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26 Reasons Not to Use GTD

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]


  1. Duncan Says:

    27. Just wait for the next Fad to come along.

    We've had SMART goals, 7 habits and win-win thinking. This is just one more fad. If you wait a while it too shall pass.

  2. Mark Goodson Says:

    Gotta agree that I'm getting a bit sick of the whole GTD thing. Just too ubiquitous now.

  3. Kevin Crenshaw Says:

    Fortunately, you don't have throw out the baby (valid principles of workflow management) with the bathwater (GTD, a specific implementation). There are alternatives that solve many of your concerns, plus these others:

    28. GTD generates a lot of stress when processing emails, which means something is amiss. (The issue: Your email inbox is both a communication channel and a source of tasks. "Processing" by itself takes too long to keep that channel open and flowing properly.)
    29. David Allen says "work intuitively" from our lists. Sorry, most people can't be intuitive with a list of hundreds of things. Their mind shuts down as they scan their tasks looking for the best one.
    30. There is no mechanism for balancing areas of your life within your day. In fact, a recent TIME magazine article quotes David Allen as saying you should have everything in one list since you are one person. Do you really want to see a list with personal phone calls when at work?
    31. Some things fly at you and need immediate scheduling into the day without going through the whole collect/process/organize bit.
    32. It takes up to a year to fully master GTD. Only the brave and very motivated will make it. The failure rate is very high.
    33. The book lacks practical, detailed instructions for a whole host of real-world situations. Example: File drawers with mixed resource and action items (e.g., research notes).
    34. You're on your own to figure it all out. Who do you call when you grab something from your inbox and say: "What do I do with THIS?"
    (See http://www.priacta.com/Coaching/Training_FAQ.shtml#TROGTD)

    "Vanilla" GTD just doesn't address these issues. One system that does is Total, Relaxed Organization (TRO). (Well, it doesn't solve the problem of "jargon". Sorry!)
    (See http://www.priacta.com/TRO)

    Kevin Crenshaw, Executive Coach, Priacta

  4. K Stone Says:

    Like anything else, I've taken the best and left the rest when it comes to GTD. You're list is very good. GTD is not the end all be all. It's got some good concepts, but I still call my to-do list a "to-do list." I mean, come on! That's what it is! 🙂
    Nice job.

  5. Matt Ellsworth Says:

    I have been reading the 4 hour work week - its a great book - and it explains a lot of why things like GTD are not great.

  6. Dan Gtdagenda Says:

    You have some valid points.

    That's why when designing my application http://www.gtdagenda.com I only kept in mind 2 of his ideeas, contexts and next actions. Those I felt were the best in the book.

  7. Miltos Says:

    As with any system, method, approach, or perspective, GTD doesn't have to work for everyone and it doesn't have to be used exactly as documented. GTD is a collection of ideas and suggestions around managing to-do's and information in your life. Take what works for you and throw out what doesn't. And if none of it works, then look elsewhere. It's interesting how our culture always tries to pursue a "one size fits all" solution, when history shows us that it's just never going to happen ... ever. There are people for whom GTD works fantastically exactly as laid out in the book. There are people who experience no stress whatsoever about piles of paper and massive e-mail inboxes and could care less that GTD even exists. It's all good.

  8. AC Says:

    I just tripped over this article (linked in another article) and I just wanted to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! In my attempts to read the GTD book, I've found the overpopulation of the pages with little sidebars and information bubbles to be ridiculously distractive, rigidity of this system to be discouraging, and the re-naming of simple things as "buckets" and so on to be a desperate bid at innovation. Most of your points are thoughts I've had while trying to read the book (especially your first point!), yet when I try to point out to GTD cultists the flaws in the system, I feel rather like I'm pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.

  9. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    Planning how to get things done will never replace just simply doing them. There are really only two outcomes to consider: do it, or not. Like Yoda said, there is no try, and GTD is a try.

  10. graft Says:

    "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?"

    With that attitude, why even bother making your bed?

  11. Kaleo Says:

    Couldn't have put it better myself. GTD is so focussed on planning and reducing everything to context and next action that I am sure I am not the only one who finds it tedious and impractical. How many of us are actually so tied down to a given context that we cannot get something done unless we are there? How many of our projects have one and only one next action that can be done *next*?

    I find that my mind is project-oriented. Maybe it's because I'm self-employed and creative and not "anal." I use a very simple system. I have tasks organized by projects. If a task has a due date I give it one. If it's urgent I give it priority. So, instead of wasting time breaking everything down into contexts and next actions, I organize by project instead of context. Under each project, I have a list of relevant tasks. I tag tasks as described above. When I get down to "work", I look at my list of projects. I pick the project that I need to work on, then scan the list of tasks for that project and pick one to do. Check it off when it's done and go to the next one in that project or another one, if I so wish.

  12. Tim Says:

    Thank you for this list. There are many other reasons as well that GTD doesn't work.

    It actually creates more stress for most people, and more confusion, as the obsessive types end up with endless lists. They even have lists of lists, and they argue about the best way to organize them.

    GTD is a closed system, as the new books about GTD are the same as the old books. There is no progress as it is based on a cultish mindset.

