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Is GTD a Different Term for Obssessive/Compulive Disorder?

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  • Is GTD a Different Term for Obssessive/Compulive Disorder?

    As one reads through this forum it doesn't take a genius to recognize that quite a few people are involved in an obsession to have some perfect system that will give them perfect order. Many of the details people obsess over seem to be exceptionally minor, others seem to repeatedly go through a ritual of feeling organized and than not organized, always craving that feeling they have after "getting to 0". I say that NOT as a knock but as an observation and also as a person who knows they can at times be a bit obsessive/compulsive themselves.

    Am I alone in seeing this? In thinking that GTD has a strong appeal to OCD types? That a lot of people spend more time perfecting their system than "getting things done"?
    Last edited by David_H; 01-20-2009, 04:02 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by David_H View Post
    In thinking that GTD has a strong appeal to OCD types? That a lot of people spend more time perfecting their system than "getting things done"?
    I'm not sure what an "OCD type" is. Is this someone diagnosed OCD? Someone who likes things organized? Something else?

    Certainly I'm guilty of occasionally spending too much time tweaking my system. The good news is that I've learned to recognize this, and let go.

    I also know a few perfectionists that are really disorganized because either want to do something perfectly or not at all. None of these people do GTD.

    - Don

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by dschaffner View Post
      I'm not sure what an "OCD type" is.
      Well in this context An "OCD type" frequently pays more attention to the process than actually getting things done. When I see a lot of people saying "I have tried this for 1 year and this for 2 years and I can't get this process to work right" it could be an example of someone who is obsessing about the process.

      I also know a few perfectionists that are really disorganized because either want to do something perfectly or not at all.
      Absolutely. Perfectionism can take two forms. One is doing everything to a highly perfectionistic level. Another is never being able to do something perfect enough and therefore never getting anything done. The latter usually results in disorganization just as you say.

      Comment


      • #4
        Awareness is the key!

        Originally posted by David_H View Post
        Am I alone in seeing this? In thinking that GTD has a strong appeal to OCD types? That a lot of people spend more time perfecting their system than "getting things done"?
        I think it would be fair to say that for many obsessive compulsive types GTD can be a real mess -- a curse even -- if they get stuck in a mode of trying to perfect their system, to the point where they can't move forward and get anything done. I say this with a background in psychology, having studied human behavior for many years. I am not a psychologist or mental health professional of any kind, however.

        But interestingly, I also see GTD as being a salvation to people of the obsessive compulsive personality type. Many of these people are HIGHLY organized and VERY structured individuals in their daily life. GTD then, for many in this group, presents itself as a well structured workflow system that actually supports, and even enhances, their own existing work style.

        You see, obsessive compulsiveness is a personality trait that exists on a continuum. So I would imagine that you can be high on this trait and still do very well using GTD in your daily life. For some of these people of course this will be more of a challenge because of the perfectionist need to create the "ideal" GTD system -- one that is totally perfect in every respect. For these people, this kind of "all-or-nothing" thinking is a problem for them: either they do it perfectly, or not at all.

        "I'll never have the perfect GTD system."

        "I have to make my system all digital or paper-based, I can't use elements of both. That's not efficient."

        "I have to figure out my own GTD system or I'm a failure at GTD."

        And so on....

        There is no middle ground for these people. It's all or nothing.

        If you tend to be the all-or-nothing thinker or a perfectionist type, I recommend you use your own awareness of when you're finding yourself trying improve something. You'll want to stop yourself immediately at that point by shifting gears to doing something else. The second you notice your perfectionist habit kicking in, give yourself a coping statement to prepare you to shift gears -- something like the following:

        "Aha! I just caught myself being a perfectionist again. I keep getting better at noticing this tendency of mine. Who says I have to be perfect? There's no need to go down this route. Trying to be perfect only slows me down. So what's my next action now? It's simply to take one small step forward on this task or project, so that I can get closer to actually getting it done."

        You might find it helpful to write down a positive coping statement like this one on an index card. Carry it with you so that you can pull it up immediately and read it to yourself every time you notice you're perfectionist tendency creeping in.

        After a while, simply your awareness of this tendency alone will be enough to mentally shift you into a state of "doing". That is, you'll automatically move into a mode of productive action, which beats staying stuck in the rut of unproductive perfectionism.

        Comment


        • #5
          If you drive, do you remember how you learned to drive? Every minor jerk perhaps bothered you. You were perhaps worried about the exact turn of the steering wheel required for the next turn. How much should you press the pedal? Oh, that car in front is signaling a turn! What should I do now? There is a stop line next. How fast should I decelerate? Will the car behind me bump into me?

          Lots of minor details, lot of things to control. But as you learn driving, most of it becomes more and more automatic. It happens by habit, not by conscious thoughts. They don't bother you. You just find out the road, and drive. The car is in control, and can read your mind.

