught to memorise, I know my tables. I also know lots of mathematicians who can't be trusted to remember to tie their shoes, much less remember appointments or stuff-to-do. They know that they can look up known integrals or particular formulae as needed, so their brains are left happily drifting in a warm, fluffy, mathematical paradise.

                          On the other hand, when I worked as a croupier, we needed to know our 17 and 35 times tables (for payouts on roulette). Although all dealers had to know their tables perfectly, I never saw any evidence of improvement in abstract reasoning in any of my colleagues.


                          Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
                          re: project planning. It is entirely possible that I don't understand what DA is saying with regard to this. Since I'm just approaching this as a novice, I'd be rather arrogant to think otherwise.
                          Yes, I think you don't understand what DA is saying with regard to planning. The essence of what he says is that you plan as much as you feel you need to, and as little as you can get away with. Writing down a complete list of actions in order is not at all what he'd recommend.

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                          • #14
                            I'm not sure what book OldCorpse has read, but it wasn't the same one I read.

                            As other in the thread have noted, GTD tends to lie towards the "less planning/less structured" end of the continuum.

                            As a practicing academic research scientist, I have noticed no reduction in creativity from doing GTD. If anything, new ideas tend to bubble up more when I'm on the wagon, and doing regular weekly reviews. New ideas tend to diminish when weekly reviews slip, when my email inbox is full of read and unprocessed emails, etc.

                            I know my observations are anecdotal evidence, and I'd love to see a peer reviewed study on the GTD methodology.

                            That said....

                            "Do not believe anything on the mere authority of teachers or priests. Accept as true and as the guide to your life only that which accords with your own reason and experience, after thorough investigation. Accept only that which contributes to the well-being of yourself and others."
                            - Buddha

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                            • #15
                              I think "unstuffed" may have said the most useful thing I've heard in some time about GTD, that the most important part of natural planning is the vision and purpose.

                              When I organize, I tend to skimp on this and blow-out the plan. this is rarely useful for the reasons everyone points out.

                              In project management, this is the distinction between the "work breakdown structure" (detailed tasks) and "scope breakdown structure" (list of stuff you're going to deliver.

                              I'm going to try this week just focusing on purpose and outcome. 99.9% of the time the next action, my guess, is pretty obvious if you've got a very clear scope.

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