    Most of the blogs promoting GTD, are people who are making money off GTD. Its hype.
    Some of them are also members of MSIA religion, who are promoting it for that reason, and they promote books by John-Roger to their clients.

    Here are some other links, with some good points about why GTD is not helpful.

    David Allen: The master of getting thing done - July 1, 2007

    David Allen - GTD - John-Roger - MSIA - Insight Seminars
    http://ww w.factnet.org/discus/messages/1/19604.html?1143714430


    Kona's Dad: GTD a Cult?

  13. Tommy Says:

    Point 13, about trusting instinct, is particularly important. I scribbled more on that here:


  14. Robert Says:

    Great article! Unfortunately, however, many many people are trying GTD and Aleen is selling lots of books and raking in the bucks because I suppose it "promises" to be the silver bullet for the problem they face i.e. task management and task scheduling.

    I tried GTD and I can tell you I did 6 hours a day of shuffling and 2 hours of actual work and I saw the declining financial results of my business as I was using it. Not good.

    I have found the silver bullet for my needs and that is a program called "Taskline" - it automatically schedules your work for you based on deadline and priority and it has made me as productive as I have ever been. (No I have no affiliation with the company who makes it). The difference with using such a clever program and GTD is that with GTD is 80% organizing - 20% doing - with such a clever program as Taskline it's one click a day generating your schedule and (for me) 12 hours a day actually working!!

    But... I will tell you that overall the times when I was most productive was about 10 years ago when I didn't use any kind of scheduling system or todo list at all and I just did what had to be done (what my intuition told me to do) and you know what - that is what works best!

  15. Jens Knutson Says:

    This might as well be called "26 reasons why the author doesn't grok GTD", or "Clarity is hard, let's go shopping!" #21 is a perfect example: if you don't understand the value of brainstorming, then "ur doin' it rong". That may not be (entirely) your fault, though -- lots of clueless "consultant" hucksters have made it way more complicated than it really is. Regardless, it's still exactly the right tool for some tasks, and dismissing it so curtly is foolish.

    More helpfully, this post and almost all the subsequent comments are reminiscent of the myriad complaints and dismissals spouted from beginning students of meditation. Both are very subtle practices, and require a lot of persistance to really grasp their value and reap their rewards.

    For another example, take physical exercise. Exercise really IS tough sometimes, and in response, some people come up with endless excuses to avoid it. And yet, none of those excuses affect the actual value of exercise.

    However, that isn't to say that none of these items have a legitmate root complaint. #19 is SPOT ON, and is aggravated by the fact that most "GTD" apps are complete crap, and do little to nothing to actually speed up or enrich a good workflow. A good GTD app ought to make it easy to do "the right thing", and should act as a kind of learning tool for GTD - the structure of the app ought to naturally inform the user about the relationships between Next Actions, Projects, Stuff, etc.

    (Disclaimer: I am writing Yet Another GTD App based on the ideas in the previous paragraph. Whether or not that goes to make #19 on your list better or worse will be up to users. 😉

  16. manny Says:

    this article is spot on most stuff, but i cant always agree with #22

    "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?"

    this behavior can become unhealthy really quick, we cant drive just based on

    PANIC ATTACKS, STRESS AND LAST MINUTE ADRENALINE RUSHES. We would live in distress all the time, which would lead back to procrastinating

    we need to learn to gain control of our minds and bodies

    i do like #20

  17. Will Says:

    I'd go along with many of your criticisms:
    - that it is a scary cult
    - that some people spend WAY too much time on the process
    - that the sort of people that this naturally appeals to tend to get hung up on the process and tools
    - it introduces a new layer of jargon between the cultist and reality
    - it focuses on taking out the subconscious processing of tasks in background mode. This seems like a perverse attempt to remove a very useful capability
    - little and often is often the best approach


    I found the book beautifully written and pretty clear. It is to Allen's credit that he has never attempted to update or modify and is on record as saying that it's all in the original.

    A key part of the system is having different lists for different contexts. This is one of the key "complexities" that people whine about.

    Another key part is the periodic balancing of the whole. If you're not doing the weekly review, you're not doing GTD. I strongly suspect that most of the people who talk about it aren't.

    Brainstorming: oh, come on! His approach to quick projects on the fly is very practical. Although I never got to grips with the rest of the system, I have found this useful.

    Everything you say about procrastinationand delegation is wrong. He specifically addresses the question of dealing with non GTDists.

    Peace and love

  18. Irachongi Says:

    I have used quite a few of the productivity models over the past several years and failed miserably at them all. As I tackled my resolution to bring order to my chaos I ran across your site. Thank the productivity Gods. Your site has given me several alternatives to get all aspects of my life in check. Thank you so much and I will certainly be back for a visit. Your honesty is refreshing.

  19. jml Says:

    Agree with 20 out of the 26 reasons.

    Wish I had read this before spending two and a half years trying to fit my life into a GTD-shaped box.

    Gave up relying on other people's systems last year - there are too many bogus experts in this field - much better to work out what you need to do for yourself.


  20. jordan epstein Says:

    you obviously don't understand GTD. And I'm not here to teach you it.