          Same here. Except that it's life, not just a car that we drive. It's much more complex, and everybody is different. (Perhaps in F1 racing, they would also say every car is different!) As people learn, they discuss many apparently trivial issues. But precisely these issues are the ones which will give them control when resolved. Then they become habit.

          Zero inbox is not just a zero bytes folder or an empty tray. It is a state where the meaning of all the stuff that was once there is now clear, the outcomes are known, and we are ready to take the next step towards the outcome as soon as we can. All the context lists reflect what is the set of resources that are required for these next steps and help accessing the resources. The organization at the actions level is the most complex when you want the work done as efficiently as possible.

          To most outsiders, these details are irrelevant. But that's because they have never objectified and externalized their commitments to this level. They have rarely experienced the freedom of zero inbox. They might as well be so used to the stress levels that are caused by flooding inboxes that they have stopped noticing the flood.

          As everywhere, you might find OCDs or other disorders here as well. But I don't think it has anything to do with GTD per se.

          Regards,
          Abhay

          Comment


          • #6
            WebMarketer,

            Great post.

            abhay,

            To clarify, my title was mainly tongue in cheek, obviously I would not be here if I thought GTD was the same as OCD. I simply think that obsessive/compulsive types gravitate to it, as they do to any number of organization methods. Again, I sometimes have to keep myself in check in this regard and ask myself if a detail I am considering really matters. So it's not a critical observation.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by David_H View Post
              Am I alone in seeing this? In thinking that GTD has a strong appeal to OCD types? That a lot of people spend more time perfecting their system than "getting things done"?
              I think that by their very nature forums like this will skew the data. You rarely see posts from people whose systems are working without any glitches, or who do not have any questions because those folks generally won't post. So your data set is inaccurate for the whole population.

              So I think you are making assumptions that are not based on reality.

              Searching for the system that works is a process, some of us are not very far along in that. I'm still finding what works and have tried and eliminated several systems myself. I don't know if the one I'm using now will last, but it's fitting in more with how I think and work so it holds great promise. Yes I am tweaking the system a lot right now, but that's part of trying it on and making it fit. The tailoring that is needed to get a system that works for me. I'm still getting things done, no animal is hungry, house is relatively clean, personal growth stuff is moving along, computer paperwork mostly up to date and I have a good handle on all the various things I want to do.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by David_H View Post
                As one reads through this forum it doesn't take a genius to recognize that quite a few people are involved in an obsession to have some perfect system that will give them perfect order.
                ...
                Am I alone in seeing this? In thinking that GTD has a strong appeal to OCD types? That a lot of people spend more time perfecting their system than "getting things done"?
                For me there is also a desire for certainty. I feel that if I can just read the right tip, adopt the proper technique, or acquire the correct gear, that part of my life will be "solved" and the system will take care of everything. GTD, with its comprehensive and fully integrated work flow, is sure to appeal to anyone looking for certainty in getting things done. This isn't a part of GTD (whose central psychological metaphor is "mind like water"), just how some of us try to use it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                  I think that by their very nature forums like this will skew the data. You rarely see posts from people whose systems are working without any glitches, or who do not have any questions because those folks generally won't post. So your data set is inaccurate for the whole population.
                  Hear Hear.

                  This forum is for people who are learning GTD. If you look at other forums whose focus is on learning and applying a methodology or style of any sort, you may receive an impression similar to what you've gotten at this site.

                  Rob

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
                    This forum is for people who are learning GTD. If you look at other forums whose focus is on learning and applying a methodology or style of any sort, you may receive an impression similar to what you've gotten at this site.
                    Yes, exactly.

                    Visit a fitness forum, or a forum devoted to any sport. You'll see page after page of injury discussions. The more serious or bizarre the injury, the more pages will be devoted to it. It's easy to get the impression that the activity -- any activity -- is hazardous to the point of being life-threatening, and that the only safe course is to hide under your bed.

                    Of course, uninjured people, or people with minor injuries, have no reason to post. So they don't.

                    People whose GTD systems are working smoothly don't post either.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If you ask my other half, Lucy, she’d say yes! She jokes that I’ve been brainwashed by David Allen – but then again, she can’t find anything of hers from just last week. Unless I’ve filled it away for her!

                      For me its form and order, a place for everything and everything in its place. For her that would be OCD. I know that I never have to look far for my stuff, but she’s ALWAYS losing hers. Different strokes, different folks.

                      I think for people starting with GTD there’s a feeling that they have to follow it to the letter; they must use a particular type of folder, use folder tabs in a particular order, carry a particular Moleskine or use some new fangled software and so on (been there done that myself!).

