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Goodbye to GTD

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  • Goodbye to GTD

    I've conducted an experiment the past few weeks. I've gone off GTD the last few weeks, retaining only a calendar of appointments.

    And I have to say that I've recovered a creative, intuitive spontaneity that I has been missing from my life ever since I started GTD (in 2006). I haven't spent a minute worrying about my lists or my system. I have simply worked on what I intuitively know is most important in the moment.

    Please don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that others will have the same experience. But what I've found is that my memory is more than able to keep up with my commitments---to adapt to a changing landscape of work much more quickly than a bunch of lists.

    Best of luck!
    Last edited by madalu; 02-24-2010, 10:39 AM.

  • #2
    Cool! Good for you, for discovering this.

    Best of luck.

    Comment


    • #3
      One of the first things that I read when I started reading and participating in this forum was that you could do things the way you want... if it's right for you. At first I was a bit disappointed and surprised, because I thought GTD would be a nice mechanistic system that would automatically take care of all my time management and prioritizing needs. Thank goodness I was wrong!

      GTD is a system that's flexible and adaptable. I used several methods to list my next actions (and projects) so far: MS EXcel spreadsheet, TiddlyWiki, ThinkingRock. I'm sure I'll gravitate to something else at some point in the future.

      What remains though, is the fact that the basic principles of the GTD methodology are... right for me. Hence I'll continue using it as long as I benefit from it. Madalu I wish you success in your newly found methodology for getting things done. It's horses for courses and clearly you are riding a winner on your racetrack.

      Comment


      • #4
        I had the opportunity to interview David Allen for a newspaper article 18 months or so ago, and one of the questions I asked him was how he'd respond to people who say that they can manage everything in their heads and that GTD needlessly complicates things for them. His response was something along the lines of, "If they're able to get all their work done and keep their stress levels low, I'd tell them to keep doing that. Most people, however, won't have that experience."

        In other words, GTD isn't about cult-like, irrational devotion to a particular set of tools, workflow processes, and so forth. GTD is about getting a handle on what you have to do, and keeping that handle, so that you can focus your attention on being more productive. If an intuitive understand of what needs to be done is sufficient, if you're getting done what needs to get done and nothing's slipping through the cracks, and if you're able to keep track of all the stakes you have in the ground in different areas of your life, that's what's important.

        On the other side of the coin, I personally find that when I "simply work on what I intuitively know is most important in the moment," I tend to shift my attention toward the stuff that's most "on fire", and more routine things start to slip through the cracks. Being self-employed, and running several related businesses concurrently, I simply can't keep track of everything in my head. So, for me, writing it down is essential.

        A question for madalu: Notwithstanding what system you use for keeping track of things, are you doing some form of weekly review? I'm personally of the opinion that the GTD book somewhat understates the importance of the weekly review and somewhat overstates the emphasis on the specific system of project lists, NA lists etc. As long as you're reviewing what you have going on a regular basis, I think you can make just about any system work.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by madalu View Post
          But I would humbly submit that some of the "scientific" principles presented in the book are not universal. For instance, the book suggests that if you keep tasks in your mind, "some part of you" will think that you have to be doing them all the time, resulting in constant stress. I'm not sure what research this is based on.
          Interesting post and perspective madalu, thanks for sharing. Out of curiosity, have you read the scientific paper here and if so what did you think?

          Comment


          • #6
            My recent experience is that what seems to be a natural and intuitive choice of actions can in fact be fatally flawed.

            I changed job in January this year. In my new role, I set out to identify those areas in this company where my accumulated skills could be most effectively and fruitfully applied, and during the last five months I have cleared up backlogs, established systems, and begun providing a stream of management information that was not previously available to the CEO.

            Along the way there were various things that people casually mentioned to me that seemed totally inconsequential, (if I used the Covey system, I would have rated them a very low priority). But, in keeping with the basics of GTD, I wrote all of them down each time they were said, and threw them in my in-basket.

            when it came to my weekly review, I put them on a kind of “wish list” – attractive but indulgent projects that I would deal with as soon as I had all the “important” (or so it seemed to me) stuff sorted out.

            But then a very faint alarm bell started to ring. Without reproducing the whole process in detail, let me just say that in the very cold light of a recent dawn, I suddenly realized that these things that my instincts were telling me were “inconsequential” were in fact some of the key operating data that the company needed.

            OK, they weren’t getting that data before I joined them, but in their eyes, they were the most important things they needed from me. My own assessment of what was important was completely wrong. The only way I had begun to realize this was because it was constantly being placed before me each time I did my review.

            There are admonitions by David scattered all over GTD that we should define our job roles and use them as a checklist for projects that should be in progress. Thanks to applying this to my job, I eventually realized that I had to privilege the wishes of my colleagues and create job roles that reflected the streams of data they required.