    But if you were to start with a list of your values, and build that out to what you have to do
    here and now, then it would make sense to you that GTD makes sense.

    It sounds like you have a lot of fear, and because of that- you're looking for reasons not to like it.

  21. Nate Says:

    I am taking the time to write this in the defense of rational thinking. The poster is wrong on every point. I am not trying to be crass or rude. Just correcting false information for those who read his list and think he knows what he is talking about, which he clearly doesn't. The poster has no knowlegde of how GTD actually works, the reason for common place productivity tools and how they are used (like tickler files, tasks contexts, active and waiting for folders etc). He has no concept of why defering or delegation are not procrasination. Honestly, he is talking out of his ass.

    1. You have to read the book - or listen to the audio recording, or go to the seiminar etc. Last I checked books and classes are how teaching and learning works.

    2. It’s not practical
    GTD says it is a philosophy and can be adapted to your own styles and tools. It is as practical as you want to make it.

    3. It feels like a cult
    It feels like a cult because it does have an affect on people and changes how they come at their workload. People use principles from it, and want to share those of value for them. Each person takes something a bit different away from the GTD ideals.

    4. There’s no conflict between writing and thinking
    Yes there is. The fear of forgetting things or dealing with complicated information and data or planning requires you to write it down. So does anything you can't DO rigth away but do not want to forget. Writing things down in a reliable place you can refer to later allows you to clear your mind and focus on your immediate tasks.

    5. There’s an advantage in thinking about what you have to do
    Yes, thinking about your current prorities, not 3 or 4 projects you might eventually get too. You do not understand the type of clearing your mind of clutter discussed in GTD.

    6. There’s no limit to what you can write down
    So you just leave it all clogging your head? Einstein himself said he wrote everything down he didn't need to remember so he could maximize his brain.

    7. Incubation is the same as procrastination
    No, procrastination is putting off what you need to do now. Incubation is putting off something distracting you from what you need to do now.

    8. “Waiting for” is procrastination
    Waiting for is follow up on delegated tasks, dates or events that have yet to occur and you can't act on. Again, not the same thing. I can't have a superbowl or 4th of july party a week early. Likewise if I am waiting to see if I got a job in another state before I sell my house and move, I am not procrastinating on selling my house because I am waiting for the job call back.

    9. Deferment is the same as procrastination
    Again, deferment is future tasks you can't do yet because the events tied to the tasks have NOT occured.

    10. Delegation is procrastination
    Delegation is working with other people and assigning tasks.

    11. What if the person you delegate to isn’t using GTD?
    Then they work the way non-GTD people do or whatever way works best for them. GTD serves you not others.

    12. Sometimes procrastination works
    Discipline, training, planning beat out panic everytime. Panic is how amatures respond to a crisis. Its lazy and risky.

    13. Trust your instinct and experience, not David Allen
    You should trust people who have specialized knowledge with what they are teaching. I don't trust my instinct and experience alone to do brain surgery or split atoms. That requires knowledge. You go to school for that.

    14. GTD doesn’t leave room for spontaneity and creativity
    The whole point is to capture your spontanteity so you don;t lose it and get distractions out of the way so you can be creativity.

    15. The world contains enough jargon
    That jargon is labels assigned to specific actions, tools and concepts. Without those labels we have to use whole sentences to share and discuss simple things. Jargon doesn't mean anything negative, it just means there is depth and subculture within a subject.

    16. Just because you can do something in two minutes doesn’t mean you should
    And its doesn't say you MUST. It says its best to just get those things done when you can so they are not procrastinated and they are out of the way. The idea is anything that only takes a couple of minutes is pointless to defer/file or delegate because the effort to do so is greater than the effort to just do it.

    17. Just because you can do something in two minutes doesn’t mean you should do it now
    Again, you don;t have to. Stick it on your to do list.

    18. David Allen can’t count to two
    Not even going to comment.

    19. There are too many GTD apps
    Again, who cares. Open markets, popular tools. Look at the iphones for an example for this.

    20. You’ll get more done with a routine
    Any new one time task or projects are not routines. About 90% of the work I do is not rountine. A system like GTD that helps me sort, delegate and track those complicated projects is very helpful.

    21. You should never pay attention to anyone who tells you to brainstorm
    Brainstorming is 2 or more people sharing ideas about a goal or task or problem that they do not have an answer too. The activity creates a safe environment where participants can rapidly offer ideas and work them like clay together to find a solution. It is a proven technique.

    22. Panic focuses the mind
    You already said this. It does. But remaining level headed in a crisis is more effective and its even better to avoid a crisis. Panic usually opens you up to costly mistakes. Look at all first responders. Would you want your fire fighters, police and EMTs panicing?

    23. GTD replaces doing with planning
    If you go into doing without planning then your an idiot. Plannig avoids costly mistakes and wasting time. Allows you to remove redundancy, be effcicent with your resources and do things in the mots logical order.

