Productivity Tips For People That Hate GTD: My Thoughts
Last week I read a very intriguing post on Zen Habits covering seven productivity tips for people that hate GTD. It was a great read (it’s nice to see these sorts of productivity posts still pop up there) though it garnered a lot of interest for several remarks that were included by the author, Jonathan Mead. It certainly got me thinking about some of the points, so I’ve decided to write my own response piece. I’d be keen to hear your own take on some of the points made.
- GTD doesn’t work for creative people
This was the most controversial point and I’ve looked around trying to find where this belief has come from about GTD (any ideas?). Paul Gardner wrote eight reasons why it is a good system for creative people so I won’t repeat his great points here. In my view, it’s generally regarded that creativity needs limits and boundaries and the whole idea of expanding your mind isn’t really a legit one, so surely GTD, with its focused framework, allows your creative input to be channeled appropriately?
- Create a to-stop list
In theory this is a great idea. Likewise, I once came up with a done list, that covered all the things you’ve achieved over the years, which could be used as a motivational boost. But if you’re wanting to make things simple why create yet another list? Sure, it’s useful to identify areas that are holding you back, but then you need to do something about it, so why not just keep those actions on your to-do list?
- Focus on short bursts
While it’s so true that dreams can die from lack of focused attention, I don’t feel increasing your resistance as though your focus is a mental muscle that will get stronger is the answer. To me, focus is like a rubber band. As soon as we start trying to focus on something that’s time consuming or trying to do several things at once (multi-task), that band gets stretched out, often to breaking point. This is why I love next actions. Breaking the work down like this allows me to wrap that band of focus tight round what I’m doing.
- Allow yourself to suck
This one I like. It surprises me somewhat that David Allen openly admits that we will fall off the wagon on a regular basis. This is a flaw in his system and rather than discussing ways to limit it, he openly embraces it. It’s almost like saying you should drive a car flat out till the fuel runs out in the middle of nowhere, rather than taking it steady, having regular fuel stops, and making sure you get to where you need to be. I will be writing more on this on Thursday.
- Make it stupidly simple
How complicated is GTD really? I use next actions as an example again. A complicated project like buying a new home becomes much more simple when you focus on arranging a meeting with the bank, for instance. I think too many people get hung up on how to implement it (hence the huge number of productivity apps out there), but as one commentator said, if you geek out on your system, that’s not the fault of GTD. David Allen has said numerous times that just a pen and paper will do.
Several people noted that the seven points made were just GTD features described in an alternative way (that seemed to appeal more to creative people). That certainly seems true, but it raises a point about the way David Allen describes his work. He’s perhaps not helped himself by aiming at a corporate audience (though his bank manager would probably disagree). What are your thoughts on this subject and the points made?