This is a piece that was originally published in The Productivityist Weekly newsletter. I wanted to share it with you on the blog as well to explain why Productivityist no longer focuses on the Getting Thing Done (or GTD) methodology. If you would like more updates, Click here and you’ll get it delivered to your inbox every week.
In the past two posts (found here and here) I’ve discussed the first two reasons why I’ve stopped using Getting Things Done – otherwise known as GTD. I received many emails about this topic (beyond the comments left on each post) and – in the interest of full transparency – here are just a few examples of what was sent my way:
“I used to use GTD years ago and tried it again using THINGS when I switched from a PC to a MacBook a couple of months ago. I was driven more by the lack of Franklin Planning software for Mac and by horrific experiences with Microsoft Support for Outlook for Mac. You are spot on about GTD. I much prefer the Franklin methodology and I have reverted to using Informant and Outlook for Mac ( just the email).” – Jeff D.
“I understand where you are coming from with GTD, but I am still using a modified (think less pure) version that works for me. I am a 50-something man who (finally) got diagnosed with adult ADHD three years ago. My title is unimportant, but project manager is one of the many hats I wear. I knock the big things out of the park, it was the little things that fell through the cracks that created headaches for me at work. That’s where a system like GTD is particularly useful.” – Bob R.
“I reread the GTD book last year, bought the new paper-based guide, and listened to the GTD virtual study group. It’s just not for me either. I have used a Franklin Planner for 20 years, and it works perfectly for my needs. There are a lot of people that say it’s too business like, but as a stay-at-home mom/homeschooler it is the only thing that I found works for me.” – Cassandra S.
“I think of GTD as a set of interconnected models and evaluate it with the following questions: Are the models useful? Yes. Are they complete? Yes. Can they be simplified? I haven’t found a way to simplify them so I’m curious to see what is offered as an alternative. You still need to capture and handle inputs. You still need to plan projects. If not GTD models, then what instead?” – Jay E.
“I don’t find GTD too rigid—complex yes—but not rigid. You get to decide how many lists you should have and what should go on them. You can even have one giant next action list and one project list if that’s how you want to roll. My lists have changed over time, if I find I’m not using a context very often, I just delete it. It feels very flexible to me.” – Jason C.
“I feel like you’re putting into words the things I couldn’t quite describe when first learning GTD. I have never fully adopted GTD and instead took the ideas I liked and customized them. I feel like GTD often overthinks productivity. So as you put it, we worry more about being productive and managing the whole system instead of actually doing work that matters.” – Paul M.
“I think you’re right on point with GTD being too complicated. The core concepts are fantastic and I still apply them is a general sense; but the sheer number of lists I had (and the number of tasks on those lists) were a big reason why many things never got done.” – Ian P.
GTD can be a very polarizing as its ardent supporters can get incredibly defensive about it and those who are frustrated with it can condemn it just as easily.
I’ve done neither.
I wouldn’t say I vehemently defended GTD over the years, although when I first started using it, I was incredibly evangelical about it.
As for slamming or condemning GTD, I’m not doing that either. I’ve just moved on from it… and here’s the third reason why.
It’s too fragile.
It may sound strange to say that GTD is fragile after suggesting in my previous post that it is too rigid, but hear me out. The fragility of GTD lies in the fact that it can break very easily due to its rigidity.
Think about an hourglass for a moment. It’s rigid in its ideal form. But if it was to fall from a height (likely any height), it would break apart. Once it breaks, sand starts to leak out, and it’s not getting back in there. So the only remedy is to get another hourglass… or to use another form of timer, like your mobile phone or watch.
GTD is a lot like that hourglass. Sure, you can always start over and reset yourself, but it’s often just easier to go back to the basic to do list. The problem is that the basic to do list isn’t nearly as effective as a segmented to do list.
Both the hourglass and GTD are elegant solutions. But both are too fragile to be reliable enough to stand the test of (ironically) time.
Now that I’ve outlined the three big reasons why I’ve left GTD behind, I bet you’re asking: “So if you’re not using GTD as your productivity methodology, then what are you using?”
I’ve been using a productivity approach that is simple enough to start using today. It doesn’t require any special application or notebook and is flexible enough to be used in the application – whether paper-based or digital – that you’re using right now.
This approach is flexible enough to be used by virtually anyone – whether you are a CEO, an employee looking to start their own business or side project, or a stay-at-home parent who just wants to be able to get more of the right things done every day. And it’s durable enough to not crack under the pressure and weight of everyday life, because as we all know no matter how much we plan our day very few days go according to plan.
This new approach is called The NOW Year™ Method.
I have been teaching The NOW Year™ Method to coaching clients for the past year and the results have been outstanding. This approach focuses on mode-based work as opposed to action or time-based work.
The NOW Year™ Method allows you to connect better with the items on your to do list so you have a better chance of dealing with the things that you need to do, don’t get stuck trying to figure out what you ought to do, and ultimately get to what you want to do more frequently.
That’s what the letters in “NOW” stand for: Need to do, Ought to do, Want to do.
While I’ve stopped using GTD, I’ll always be grateful for what it has provided for me over the years. David Allen’s work has been a great help for me and I owe him a ton of gratitude for that.
But I’ve found something that works better for me. And based on what others have sent my way in response to this series (as well as what I’ve heard from my coaching clients), I know that what I’ve developed – The NOW Year™ Method – will work better for others too.
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