    24. GTD isn’t for everyone
    That is fine, doens't mean its wrong.

    25. GTD is only for people who don’t need it
    This is an oxymoron.

    26. It’s really, really anal
    Your really, really a 100% wrong on every count.


  22. Matthew Says:

    I would agree with Nate above. I would also like to expand on three points:

    3. It feels like a cult
    A. devotion: I like his system.. know nothing much else about him. As far as the religious stuff.. I had no idea. Not a clue. And that shows how much he has been pushing that.
    B. Charismatic leadership: Nice guy.. but don't see him much. And he's no Steve Jobs.
    C. Separation from the community: Does he keep the group tight? On a narrow path? He goes out of his way to be general about the process. He provides one software solution for Outlook.. other than that? People like the concept, but it's not a cult. There are no secret meetings or beliefs, not dues paid, just a guy selling a few books. not a big deal.

    10. Delegation is procrastination
    No, if you have subordinates and too many tasks delegation is part of your job!

    Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon on time management:
    "Here's what I know:
    Time must be explicitly managed, like money.
    You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
    Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things?
    Develop a good filing system.
    Rethink the telephone.
    Take a time out.

    Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think."
    — Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture)

    22. Panic focuses the mind
    yes it does.. and staying in panic mode and using it daily to perform is called stress. I imagine that you may be young and do not yet have to deal with the consequences of constant stress. I'm on blood pressure medication for hypertension. I have a spare tire around my middle. Over time stress changes the distribution of fat deposits if you gain any weight. It ages you faster. You are much more susceptible to illnesses.
    National geographic has a wonderful documentary on the effects of stress: Killer Stress: A National Geographic Special

  23. Hah Says:

    "It sounds like you have a lot of fear, and because of that- you're looking for reasons not to like it."

    They even sound like a cult.

    I tried to use GTD for years, bought the book and struggled to even finish that terribly written garbage. The only thing I've adopted is the "bucket", which by itself is actually mostly counterproductive. 🙂 At least this way I don't forget about things forever.

  24. Jenny Says:

    I also agree with Nate above. It sounds like the author of this post has no idea what he's talking about. And telling people that panic is good for you? Really? Delegation is procrastination? For real? This article is reckless and damaging on a number of levels.

    People, please don't listen to this guy. Read or listen to David's book and see for yourself.

  25. Assaf Stone Says:

    Like a few before me, I must totally disagree with the author.
    1. Like Nate said, there's the book, the AUDIObook (which I listened to, several times on my way to work, or while doing the dishes). And there are other ways to get GTD: Conferences, coaches, etc.
    2. It's not practical - I think you meant that it's not _feasible_. Big difference. Probably meant that you can't grasp it. That's ok. I'm still working on it myself.
    3. It feels like a cult - Well yes, but only in as much as many people feel that it changed their life. Less so than Apple Fanboys. Probably no more than any popular tool.
    4. In response to this and many other points, the idea of GTD is to clear your mind from clutter, so that you CAN have ideas and thoughts. Just do yourself a favor and record them, if they're worth it, ok?
    5. The "monkey on your shoulder" that GTD proposes you get rid of, are the things that you can't take care of, or shouldn't take care of RIGHT NOW. And the monkey is clearing the space for stuff you DO need now.
    6. Well, you might draw the line at whatever you can and will take care of right now. Otherwise, it'll take away CPU cycles from what you do need now.
    7 through 10: X is the same as procrastination. Wrong. Procrastination is putting off doing something that you should be doing now. Incubation and deferment are waiting for the right time. Delegation is handing it to the right guy (I saw in the about that you're a programmer, a web dev. Are you a self-sufficient hacker or do you have team mates? Do you have a DBA? A mobile-dev? A designer? Giving them work is delegation). "Waiting for" (WF) is making sure that the above methods of handling things won't get lost.
    11. What if the person you delegate to doesn't use GTD - Well, that's why you made a note that you delegated the action, and put it in your WF list. Funny how that works out, isn't it?
    12. Sometimes procrastination works - I'm a developer myself. Procrastination works by ignoring a request long enough for someone to hand it off to someone else. And not trust you. Not the best way to become indispensable to your organization or family. Trust me. This is why *I* chose GTD.
    13. Trusting your instinct and experience - well David Allen says that you SHOULD trust them (for prioritization within context). For management? I've seen too many organizations fall on their faces with that mindset. BTW - giving you more work? If you're just procrastinating and flying by the seat of your pants, it might mean that the guy handing you more work is just as desperate as you are.
    14. Actually the primary reason for GTD's existence, is to CLEAR room for spontaneity and creativity.
    15. You're a web-dev and you're complaining about jargon? I'd have left that complaint for last, because it really is a poor one.
    16 & 17 (Just because you can do something in two minutes doesn’t mean you should / should do it now): You're right. You're just wrong in thinking that Allen says you should. Of course, I actually read the book, so I know that.
    18. David Allen can't count to two - I was wrong. #15 should be second to last. This should be last. Though in all honesty, I think that you'd have written a better post offering twenty FOUR reasons not to use GTD.
    19. Too many GTD apps - Actually, I haven't found one that works just right for me. I'm using Evernote till I find or build one that does. If there are others like me out there, it might explain the amount of apps. BTW, Allen is not responsible for any of them. I think he merely gave his blessing to one (the Outlook one).
    20. You'll get more done with a routine - First, you're right (except again for thinking that Allen suggests otherwise). Unless of course like me and most of the others who call themselves knowledge-workers (is that too jargon-ish?) where one day's work doesn't resemble another. Then you need a flexible system to handle it.
    21. Not to brainstorm? And you were complaining about no room for thought and creativity? Which is it, then? I'm guessing that you have a PHB (Pointy Haired Boss, from Dilbert) who uses such jargon at you, instead of actually helping. I feel for you, man.
    22. Panic focuses the mind - Fly by night hacker, yes? Sorry. I'm over thirty, have three kids and a mortgage. I have enough panic as it is. BTW, GTD helps by clearing you brain so that you have as much resources to deal with panic and crisis as possible, when they arise. And they still do.
    23. GTD replaces doing with planning - Wrong. GTD makes some upfront planning and frees most of your time to do. Allen once said, and I quote "I only have to think once a week or so. The rest of the time, I'm doing". He may have been exaggerating to illustrate a point, so don't make this point #27, okay?
    24. GTD isn't for everyone - I agree. Neither is knowledge work. Finally something we can agree on.
    25. GTD is only for people who don't need it - Personally, I'm a living example to the contrary. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
    26. It's really, really anal - I'm pretty sure you're against Agile as well, or worse, think that working without a plan is agile. I'll grant you that it is tough to master. I'm still having trouble myself. I think that it's only as anal as the practitioner is.

