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  • Are GTD'ers overworked?

    Hi guys! I know, I know, four posts in one day, but I just discovered this forum and it's a venue to answer the questions I've had for a while.

    I don't remember where I read it, on some productivity blog, but someone commented that the GTD'ers they knew were terribly frazzled and overworked.

    This might be a similar observation to the one people have that folks buying items in health food stores sometimes look like death warmed over.

    I am interested in theories and philosophy about this observation. Here are my thoughts:

    1. Some folks may not be using GTD correctly and therefore may be stressed.
    2. Maybe GTD naturally attracts type A people.

    But these don't seem satisfactory. What I really think it comes down to is that because GTD encourages collection and action on every item in your inbox, there is no filter left. Most people are used to having a filter at the inbox level. When they get into conversations with people and an action comes up, they forget about it. When they get a flyer about volunteering, they toss it aside until after it's over, and then "oops, I didn't get to do that." Basically, passively deciding not to take action on things.

    So because GTDers are forced to consider the possibility of doing every action that comes their way, I think they think they must DO IT - and then get overwhelmed.

    Personally, when I started GTD, I had to learn to actively decide NOT to do things. "Just because my work is forming a committee doesn't mean I have to participate." etc. But it is still easy to take on too much.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    I would like to know the sample size of this observation -- how many GTDers were observed? How long had they been practicing GTD? How many non-GTDers were also observed in the same set of circumstances?

    My guess is that the observation was purely anecdotal -- the blogger knew one or two people who were possibly still in their first couple months of doing GTD. Were these people more frazzled, or less frazzled before they started doing GTD?

    I will confess that my first few months with GTD, I was hugely frazzled. Of course, I was frazzled before too -- that's why I started GTD in the first place. And it took a few months before I really got control over all of my commitments. Now, people regularly ask me how I manage to "stay so in-control".

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    • #3
      GTD does tend to attract people who are overcommitted to begin with. Someone who is happily coasting along doesn't need GTD.

      And GTD does make you aware of all your commitments: that's the whole point.

      But I disagree with the suggestion that it takes away the Inbox filter. Yes, it encourages you to collect everything, but it *does not* imply that you have to take action on everything you collect. Defer and Delete are both acceptable Inbox processing actions.

      I'd certainly say that the people around you would much rather get a "no" up front than have you make a commitment then passively ignore it. If GTD forces you to learn to say no, I'd say that's a feature, not a bug.

      Katherine

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      • #4
        Originally posted by kewms View Post
        I'd certainly say that the people around you would much rather get a "no" up front than have you make a commitment then passively ignore it. If GTD forces you to learn to say no, I'd say that's a feature, not a bug.
        I agree. Just trying to encourage discussion...

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        • #5
          Here's one theory. With GTD I know what I have to do. Sometimes I will ask people not to bother me when I'm working on a project or context or am just processing. I also probably look busier since I know what the next thing I have to do is; I go from one thing to the next. I'm also always aware of deadlines/goals and reminding people. Sometimes I do look at my list for a bit to decide the next action. Perhaps this busy-ness (or business) is what they think is frazzling or being overworked.
          Last edited by sdann; 09-10-2008, 04:36 PM. Reason: added "being overworked"

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          • #6
            I think it's what you make of it. I think frazzled people are drawn to GTD - and some people STILL overcommit. GTD will not help you get everything done, it'll just make you more efficient and give you an idea of what you can get done.

            Personally, I have found it to be very liberating. Seeing things on my someday list for months, and seeing that the world hasn't fallen apart lets me drop them off my list completely or just leave it there - should someday ever come

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            • #7
              I'm certainly not frazzled and overworked.

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              • #8
                People who enjoy getting lots done are attracted to things like GTD because it helps us achieve that. It doesn't mean that your life becomes magically easier though - you have to first pay the price of learning to deal with the new challenges GTD creates (it's worth it though!). Suddenly being aware of all your commitments is one such challenge. I used to have a bad habit of taking on too much, so now as part of my weekly review I have an item on my checklist saying "Are you taking on too much?", which has been really useful in dealing with that particular challenge.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Brent View Post
                  I'm certainly not frazzled and overworked.
                  Show off :P

                  - Don

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                  • #10
                    You also need to remember that the people who are "stressed with GTD" or "stressed with too much to do" are the ones that, generally, come to this forum more often for help. It's a small sample of those who are using GTD. This isn't 100% absolute because there are a few posters who are using GTD with great success who are here to share tips and inspiration.

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                    • #11
                      I don't thing GTD'ers feel they need to do every action that comes their way, especially if they step back regularly to review their work, and consider their higher-level goals (20.000-50.000 feet)
                      If they are really important, start delegating some of the current stuff.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DanGTD View Post
                        I don't thing GTD'ers feel they need to do every action that comes their way, especially if they step back regularly to review their work, and consider their higher-level goals (20.000-50.000 feet)
                        If they are really important, start delegating some of the current stuff.
                        Exactly. I think that is part of the beauty of truly practicing GTD -- learning to say no or to delegate to the appropriate person.

                        I think trying to do "every action" is a non-GTD behavior that GTD helped me overcome.

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