No system is still work

One of the perplexing things I run across in presenting GTD classes is people who want to defend their lack of system as taking less time and effort than the “work” it would take to maintain a system (GTD or otherwise). There are books out now about how organizing is a waste of time because it takes too much time. I do agree, to a point, that spending too much time organizing can be ineffective, but ANY system–and even lack of one–takes work and time. Why not go for the path of least resistance?

Leaving things undecided and stacked in amorphous blobs of stuff–because it would take too much time to decide a next action and put it in a trusted place–is a guarantee to have to reassess, reprocess and redecide what that thing means. I don’t get it. With so many people complaining that they are too busy to maintain things like action lists, how can they afford to NOT have one? If it’s coming in to you, you’re going to handle it at some point. Why not handle it with as little effort as possible when it first shows up?

Believe me, if I could get away with not managing lists and be as effective, I would do it in a heartbeat. Over the years I’ve tried to cut corners in whatever way I can so that the maintenance of all this doesn’t outweigh the benefit of doing. I’m inherently lazy. I don’t maintain lists because I love spending the time doing that. I maintain the lists because it’s faster and easier for me than not having any system at all.

If I can decide my action on an email when it first shows up, organize it in a place other than In, and put that action reminder in a place I know I’ll see, that’s about 10 times faster for me than leaving it undecided, and having it snap at my ankles every time I look at my Inbox–clamoring for my attention with the 200 other actions I also need to handle.

Why do people resist having a system? I’m curious to hear from the GTD community on this one.

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  1. You are correct just like people who avoid philosopy because they think it is bad. Everyone has a philosophy everyone thinks. My difficulty is that i am not a business type and most organizational schemes don’t focus on my interests.

  2. I really think that a lot of it is fear. I know many people who are “stackers” — piles of stuff all over their desk, important stuff mixed in with junk mail, etc. But, not to get all overly deep about it — I think not dealing with it, avoiding it, is easier for some people than having to look at something and decide, “What does this mean to me? What am I going to do with it?” For some people, I think making those kinds of decisions is just too daunting.

  3. People with “no system” may not be as productive in life as they can be (i.e., they are not living up to their potential). Everyone is different. However, the world around us is made up of various systems and you need to be able to have a strategy to engage with the world with the least amount of drag (in order to be productive). GTD is that system for me.

  4. Not having a system, IS a system. I didn’t wake up to this until I started reading Mr. Allen work. Avoiding work is a system unto itself. Now that I‚Äôve woken up to this, I see people around me spending more time and energy avoiding work the original work would have taken in the first place. I think the real trick to be honest with your self that‚Äôs the key.

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