    Do yourself a favor, and rethink this post.
    On the other hand, look at all the traffic it gave you. Kudos.


  26. Foxman Says:

    Dude! You haven't got a clue!

    Anyone who says 'delegation is procrastination' obviously does run a business and is prett thick. You hire people to do jobs for you - this is called delegating. Jeez

    Also you have absolutely no idea what GTD is. How an earth is a 'waiting for' also classed as procrastination??? have you read the book at all? Waiting for are for things like a document to arrive, a phone call off somebody, someone to deliver a report you need, etc. it's so if you don't recieve it in due course you chase it up and not forget about it!!!

    Wise u, your looking foolish.

  27. Mike Says:

    So many of your rebuttals are addressed in the book. Obviously, if it doesn't work for you, don't use it. So many people find some or all of it helpful. I was pretty disorganized before GTD, and it works really well for me now. Why should we not use it if works for us? Why be a hater?

  28. David Says:

    How spot on you are! I have been struggling with the GTD method for over a year now, and I've been struggling with an ever-growing pile of papers (now several piles stacked on my floor since the In-Box could not hold them, and I haven't even begun to "collect" everything in my apartment and life. I have a colossal "Next Action" list and about a hundred "Projects." Everything has become so complex and large that it's overwhelming and I'm paralyzed. I happen to be a severe procrastinator with ADD, very easily distracted, and it's almost impossible for me to get back on focus once I am distracted. Finally after reading your list, I discovered why. Half the legs or paths in the GTD flow chart are "closed loops." I mean, like the movie "Ground Hog Day." It's like running in circles. I take a piece of paper out of my In-Box. If it can be done in two minutes, I do it, no matter how trivial or unimportant or un-leveraging (80-20 rule) it is. If the item is more than two minutes and easily has multiple steps, I put it on the Projects List (i.e. put it off to later). And what can't be a multi-step process? Take breathing: Step One: inhale. Step Two: exhale. Put that "breathing" in the projects list and hold your breath for now. When I review the Projects List, I see either that each project still has multiple steps, in which case I put it back on the Project List, or I take one step and put it in the Next Action List (i.e., I defer it once again in an endless chasing-your-tail time loop.

    If an item is not a project (and what isn't?) and takes more than two minutes to do, I put it in the Next Actions list. Once again, putting it off, deferring it, procrastinating. When I review the Next Action list, which is more than 20 items and making me more anxious (Anything over Magic Seven, which can be held in the mind comfortably-- Three is better-- makes me feel more relaxed, more in control. Hmm.) whenever I review these, I see that each item takes more than two minutes to do (Otherwise I would have done it already), and I put it back in the Next Action List. Again, deferred.

    As for delegation, I have no assistants, secretaries, or servants. If I had, I probably wouldn't need an efficiency system like GTD. So that leaves me with really only two options: DO IT or DELETE IT. If it's reference material, there's a "next action" involved in that, namely: FILE IT. I think GTD is designed for executives and business types, yet anyone who's successful enough to become an executive, again, I can't see how they would need GTD. They're doing fine already. It's working-class wage earners like me with cluttered apartments, cluttered time, and almost non-existent self-discipline, that need a simple (K.I.S.S.) system that helps one focus. I also need to keep things in my head. Putting things in ticklers and filing cabinets is just a way of sweeping things under the rug and forgetting them. I forget to look at today's folder in the tickler. And if I do look at it, and see the thick wad of papers spilling out of a file folder, what do I do with that intimidating Behemoth? I start to shiver and bite my nails and take it out and place it in tomorrow's folder. I defer it.

