In 2015 I published a series for The Productivityist Weekly newsletter subscribers that discussed why I was no longer using Getting Things Done as my personal productivity approach. If you’d like to give all three parts a read, I’ve written a three-part series that highlight my reasons:
- So Long, GTD: The First Reason Why I’ve Left Getting Things Done Behind
- So Long, GTD: The Second Reason Why I’ve Left Getting Things Done Behind
- So Long, GTD: The Third Reason Why I’ve Left Getting Things Done Behind
The feedback I received on the series when it was initially published as part of The Productivityist Weekly newsletter was mostly positive. There were a lot of people — and are a lot of people — who have either tried and never really adopted the methodology or used it for years and eventually abandoned it. However, there were some emails I received that questioned whether or not I was “doing GTD right” and comments from those who unsubscribed who were disappointed that I was leaving the methodology behind and possibly positioning the series as a way to promote and sell the new approach I’ve developed.
I was doing GTD right. I’m still a big fan of what GTD can offer people. But the thing about productivity approaches is that they need to be “personal” in order to be as effective as possible. I strongly believe that we need to start using the term “personal productivity” more often because it’s such a subjective area in so many ways.
Everyone has their own way of doing things and some will be more effective than others. But to suggest that using one approach over another is the best course of action for everyone is shortsighted. Some people are not going to be able to grasp the elements of one system over another as easily. Some people are going to be more visual than others. Some people are going to be more digitally inclined with their approach than others. Productivity is so personal at its core that when you are forced to use a system you aren’t comfortable with you can feel less connected to the tasks on your to do list and, as a result, have more difficulty accomplishing them in an effective and efficient manner.
Let’s look at email management as an example. Some people are simply going to use their email application to manage their tasks rather than any sort of dedicated task management application. Why would they do this? Perhaps it’s easier. Perhaps it’s mandated by their company (I know of some organizations that enforce this type of task management process). You can use the GTD methodology if you are using your email application to manage your stuff. You can use any methodology if you want – even one that you’ve developed yourself. The thing is is that you need to use something.
Your approach is likely to be different then the person sitting in the next cubicle. My approach to productivity is very different than my wife’s approach. Whether you use GTD, Agile, Kanban, the Franklin/Covey Method, Leo Babauta’s Zen To Done, or some other approach to personal productivity — the key is to make sure that the approach allows you to treat everything that you need to do and want to do as personally as possible. By that I mean to treat your tasks with the highest level of attention and intention.
You owe yourself that.
GTD has been around for nearly 15 years. David Allen has recently updated the book that started it all and during our discussion on The Productivityist Podcast he said that he basically rewrote the thing. Why? I’ve read it and I would say that the methodology itself has evolved, albeit not considerably. So, too, has the creator of the methodology. GTD has a ton of followers and supporters because it is help them better connect with all of the things that they have on their various lists. But it hasn’t worked for everybody – regardless of who they are, how long they’ve used to the system, and what they do.
And that’s okay.
When I wrote the series for my newsletter, I was using it as a vehicle to introduce the approach I’m using now. But there’s more to it than that. I’ve been a follower of GTD for so long that I felt I needed to provide some backstory and reasoning as to why it no longer worked for me. I’ve written about GTD so many times that I didn’t want to just stop discussing it altogether. I wanted to let my newsletter audience in on it before I put it out to the world in a much more open way. I believe the series accomplished that.
Some people have asked whether or not I will continue to talk about GTD here and elsewhere. The answer to that is simple: absolutely. GTD is a phenomenally mature systematic approach that has helped (and continues to help) a ton of people get things done. It would be shortsighted not to discuss the merits of the approach.
But I will also shine a spotlight on my own approach going forward because it’s also working for people – myself included. And frankly, it would be shortsighted not to discuss the merits of my approach.
Here’s the thing: no matter what approach you use, do everything you can to make it as personal as possible. The best way to get more of the right things done is to connect with the tasks on your list as personally as possible. A trusted system helps you do that because it helps you realize your potential, gives you leverage, fosters awareness, and nurtures your long-term needs and wants. And that means you need to make it your system, whether it’s GTD, TimeCrafting, or something you’ve built from other various personal productivity approaches.