Say it softly. Whisper it to your friends. David Allen’s Getting Things Done is NOT the best way to get things done.
It’s dull, it’s difficult, it’s about as satisfying as an air sandwich. And it doesn’t work.
Here are 26 reasons why you should NOT use GTD.
1. You have to read the book
The first reason is the best. To do GTD, you have to actually read the book. That’s about as much fun as hitting yourself over the head with a brick, and slightly less enlightening. It might be just 250-odd pages but it’s so badly written you’ll have to read each page three times to understand it.
2. It’s not practical
It’s hard to believe that anyone actually follows GTD to the letter. Okay, some people probably do, but lots also adjust it, tweak it and make all sorts of changes to make it actually work. If you’re going to invest that much effort into a productivity system, you may as well create your own.
3. It feels like a cult
If GTD feels like a cult, it might be because David Allen is a minister in a church called the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness. The church believes that its founder, Roger Hinkins (who later changed his name to Sri John-Roger), is a Mystical Traveler who has previously appeared as Jesus, St. Francis and Abraham Lincoln. He’s the “J-R” Allen acknowledges at the beginning of the book.
4. There’s no conflict between writing and thinking
One of the big “benefits” that the book is supposed to deliver is that by writing everything down, you no longer have to think about them. But ideas and thoughts can be in two places at once. It is possible to put everything that you need to do to complete a task in your “bucket”… and still find that you’re thinking about it.
5. There’s an advantage in thinking about what you have to do
And that’s probably a good thing. What Allen dismisses as the “monkey on your shoulder” nagging you to do things is also reminding you that something needs to be done… and prompting you to figure out how to do it. Dwelling on things might be annoying but it can also prompt solutions.
6. There’s no limit to what you can write down
The first phase of the GTD workflow is to collect representations of “all the things incomplete in your world.” But where do you draw the line? And if you leave something out — such as your dream of building a company that will buy and asset-strip Microsoft — does that mean you’re giving up on it?
7. Incubation is the same as procrastination
Allen’s response to the previous reason would probably be that you write down everything and file the things that are unlikely to happen under Incubation > Someday/Maybe. In other words, you put them off.
8. “Waiting for” is procrastination
Putting something in a list called “waiting for” isn’t a way of getting things done; it’s a way of doing something later… or putting it off.
9. Deferment is the same as procrastination
“It’s likely that most of the next actions you determine for things in ‘in’ will be yours to do and will take longer than two minutes to complete,” says Allen.
Those things should be deferred, he continues. In other words, you should put those off too.
10. Delegation is procrastination
One alternative to GTD’s
procrastination deferment is delegation, which sounds like a tempting way to shift responsibility… and another way to procrastinate. That’s especially true when you know the person you should delegate to is going to throw it back at you eventually anyway.
11. What if the person you delegate to isn’t using GTD?
And what if the person you delegate to hasn’t discovered the wonders of GTD? Your task will sit in their head, causing mental anguish and confusion, and never get done. What will you have achieved then?
12. Sometimes procrastination works
Again, if GTD fails to stop procrastination, maybe that’s a good thing. Important things usually give way to urgent things eventually anyway, and putting them off while keeping them in your head often means that when you do come to do them, you’ll know exactly what to do. No thanks to GTD though.
13. Trust your instinct and experience, not David Allen
If you’ve got so much on your plate that you’re struggling to keep up, there’s usually a good reason: people know that you get things done, so they give you more to do. It might be a bit of a struggle, and you might not realize you’re doing it, but it does mean that you are sorting out your work and getting through it.
14. GTD doesn’t leave room for spontaneity and creativity
It’s hard to be spontaneous and creative when you have to write down absolutely everything you were thinking of doing long before you actually get down to doing it. What if you just feel like going to a museum? Do you have to create a file first or can you go and put the tickets in the folder retroactively?
15. The world contains enough jargon
David Allen’s books contain more jargon than the average Silicon Valley café. What most people would call a “to-do” list, he calls a “next action” list. Instead of “reminders,” we have “tickler files.” Instead of “ongoing projects” we have “open loops.” And instead of English, we have something that sounds very clever but actually ranges from common sense to nonsense.
16. Just because you can do something in two minutes doesn’t mean you should
One of the tenets of GTD is that if something can be done within two minutes, it should be done now. It could be tempting then to scratch something off your list and squeeze an email into the 120 seconds David Allen allots to it. Procrastinating — and thinking about it — might produce a better missive.
17. Just because you can do something in two minutes doesn’t mean you should do it now
There are lots of things you can do in two minutes. You can boil the kettle; feed the cat; clean the keyboard. But just because something can be done quickly doesn’t mean you should do it right away. You can clean your keyboard at any time. Deadlines need to be met now.
18. David Allen can’t count to two
In fact though, the two-minute rule is flexible. According to David Allen:
“Two minutes is in fact just a guideline… you can extend the cutoff for each item to five or ten minutes.”
So which tasks should we do first?
19. There are too many GTD apps
Priacta has a list of 74 GTD-related programs ranging in price from free to $300. That’s not a good thing. It’s a sign that using GTD requires lots of help.
20. You’ll get more done with a routine
The best way to get things done is to get in the habit of doing bits of them every day until the task is completed. With GTD, you’ll just get in the habit of doing GTD.
21. You should never pay attention to anyone who tells you to brainstorm
“Brainstorming” is another piece of jargon that’s popular with self-help gurus. In English, it means “I don’t know what to tell you, so you go away and think about it for yourself.” If an author tells you to brainstorm, he should buy your book.
22. Panic focuses the mind
We’ve already pointed out that most people naturally prioritize their work by waiting till the important stuff becomes urgent, then panicking and getting on with it. If GTD works, then you’ll lose the focus that panic can bring. And if it doesn’t, why do it?
23. GTD replaces doing with planning
GTD is such a complex system that instead of thinking about what you should be doing, you’re going to be thinking about planning what you should be doing. How is that better?
24. GTD isn’t for everyone
It’s hard to believe that a system as complex and detailed as GTD is going to appeal to more than the small minority of people who like flowcharts, filing cabinets and carefully maintained inboxes. If that’s you, great. But then again…
25. GTD is only for people who don’t need it
If you are the sort of person who likes flowcharts and organized inboxes then it’s unlikely that you need an organizational system. You know how to organize things.
26. It’s really, really anal
Really, it is. If you’ve got lots to do, start with the most urgent and get on with it. Making lists, sublists and 43 folders is just far too pernickety. People will laugh at you. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
[tags] gtd, getting things done, David Allen [/tags]