    There is a method that has worked for me sometimes, but I keep forgetting to use it. I use an egg timer. I time whatever I am about to do for 15 minutes. It usually takes that long to "get into something," get into the "flow" of something, get warmed up to a mode of activity, into the momentum, the engagement, you know? Also having a fan or air conditioner whirring white noise helps. This is an ADD thing. I recall a little nugget of wisdom from the Chinese Art of War. It goes something like this: "Undertake difficult tasks by approaching what is easy in them: Do great deeds by focusing on their minute aspects." Oh, sorry, this is from the Tao Te Ching (I just looked it up.) Anyway, this led to an acronym of mine (I love acronyms): S.T.E.P. Simple, Timed, Easy, Purposeful (or "Pertinent" to your ultimate happiness on this Earth). The TIMER is the key, I think, and breaking all those projects and Next Actions longer that two minutes down into little, concrete, specific actions, which the GTD Book does talk about (It's not all bad. Nothing is.). I just think GTD is too complicated for the average schmuck like me. It's for the Ubermenschen and Uberfrauen, the Mark Zuckerbergs and Oprah Winfreys of this world. And they don't need it, I'm sure. That's the irony of it all. One thing David Allen doesn't talk a lot about is one's values, the important things in one life. That's what I liked about the Stephen Covey book, but it, too, was anal like a Swiss Watch, and not nearly as pretty. I used to put things that fed my values first, whether they were urgent or not. Those were the IMPORTANT things in the IMPORTANT-BUT-NOT URGENT block of the Eisenhower Grid that Covey uses. Otherwise I'd never do them, if they weren't urgent. Urgent things will remind you themselves to do them. They'll keep tapping on your shoulder and nagging you until you do them. They take care of themselves. When the car breaks down, when your kid has a fever. Only the kid is more important than the car. You see? What if it's a choice between an urgent matter like fixing the car with the red "Change oil" light on or something that's not so urgent but is important, like writing the next chapter of your book or reading a "Cat In The Hat" story to your kid? I'm going for the latter. What if I'm doing all items in one context, like phone calls? If only two out of 10 phone calls are important, I waste time making the other eight instead of going to another context with Important tasks (say, errands or spending time with the kid) that are important but just don't fit in the compartmentalized "context" of GTD. Really there are only one context, and it's from the Eisenhower Grid: URGENT BUT NOT IMPORTANT, URGENT AND IMPORTANT, IMPORTANT BUT NOT URGENT, AND NOT URGENT AND NOT IMPORTANT. The IMPORTANT BUT NOT URGENT is the category that takes effort. Thanks for reading.

  29. mildeye Says:

    Wow, you have to love the Internet and the extreme opinions and sweeping statements that it seems to induce!

    By making such universal and sweeping statements saying GTD doesn't work, you are in effect saying the thousands of people who say it has helped them are lying or mistaken. I would be cautious of anyone who feels that strongly to actually blog about it!

    I have been using GTD for a short while, and it has drastically enhanced my life at home and at work. Obviously it isn't for everyone (which I have just learned reading this!), but it has clearly helped a lot of people.

    I have a busy job and have a baby, and am probe to anxiety and stress. Since using GTD, I am stress free and super productive.

    According to you I must be lying or deluded...

    I'm sure it feels great to vent if you don't like something, but accept that it works for a lot of people, and that there must be something to it!

    Lighten up buddy! 🙂

  30. Christian Says:

    I wish I had a following as devoted as David Allen's. I am jealous of anybody who has his type of success at his level. I wonder if the author of this blog has created anything remotely as interesting as GTD. I believe David Allen's ideas and books are definitely worth the time to read and some of the best information on the subject of productivity. Implementing them requires dedication and discipline. Personally, I would rather sit around and daydream about my possibilites rather than get my butt moving and take some risks. I found GTD to be inspirational. As long as I just daydream, I don't have to admit that I may not have the necessary talent or drive to get things done.

    I know that "a shoe that fits one person may pinch another." GTD is not for everyone. It seems to be for people who are not satisfied with being spectators in the game of life. It is easier to sit in the stands and comment and critize than it is to get on the field and see what happens.

  31. Ben Says:


    ok i get it. there are people with ADD. maybe it's not for them. then there are people who are so lazy that they don't want to learn how to be lazier, because it's too much "work". and it is. it's much harder to turn on the lights, especially if you're sitting in the dark, ESPECIALLY if you need a new bulb. just sit there, it's way cooler. but you know something, silly? it's better. even if you might need to replace light bulbs when they blow. OH NO, BUT THEY WILL BLOW AGAIN LATER? ok you got me, i guess i'll go blow my brains out then, damn.

    i personally despise doing something in a non systematic way most of the time, because i know that almost everytime i do it takes way more time and effort than if i think about it and figure out a good, efficient, "lazy" way to get what i want done. so a lot of the actual time i'm doing something i'm not good at is spent analyzing it to see how to do it not only better, but smarter.

    i'm lazy, but picky, too. it's called "smarter, not harder"

    you're just an idiot. and knowing when to just do work as it shows up, and on the fly, instead of organizing it, is actually a big part of gtd. but then again, the points you brought up that aren't taking in to account by gtd, i just spent the last month of my life learning, well yeah, they're like in the main parts of the first book, dude.

    maybe a reading course should go on your projects list. make it high priority and do it first, and finish it too, especially before you eat again or even go pee...

