Person questioning getting things done

December 29, 2022 in Digital Organizing, Organizing, Paperless

Getting Things Done (GTD) Is A Popular Productivity System that gained popularity in the mid to late 2000s. Using it can be challenging, however.

What Is GTD, and Where Did It Come From

David Allen, like myself, has had an eclectic career history. He created GTD as an offshoot of a project contract for a productivity system he won from Lockheed in the early 1980s. 

There are five stages in the system representing stages of the process. Two, “process” and “organize,” direct the contents into five questions.

  • “Is it actionable”
  • “Single-step to complete?”
  • “More than two minutes?”
  • “For me?”
  • “Specific day/time?”

From there, the process continues until each item is in one of 8 “buckets” where they exist until their status changes.

The Success of GTD

Early on, GTD received an almost cult-like following. In 2005, Wired magazine called it “a new cult for the info age.”

Roman Kazak wrote on LinkedIn that he loves using GTD for three reasons.

  • Finally, I have things under control in one place.
  • My anxiety and stress levels decreased dramatically.
  • I’ve stopped thinking about what I should do in the future, and instead, I will think and do it when the time comes.

Undoubtedly, GTD has helped many with productivity and getting things done.

Challenges with Successfully Using GTD

The structure of GTD is the thing that makes it challenging for many people to use successfully. 

First off, GTD is very complex. As I pointed out earlier, there are five stages, to begin with; then you ask five questions of all things in two steps, then there are eight individual outcomes. I have to state in fairness that I attempted to use GTD for several weeks and had to abandon it for this reason. When working with clients, I repeatedly repeat the word “simple” many times. In my work, simple equals completed. 

Next, GTD requires a rigid process and is time-consuming. As Dustin Wax points out in Lifehack, “For the rest of us, though, GTD feels a little too much like the kind of work we picked the book up to help us manage in the first place.” GTD requires you to view tasks as “next actions” and occur according to context, depending on where you are and what you’re doing. There is no way to prioritize tasks in GTD.

GTD requires you to create a system out of technology tools that can end up being a patchwork system that can be hard to integrate and utilize effectively.

I Offer an Alternative

On January 10th, 2023, I’m launching V4.0 of the Total Effectiveness System. It’s the culmination of my life as a professional organizer helping people organize their lives around what’s important and their critical roles and responsibilities. The system is a six-week course that meets on Tuesdays for an hour and focuses on creating new habits that work for the way you work. 

We cover establishing your core values, setting values-based goals, managing your schedule and task list, and creating a system to bring it all together. It works with how you work, whether you’re a pen-on-paper person or a paperless techie.

If there is something you’d like to change in 2023, I’d love to hear more. You can visit the Total Effectiveness System main page to learn more or reach out to me directly on my contact page.

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Todd Allan

About the author 

Todd Allan

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