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9 Reasons Why Getting Things Done Sucks!

Blasthemy! I hope the productivians don’t strike me down ;) Here is my list of issues with GTD that I have picked out. These are a mix of my own and other’s experiences that were shared in a previous post asking the readers what they disliked. This is meant as a one-sided critique and as such is not strictly representative of my true feelings. If you disagree with any points please do share your thoughts. Also, be sure to suggest any points I may have missed.

  • GTD is David Allen’s system
    There are so many personal interpretations of GTD. Why? It’s not that it’s particularly flexible. Look at the workflow diagram, that’s GTD right there. The rest of the book doesn’t so much describe how you can implement that workflow, it’s more how David Allenimplements that workflow.
  • Having a mind like water
    The mind like water analogy sounds nice, but trying to achieve it causes so many people to over-complicate their systems and over-analyze their performance. It’s an idealized concept and though it’s something to aim for, too many of us focus on it as though it were the holy grail of GTD.
  • It’s not the all-encompassing system we like to think
    In the book there is regular reference to executives and office workers; people who travel, have lots of meetings and receive hundreds of emails everyday. That should tell you who it’s really aimed at. For the rest of us, we have to tweak the system to suit our specific job roles or pick appropriate parts from the workflow as required. When it boils down to it, a lot of people who try implementing full GTD don’t really need to.
  • The weekly review
    You have to book aside a period of time every week to recap and review your system… isn’t part of the reason we read books like GTD and Seven Habits to avoid this sort of thing? Isn’t it easier and more “GTD” to review individual aspects (as next actions) only when necessary?
  • GTD is showing its age
    GTD was published in 2002. Back then the internet was just big, now it’s ubiquitous in our lives. GTD doesn’t address workers who have unlimited wi-fi availability, online tools and access to social media networks. What’s more, there is an increasing focus on creativity and thinking outside the box, as businesses struggle to stand out and innovate.
  • What about the high level focus?
    GTD in its current form is very much about the low level. Minimal pages are written about the higher level area of mission statements and long term goals. It’s simply not explained in enough depth and feels so cut off from the rest of the GTD workflow. You may fill out a detailed vertical map, but it won’t have much correlation with your day-to-day system.
  • What about the quality of the work?
    Patty pretty much summed it up in the comment that was posted when I asked what the readers disliked; you can be the most organized person in the world yet still produce rubbish work. However in terms of a GTD system you are brilliant.
  • You can’t totally clear your mind
    GTD encourages you to get all those projects, next actions and open loops out of your mind and into a trusted system. That way it frees up your head from unnecessary remembering, tracking and stress. That’s the theory anyway. You can’t get everything out of your head. The best way to get it off your mind is to complete or resolve it, not just write it down!
  • No old fashioned prioritizing
    Some people who adopt GTD end up with the attitude that they should always be doingsomething. This is because there is no scope for old fashioned prioritizing using scales like high, medium and low. As a result it’s difficult to balance the amount of work you do over time. The truth is stuff can be put off, there are low priority projects that can be left for later.
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1 Comment

  1. Ok, so this is 6 years old, which means GTD is even more out of date than when you wrote this!

    I can’t tell you how many times I have ‘fallen off the wagon’; countless times. Your reasons above certainly ring true. If you have progressed your thinking and used a system that manages you well (and you stuck to it!) I’d love to know.

    Until then, I’m giving Mark Forster’s DIT another go. Again.

    Simon.

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