    it's funny, i'm a teacher, and i analyze things a lot in that way. i'm new to the gtd thing. this page is one of the first things i read about it and it got me to ignore the buzz for a while. but i did eventually get the audio book and listened to a teacher and lecturer on a subject for two decades portray his own stuff in his own lilt. that's great. but when i hear you oversimplify and misinterpret almost every idea, then say why the ones you should be doing but don't want to don't work, then maybe 5 things that the system gives you other options for but you refer to like they're requirements... well you sound like my adolescent 11 y/o guitar students who tell me why i'm wrong about what they should've been precticing all week, as i shred away in my side of the booth...

    but it's very hard to describe fully and clearly, so what i usually do is lose it, or like yourself, oversimplify, and say again, you're an idiot. the proof is in the pudding, again, realize that there are thousands of people who are on fire and making crazy precise conistent headway on wide swaths of life with the gtd thing. and if you don't have the pudding, well you should just shut up and shine shoes for a living or become a laborer on a house painting crew. you'll then have time to philosophize and you'll even think you're smarter than now. i wish merlin mann was here, he's way better at sarcastic rebuttals than me.

  32. Andy Says:

    I've adapted his system and have been using it for 2 years. The month I started using it, I almost doubled my productivity. It's like anything though, you need to take the core ideas (mine were: keeping stuff in your head is shit and don't try and gaant chart stuff) and adapt it to the way you work.

  33. Bojan - Alpha Efficiency Says:

    Never in my life I've thought of fully implementing GTD. I've picked up some concepts, read the book, and went on with my life. I did make routines and habits, and the system that I ran, just helped me do it. Yea, it is complex system that I run, but I don't live and die by it.

    Except for my routines, everything else just piles up. When I decide that something is important, I flag it, and than it's on my radar for completion. Or it's left for later.

    Thanks for this cultist references. I had no idea. Will mention this article in my upcoming blog post, which actually offers a simple solution to GTD, and solves the problem of whole lot of system.

  34. OmeWillem Says:

    Well, your post clearly points out that you don't understand GTD. If you implement it fully and consistently, it will serve you. But when you linger at implementing GTD for, say, 60% or even 90%, it won't work. Read the book! Get productive! 😀

  35. Pieter Says:

    Well, that sure is a lot of reasons not to take it too seriously 🙂
    I treat GTD like any good story, cult, or religion: a la carte.
    Just browse through the book, pick what you like, dismiss the rest.
    (A bit like Life of Pi... I only saw the movie, of course)

    Indeed, following the full system is impractical, but having a nice long and easily searcheable list of things I'd like to get to is currently inspiring for me, and the insight that a to-do is often not formulated as a next-action helps me to find out what is missing in my plans when I get stuck.

  36. Sebastien Says:

    What a relief! I was afraid I'd find reasons to think GTD was not a good system. Whoever wrote those 26 reasons never invested any time in GTD, and the lack of understanding shows.

  37. Jim Says:

    In one word, THANKS! I've tried (and miserably failed) in trying to implement GTD and thought it was just me.

  38. Andy Says:

    If your going to critique something, then perhaps you should take the trouble to understand what it is. I can't be bothered giving a detailed point by point response like Nate above. With your lack of maturity I doubt you would comprehend it. Instead I'll give you one statement to counter much of the babble here. GTD is about improving your workflow. Its definitely not about lists they are just one of many tools like folders etc used to implement a system for organization.

  39. Vroomfundel Says:

    That's probably the first time a critical review has inspired me to read a book - most of the points I find invalid

    Not that I see myself practicing GTD to the letter but I think it will be useful as something to validate my own task-management system to something that has managed to attract cult-like following (allthough I'm prepared to mock cult-like followers of anything, any time of the day)

  40. Kris Says:

    Haha, the post only demonstrates the authors unfamiliarity with the concept as well as many other concepts. And to others who are not getting the GTD as an aproach - like most things really worth doing in life - it is hard to get into for some, but it can be very rewarding. In fact this is more like a list of "26 things I don't understand well enough to write about".

    I am only starting to implement some of the ideas from the gtd and I can already see a massive difference in stress levels and general increase in head space.

    On another note - if this is a marketing trick (stirring controversy), then I feel like an idiot posting a comment really.

    good luck with your productive life anyhow:)

  41. Errol Says:

    Wow, great article. Everything you have said about GTD resonates with how I feel about it. The only thing I found GTD ap omni focus actually useful for was using contexts as different stores for running errands, so if I was busy doing something and realized that I needed nails and sandpaper from Home Depot and hotdogs from Walmart, I would quickly add these to my Home Depot context and Walmart context and then when I happened to be at one of those stores I would have a reminder of what I needed to buy.. Honestly that is all the usefulness that I found from the program and that is the only time when contexts actually worked for me. Pretty expensive shopping list...

  42. Bob Says:

    Let me first applaud the author for writing this. Although I disagree with the opinions (and I'll explain why), it's not good for something to be promoted purely out of hype. It should have some actual benefits.

