By failing at GTD, I have learned its keys

I read the book, Getting Things Done, in 2001. Since then, I have re-read it several times and integrated many aspects of the program into my life. Unfortunately, I have not been able to attain “black belt” status during the last five years, nor have I come very close. And yet, the intention of working towards a black belt in GTD is always there. And every day I think and act in a bastardized GTD sort of way.

As a GTD believer who has so far failed to go the distance in implementing GTD in my life, I do think I have identified two main pillars of GTD which, of course, have been the toughest things for me to fully integrate.

1. The Weekly Review. This is sort of like eating vegetables and exercising daily. You know it’s good for you, you know you need to do it to be at your best and to live a better life, and yet it just doesn’t happen. My two main obstacles to completing a full-blown Weekly Review are: a) Negotiating with others who need my time to secure personal time I would need for a Weekly Review, and b) Even when I’ve scheduled time for a Weekly Review and am in-process, I have never failed to go down rabbit trails and start working on actions and projects before I’ve completed my Weekly Review. In short, I feel like I need an entire Saturday away from my family to get it done the right way (which I can’t get, because of my parenting priorities). Then, I need someone standing over me saying, “Do NOT start working on that. Write it down and go on to the next thing in your in basket. MOVE ON!”

2. Write down everything, get it all out of your head. Then throw it all into your in-box, to be processed once a day. I have become someone who writes down ALMOST everything, and gets ALMOST everything out of my head. And yet, as David Allen says, if you don’t get it ALL out of your head, if you don’t write it ALL down, you won’t trust your lists and you can’t relax knowing you’re doing exactly what you should be doing at that moment. I do carry around a pad and pen in my wallet and I use them often, but too often I still trust myself to remember ideas I’m having in the shower, while I’m driving, while I’m watching football on TV, etc. And then, I forget these ideas. Doh! And while I do use my in-box as a place to throw my ideas, I don’t go through my in-box frequently enough. There’s so much stuff in there, it repels me during a week of go-go-go implmentation. And then, I trust my lists even less. Because of my many young kids and my heavy parenting responsibilities, I can’t arrive at work earlier than 8 and I can’t leave later than 5:30pm and it’s a major deal to work on the weekends, and yet, what I really feel I need is more time – to process, to think, to plan next actions. I could stop working at 4:00pm and just process the in-box. Perhaps this would be better for my overall effectiveness. But my time for taking action is already so short, I’m loathe to shorten it for processing and thinking’s sake. (And yet, as I write that last sentence, it’s so obvious that it’s what I need to do.)

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2 responses to “By failing at GTD, I have learned its keys

  1. One of the most difficult things to do with the Weekly Review is its sheer honesty. Done properly, some weeks you have to look at yourself, and say “you haven’t done anything this week.”

    That’s tough, really tough.

  2. I’m right there with you. I keep reading and rereading GTD but I still don’t do it the way it says you should. I don’t think I’ve ever done a real weekly review.

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