            GTD allowed me to step outside the limiting filters of my own experience and see my new job through the eyes and expectations of others.

            Personally, I expect GTD to put pressure on me - left to myself I will follow the familiar, and I will neglect areas that do not deserve to be neglected, with potentially disastrous results.

            Once I realized what I had to, I was able to rapidly re-mould my job definition, probably much more quickly than I would have managed through stumbling along through a trial and error approach.

            I have invested quite a few dollars in GTD, and I except it to deliver enhanced productivity. I expect my life to be managed in a balanced and comprehensive manner, and not to have important areas stagnate because they lie outside my familair zone on untrodden paths.

            For me, there is no better way to do this than to turn my back on my instincts and obey my lists. As DA says, my lists were written by a smarter version of me, and I am happy to obey them.

            Hope this helps!!

            Dave

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by madalu View Post
              I've conducted an experiment the past few weeks. I've gone off GTD the last few weeks, retaining only a calendar of appointments.

              And I have to say that I've recovered a creative, intuitive spontaneity that I has been missing from my life ever since I started GTD (in 2006). I haven't spent a minute worrying about my lists or my system. I have simply worked on what I intuitively know is most important in the moment.

              Please don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that others will have the same experience. But what I've found is that my memory is more than able to keep up with my commitments---to adapt to a changing landscape of work much more quickly than a bunch of lists. In fact, GTD caused me to distrust my memory in unhealthy ways. I ended up with a bunch of mechanical lists that caused constant overwhelm and made me feel detached from life. In fact, for a personality such as mine, GTD proved the ultimate form of "alienation." I was living for my lists rather than responding creatively to the opportunities and people in my life. My humble suggestion: if you find yourself in a cocoon of lists, detached from your life, then perhaps GTD is not the right system for you.

              Here I already here the chorus of voices: "Were you doing GTD right? Were you faithfully doing your weekly review?" Perhaps not. But I would humbly submit that some of the "scientific" principles presented in the book are not universal. For instance, the book suggests that if you keep tasks in your mind, "some part of you" will think that you have to be doing them all the time, resulting in constant stress. I'm not sure what research this is based on. In my own experience, I've found that my memory is more than capable of laying things aside, so that they can be recalled later. (In other words, my mind does a much better job of sorting out priorities than my "system.") In fact, the knowledge that I had a long list of ALL the commitments in my life proved more stressful than keeping them in my mind. My lists made me feel that I had to be working ALL of the time.

              I would suggest that the key principle of GTD is not writing things down, but rather developing habits of mindfulness and thoughtfulness. In other words, the important thing is to process and reflect on your commitments. What I will take away from GTD is the habit of reviewing my work mentally at the beginning of each day. Sometimes this means sketching out plans on a piece of paper. But I've found (to my delight) that this is something I do much better in an impromptu fashion than through a system.
              This was an alternative and unique post. I have improv experience and my mind typically works intuitively first-step and logically second-step. I may experiment "going off GTD" for a bit and seeing what happens. I'll most likely evolve into a modified version of this with a couple of essential context-based lists most likely as a whittle down what works best for me.

              Someone wrote "my lists were written by a smarter part of me". True....but if your lists "bury" you as OP mentioned, it doesn't really matter the intelligence of of the list(s)!

              Too much GTD can be equally as unproductive as not enough of the system in your life.

              Comment


              • #8
                madalu -- What do you do for a living? I'm very curious now. If you don't mind sharing.

                I like the feeling of getting everything out of my head. I don't like think about whether or not I need to buy dryer sheets.

                which reminds me of Ellen's stand-up Procrastinate Now-- where she's meditating and a thought pops into her head "Momma keeps whites, white like the sunshine..." lol - Watch the DVD. You'll laugh.

                Good luck being GTD-FREE....

                d.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by validatelife View Post
                  This was an alternative and unique post. I have improv experience and my mind typically works intuitively first-step and logically second-step. I may experiment "going off GTD" for a bit and seeing what happens. I'll most likely evolve into a modified version of this with a couple of essential context-based lists most likely as a whittle down what works best for me.

                  Someone wrote "my lists were written by a smarter part of me". True....but if your lists "bury" you as OP mentioned, it doesn't really matter the intelligence of of the list(s)!

                  Too much GTD can be equally as unproductive as not enough of the system in your life.

                  ACtually, what the hell am I talking about? GTD has boost my organization and productivity so much that
                  1. I'm modular and mobile without sacrificing productivity. I can move and travel more easily and freely without stress and still get things done with mobility
                  2. The increased organization and productivity has manufacutred a confidence boost.
                  3. healthy boost. Yes, grocery @errand lists ensure I get waht I planned, and avoid impulse buying.
                  4. career. i've started a career that was only a dream simply by using 50k-runway convos with self.
                  5. communication. My brain is less cluttered (it's all on paper or electronic collection lists) so I communicate more freely.