    I want to address one part of the criticism here. Dean says that GTD is bad because it promotes procrastination. For me, all of these things that "I must do because I just thought of it" is actually procrastination on my main task. For instance, you may say "oh darn, I have to go to the store to buy some better pen right now, because the pen I have isn't as good." This is actually procrastination working against you. Better to put that into your system (lists) and then handle it later. Really, you are just finding something more interesting to do than your main task. I agree that the planned stuff can pile up, but that's why you have to schedule a 2-3 hour weekly review to process and schedule it. Also, and this is the hard part, you will find that there is much more stuff that you can do than there is ever time to do. That's the reality of any system. The basic point is that you should make decisions based on planning, have a system for adding to your plans, rather than be managed by anxiety.

    Overall, if you've had GTD fail, make sure you implement a scheduled, protected time for weekly review. Otherwise, you're just piling up stuff and not organizing/scheduling it.

  43. Hrishikesh Says:

    It seems the whole subject of GTD has been overcomplicated. For those who have failed to implemnet GTD or find it difficult, I have tried to summarize the important points of failures while implementing and what you can do about it >http://wp.me/p45fvO-b2

  44. S Anderson Says:

    This author is an idiot. Completely ignore this article. Just because GTD didn't work for his tiny little brain and lack of personal discipline doesn't mean it's not right for you. Call me a cultist but I've been using GTD for 7 years now and I can honesty say it's directly responsible for 100's of thousands of dollars of income.

  45. Steve Says:

    GTD is awesome. I get a feeling this is just link bait. But it is hard for some people to understand and implement but once up and running there's no replacement. I've tried everything. If you think it doesn't work, its not GTD, its you. You should probably do some deep introspection.

  46. Proximo Says:

    I use GTD successfully everyday. I don't use Time and Energy. I don't use context in the way David teaches in the book. I don't use 43 folders because I have software. In the end, GTD is super simple and I find that too many people over complicate it. You also need to realize that we are all individuals and you should always use what works for you, but don't discard the good points as bad, or your inability to understand something as wrong.

    You have an idea, thought, or something that just reached you via. email, phone call, or a visit to your office. You capture it quickly into your system, (I use my iPhone). When I process the inbox of things I collected, I take about 5 to 10 minutes to process them, identify what is a task that needs to be done, what is reference material, what can be delegated (Not because I can't do it, but because it's not my responsibility), and I am ready to work. I look at my list (Regardless of how long or short it may be), I decide what I want to do based on my current situation or based on some of my goals. I get them done, I then dive into my list again and filter (Software is great) what makes sense for me to consider at that time using my context as a guide, and then I get back to work.

    That's it.

    Not sure why people complicate a simple system. Once you have used it for some time, you drop the things that don't work for your situation, you adopt other ideas outside of GTD that compliment your way of working, and you stay productive.

  47. B H Says:

    GTD will work for some, but not for others. Peronally it has far too much of an emphasis on processing stuff, and not enough on actually doing stuff. However I know others which it works well for - but I think to see it as some sort of 'gold standard' is going too far. And if it doesn't work for you it may just be a bad fit, and not that there is somehow something 'wrong' with you! Have some faith in your own ability to come up with methods of working that are effective for you.

  48. Romain Says:

    Actually GTD helped me manage two time consuming jobs at a time, and still have a personal life! There're some good points in the articles, alas a lot of the others show that the author of this post didn't get the method. Yes, GTD can be done by everybody, because everybody actually does what GTD recommands, only in GTD there's a process to it, whereas most people just do thing erraticaly. You cannot do what you do if you're not in the situation of doing it (context), with sufficient time at hand (time), and the correct amount of energy (energy levels). Period.
    The secret is, if you only take in GTD what you think works for you, then you're going to struggle a lot (and eventually fail), because you'll try to do things halfway. The system has to be implemented as a whole. I know. I've been there. I struggled for as long as I tried not to put everything in.

  49. Dean Says:

    This article is just plain silly.

    Implementing change in one's workflow is difficult for most people. It's tough to get people to change their habits which is why there is resistance to new productivity tools including GTD. I see this all the time in big companies that try roll out any new kind of process like time tracking tools, agile software development, or supply chain management. The list goes on. Changing habits is the always the hardest part of implementing new workflows. It takes willingness and effort.

    Also, you have to remember that GTD was developed over many years working with corporate executives so the system is optimized for people who perform at that level. They multitask. They delegate.

    I've been using GTD for many years. And no, it's not a cult. You don't have to send money to anyone or go to weekly meetings or sacrifice animals. It did take me some time to change my own work habits, mostly because it took me a while to find a system that I trusted enough to store all my to-do's. I was in fear of losing anything and having them on sticky notes all over the place seemed more tangible than 31 folders or a software app. Once I made the transition I haven't had to look back, nor worry about things slipping through the crack. Ever.

    I manage multiple complex projects simultaneously using large teams of people and GTD has been awesome for my productivity at work, and at home. However, I can see how GTD may not work for everyone because it's probably overkill for someone who doesn't have much to do and simple to-do lists will suffice. If you're a very busy person with a lot of things going on at any given time, I really can't recommend GTD enough.

  50. Subodh Says:

    The poster has no idea what (s)he is talking about.

    I have been using GTD for a long time now and have absolutely no complaints...

    GTD doesn't work for people who are not disciplined enough to follow it.

    I disagree with all 26 points.

    GTD works! Kudos to David Allen.

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