What to do when your co-workers don't do GTD

Date: Monday, August 08, 2011 by GTD Times Staff

Q: I am part of a team with five teammates who are not using GTD. How do I handle the frustration within the lines of communication and organization/productivity? How do I handle people who don’t do this method?

David Allen: The more anyone around you is out of control, the more you need the GTD method! You can only be responsible for what YOU need to track about what THEY are supposed to be doing, and following up with them accordingly. Of course, the more they get onto this method, the more they’ll be doing their part…but you’re going to have to manage yourself, no matter what.

The more out of control your environment (including people), the more critical that you implement your own GTD process. You need to know what’s yours and what’s not, and manage your own “10 acres” with rigor. And as you hold new standards, it impacts everyone to some degree. Though there’s no guarantee, the more you manage your own stuff pristinely, the more people tend to engage with you at that level.

9 Responses to “What to do when your co-workers don't do GTD”

  1. Mark J. says:

    I find it helpful to talk generically about the process without the GTD label.

    So who’s responsible for this thing, you or me?

    I still can’t figure this thing out. When can we mark this off as done?

  2. Mark M. says:

    Dove-tailing off of Mark’s comment above, the best strategy for working with non-GTDers is to work YOUR system.

    Co-workers, spouses, etc. are all “people just like us” in that we all respond more earnestly when we know that:
    1) we’re dealing with a dependable person (i.e. fulfills his/her agreements),
    2) we’ll be asked about our commitments to them (i.e. our agreement is logged on THEIR “waiting for” list, and
    3) the person with whom we’re working has defined his/her boundaries and will say “no” to tasks that are purposeless or the responsibility of others.

    So, work YOUR system and in time you build “street cred” with others, who have learned that you take (your and their) commitments and responsibilities seriously.

    In meetings, I have often implemented what I heard Robert Peake say he does in meetings, namely, write 4 columns on a white board labelled “Problem”, “solution”, “next step”, and “who owns it”.

  3. Simon says:

    What an excellent question!

    I work in a large corporate office with various departments, and through a friend in another department, came across GTD 2 years ago.

    Since then I have been the only one in my own department that has been practicing GTD. As Mark M said, people will see the change in how you operate and it will build and support your credibility. I have noticed this as well, so much so, that my boss has now become interested in GTD and has engaged the rest of our team in learning about it.

    This was a pleasant surprise as I thought there wasn’t too much that I could teach my boss about organization.

    You will be surprised who will notice when you work your system and stay consistent in the language you use and the way you engage your colleagues. This has been what I have found.


  4. Jim says:

    I am in the same boat, no one uses GTD on my team. Like David says, you can only be responsible and makes choices for yourself, not others. I adapy my system to them. But I am up front and tell my team such things as if you want me to do that you need to send me an e-mail (capture in inbox) or put something in my inbox tray. By setting clear expectations it is easy to tell someone I am sorry something was not done when they did not use the In Boxes I suggested.

  5. FrancescoK says:

    Well, that’s what the “waiting for” and “Agenda” lists are for… 🙂

  6. Lori Kendall says:

    To springboard off of Mark M.’s comments: I wholeheartedly agree that working the GTD process surrounded by folks who-don’t-use-GTD builds up good street cred. I am a relatively new employee at my latest company, and I have used the rigor of GTD and managing my “10 acres” to gain credibility as someone who gets things done without the stress and drama! Sure makes it easier to strengthen new work relationships!

  7. Jim Seeley says:

    This is so true! As much as I wish my team mates would “see the light” and let go of their reactive, chaotic work habits, most people are extremely resistant to change. So I’ve had to keep the focus on myself and my own adherence to the GTD system. That’s why it’s great to have this forum – at least we GTD-ers can support each other, even if our co-workers don’t.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    Unfortunately I’ve not found that my GTD methods inspire anyone to do the same on my team. While I’m perceived as very responsible and organized, few feel the need to hold themselves accountable in the same way. My job is frustrated time and again by coworkers who don’t follow up on assigned tasks, fail to communicate essential information and thus constantly drop ‘bombs’ on me, and a manager who’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude drives everyone nuts. But doing my work the GTD way helps me cope by creating my own oasis of organization amidst the general tsunami of confusion around me.

  9. Tony says:

    Working your system shows leadership and should differentiate yourself from others. The more successful one gets at being dependable and effective the more responsibilities one is entrusted with. I have found in my own GTD mindset that I am not as concerned with things out of my control, including other’s lack of organization.

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