                      But with time, the system should settle down and a folder is just a folder, a Moleskine is just a notepad; but then the benefits of GTD become apparent. Once all the complexities of an over complicated GTD setup are abandoned and a simpler system are used instead, that’s when things get done, rather than obsessing over the system.

                      It’s been said before, but GTD does come with time.

                      Also, the higher areas of focus come into play with time too. It’s all very well having an amazing system to capture and process all the minutiae of stuff and life, but unless you really know what you want to do in life, then endless lists of next actions can appear pointless – unless they’re working towards a greater goal.

                      I got the new book over Christmas (Making It All Work) and it’s been a revelation. The details on the upper levers have given me a whole new lease of life. Previously I concentrated on the runway too much; detailed lists of minutia and next actions but with no real goals or visions – just relative simple projects. Now I realise those next actions and projects only mean anything if they’re working towards the upper levels.

                      I’ve set myself some goals and visions this year and I’m finding it FAR easier to complete their next actions, as I know exactly what they relate to, rather than them just being an endless list.

                      I also know that by doing these small next actions each day, within the year I’ll have reach my goals. It’s a cliché but the old 2000 mile journey begins with a single step and each step is a whole lot easier if you know where they're taking you!

                      All the best,

                      Andy D.
                      Last edited by AndyD; 01-23-2009, 11:49 AM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by David_H View Post
                        Well in this context An "OCD type" frequently pays more attention to the process than actually getting things done. When I see a lot of people saying "I have tried this for 1 year and this for 2 years and I can't get this process to work right" it could be an example of someone who is obsessing about the process.



                        Absolutely. Perfectionism can take two forms. One is doing everything to a highly perfectionistic level. Another is never being able to do something perfect enough and therefore never getting anything done. The latter usually results in disorganization just as you say.
                        That's where I was before I picked up GTD--wrapped up in the process instead of getting the work done and in a near constant state of analysis paralysis. I really struggled at first to hammer into my head something that David Allen said in the seminar I watched:

                        "Each of you has 60-100 projects right now. You don't have enough time in the rest of your life to do any single one of them perfectly."

                        After hearing that I decided when I started GTD that I wasn't going to try to set up a "perfect" system--I was going to take what I learned and just use it. I do on occasion get caught up in tweaking and maintaining my system, but I recognize it and remember how my "imperfect" system once rescued me. Then I don't feel the need to spend any more time making my lists "perfect".

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The issue is...

                          It seems reasonable to guess that one reason many people are on here expressing what appear to be OCD-type symptoms may be that these same people do not yet have a system in place that is fully-functional and are, therefore, insecure or uncertain about the steps they are taking.

                          In the same way, if we looked at recent religious converts, we may find that many of them have recently been through some tragedy or difficulty in life that has led them to ask fundamental questions about God, the universe, and everything.

                          Speaking more literally, however, using the term OCD is pretty imprecise. It is like saying "boy I can't concentrate on paying these bills. I'm totally ADD today". Genuine OCD is a lot more severe than what I see around these parts.

                          Two cents,
                          JohnV474

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            David Allen says that different people have different comfort levels. in GTD Fast he uses the examples of glasses in the living room. You may put your away as soon as it's empty, you might have 5 or 10 standing around. The point is, eventually you decide to tidy them up.
                            I think with OCD, even if there are no glasses, and everything is in place etc etc, you still wouldn't be comfortable. You have to check, and do, and put things just so, and it never ever ends. Not in the sense that there will be dishes in the sink tomorrow, but in the sense that it is never good enough.
                            I think GTD goes straight against that. You aim to get to a comfortable level. You build and practice this system so that you can be comfortable doing or not doing, and knowing that it's ok. I don't think anyone with OCD could easily get to that mind like water state.

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                            • #15
                              I see both sides of the coin....

                              I see your point actually...

                              I am the first to admit that I sometimes see people here scheduling their morning shower and brushing teeth routine in their GTD systems....I would agree that that is a little over the top, HOWEVER, if that helps someone then I say "good on them" for doing that.

                              Everyone is different I guess....I not a "hug a tree" kind of person, nor do i spend much time here on this forum as I think that's an irony in itself - I have taken the good from the GTD principles and adjusted them to work for me.

                              In the actual work I do I have to pay attention to detail, but for GTD, personally i think paying TOO much attention to detail is a timewaster. The position of the tickler file label, the font I use on my label machine, what kind of in-basket to use or, my favourite, which moleskine product to buy is a load of bollocks......but I stress, this is just my opinion.

                              What has worked for me is using a piece of paper, a pen, some common sense, and just getting into my workload using the basic GTD principles - works a treat!! Really.

                              By the way, my cellphone is a crappy old motorola which has absolutely no features other than being able to call people and use SMS!

                              Cheers
                              Bob

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