                  The biggest thing I need to watch out for with GTD is being selective. My mind can quickly add 5-10 "computer tasks" (like add digg feature to site, update this, R&D that, etc) with 5-10 reminder slips that I throw in my inbox and too much of that and I feel nauseas with the amount of work I just created for myself.

                  This is where GTD can backfire if I had TOO many thigns to a list that are not wortwhile and then I fret about those and miss out on all the important things in life. But if I'm selective with @computer or @web design tasks, then it totally works.

                  I've got ot watch out for and have a high threshold for assigning myself a computer-based task from now on.

                  But @phone, @errands. Those are invaluabel

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by validatelife View Post
                    The biggest thing I need to watch out for with GTD is being selective. My mind can quickly add 5-10 "computer tasks" (like add digg feature to site, update this, R&D that, etc) with 5-10 reminder slips that I throw in my inbox and too much of that and I feel nauseas with the amount of work I just created for myself.

                    This is where GTD can backfire if I had TOO many thigns to a list that are not wortwhile
                    Suggestion out of experience. I found that all those "not so worthwhile" capturings can be pointers to deeper issues in one's self. Try to find a common theme (if there is one) in all those impulsive slips. Using your example of "add digg feature to site". Check out what this means to you, really. Ask 50k on that slip. It could be many things: dream of having a cutting edge website, genuien interest in technology that gets suppressed in your day-to-day life, want to have more friends who are also into internet, maybe a 20k problem: not enough visitors on site, what is the web2.0-stuff strategy for your site anyway? and so on. Could be many things.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Well put, Cpu_Modern.

                      If it's on your mind, then it's on your mind. You'll have to deal with it someday. Avoiding it just means you'll have more to deal with later.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        lists CREATE memories

                        Originally posted by madalu View Post
                        But what I've found is that my memory is more than able to keep up with my commitments---to adapt to a changing landscape of work much more quickly than a bunch of lists. In fact, GTD caused me to distrust my memory in unhealthy ways. I ended up with a bunch of mechanical lists that caused constant overwhelm and made me feel detached from life.
                        The memories and intuitions you have in the short term were CREATED by making the lists and reviewing them. Writing something down makes a stronger memory than not writing it down. Reviewing things strengthens memory for them. Structure also strengthens memories and helps one remember more items. (These 3 assertions are backed by plenty of research in learning and memory.) So GTD is really all about creating memories, or a mental model, of commitments.

                        In the short term, you have the benefit of the strong memories and mental model created by writing down information in a structured way and then reviewing it, but without the burden of writing down the new stuff. So you feel free.

                        However, after 6 months of not writing anything down, you won't have the same strength of memories for your stuff. You probably won't feel as free and will feel more stress from trying to remember everything without writing it down.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Wow. Never thought of that!

                          Andersons, thank you for that insight. I never thought of that. But from the number of times I've left GTD only to return .... I think you got it just right --- at least for me.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The Paradox of Lists

                            Originally posted by andersons View Post
                            The memories and intuitions you have in the short term were CREATED by making the lists and reviewing them. Writing something down makes a stronger memory than not writing it down. Reviewing things strengthens memory for them. Structure also strengthens memories and helps one remember more items. (These 3 assertions are backed by plenty of research in learning and memory.) So GTD is really all about creating memories, or a mental model, of commitments.

                            In the short term, you have the benefit of the strong memories and mental model created by writing down information in a structured way and then reviewing it, but without the burden of writing down the new stuff. So you feel free.

                            However, after 6 months of not writing anything down, you won't have the same strength of memories for your stuff. You probably won't feel as free and will feel more stress from trying to remember everything without writing it down.
                            I got a chuckle of satisfaction reading this. Nothing like getting some scientific validation for an intuition I posted in 2004.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I've had reactions similar to those of Madalu -- that is, I have felt oppressed and driven by my lists.

                              In the last few weeks, I've been changing the focus of my next action lists --they are becoming less like tasks and more like bookmarks, and I am feeling 'more free'.

                              Bookmarks are simply entry points back into different worlds (or books) which I have left for various reasons. I don't HAVE to 'pick up any of those books' -- but if I do, I know what page to turn to. Further, I don't have to know the whole book, or think a few pages ahead -- all I need is the entry point. So, my next action list is shrinking, I am working more 'in the moment', and, once I have re-entered via my bookmarked entry-point, I am letting the work itself define my next actions.

                              Regards,
                              Rob

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