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Why Getting Things Done is the Best Productivity System For You

Why Getting Things Done is the Best Productivity System For You

David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has been around for over ten years now and has totally changed the way that many knowledge workers work and play.

The system has helped me and my team here at Lifehack get their most important work done on a daily, monthly, weekly, and “lifely” basis.

But, what if (this is a big what if) there was something better out there than GTD for increasing your productivity while decreasing your life’s overwhelm? What if there is something better and fits the way that the knowledge worker’s lifestyle works?

Well, you can stop worrying and looking. I’m here to tell you that the GTD is the best productivity system because it can be adapted to fit your lifestyle, has the over-arching models that you can use for a lifetime, and contains two secrets weapons of personal productivity.

1. It’s difficult to grok at first but will become your second nature.

One of the main reasons that people give up on GTD, especially at first, is that there seems to be a lot to it.

“You mean I have to go out and buy a labeler, filing cabinet, sticky notes, some list making apps, and better pens?” No, not unless you want to.

Mr. Allen’s book suggests getting some gear to get things started but you don’t have to do it, you can start GTDing with a crappy notebook and pen.

Another thing GTD suggests is taking a full two days to collect and process everything in your personal and professional life. I remember reading that and think, “how in the hell is that even possible? I’ve got too much stuff to do and I want to get it done now!”

While giving yourself two full days to clean out and clean up your life would be awesome, you can get started by collecting and processing as you go.

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The idea of next actions and projects can be foreign (although welcomed!) to someone that has used daily todo lists to accomplish things in the past. Some people get stuck and confused with having so many lists and things on those lists.

Mostly this is due to lack of completing proper weekly reviews. Once one settles in with GTD, collects and organizes things into the right lists, and then reviews it consistently the confusion will go away.

GTD takes time and practice to understand and use. But after some time, it becomes second nature to the practitioner. This is only with the help from the models that Mr. Allen has created.

2. It’s an all-in-one creative model with all the essential concepts.

Some people think that Mr. Allen “created” the ideas behind GTD. That’s not really true.

What we can give him his credit for is identifying the things that busy professionals and humans do to get more done with the least amount of effort and stress. He then put these principals together and created a model for productivity.

Rather than doing what many productivity gurus did before him, Mr. Allen decided that approaching your work from a bottom up approach was the fastest way to make yourself more productive as quickly as possible.

After “clearing your decks” with your next actions and identifying your projects, it was then easier to recognize your larger life goals and what your life meant. Then you modify your projects to meet those goals.

Mr. Allen gave us the Five Phases of Workflow (Collect, Process, Organize, Review, and Do), The Natural Planning Model for creating and moving forward on projects, The 2-minute rule, and many other things that we can utilize to Get Things Done.

These ideas were always there; Mr. Allen was smart and creative enough to put them all together in a nice package. The models of GTD help make it the best productivity system because one can always go back to the “basics” of the system to get back to a state of flow in their work and life.

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3. The alternatives to GTD always have something missing.

There are some alternatives out there to GTD like Master Your Workday Now (also the One Minute Todo List), GSD, Getting Results the Agile Way, ZTD, and many others.

The thing is that almost all of these either take things from Mr. Allen’s model, or don’t encompass the bigger picture of work and life allowing many important things to fall through the cracks.

I’ve tried most of these other alternatives (albeit not for terribly long periods of time) and I always felt like something was missing. It was the complete system that GTD offers me that these alternatives didn’t cover.

For instance, Getting Results the Agile Way is very interesting, but if you look into it more you will see that it is heavily based on GTD core principles. Agile Results then adds a top layer of making sure that you are geting results during your week, which really is a modified weekly review that Mr. Allen suggests in GTD.

So, it appears that the alternatives to GTD are just modified versions of Mr. Allen’s system, not completely different ideas on how to handle your work.

Yes, they may work for some others but we have to see that without GTD most of these systems wouldn’t exist in their current form making GTD a sort of pillar of productivity systems.

4. It spans personal and professional works.

GTD doesn’t care whether your work is professional or personal. It is all work in the eyes of your system.

Of course, you can segregate work tasks to home tasks and projects, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

It all takes the same amount of “physical RAM” in your brain so it all can be treated as work, everything from “create the TPS reports” to “buy dog treats for the puppies”. It’s all considered work by GTD standards.

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5. It gets you to start taking actions.

I told you there were two secrets that make GTD the best productivity system around, remember? Those secrets are the act of capturing and the idea of the next action.

One of the biggest problems that GTD tries to solve is the idea of workers having too many “open loops” in their lives. Open loops are basically all of the things that we have committed ourselves to do but haven’t kept track of them in some way (other than in our fallible brains).

Stress is induced when we have too many open loops at once and don’t have them captured into a system that we can trust they are in. Our minds start racing and it’s all down hill from there.

Capturing is the key to keeping yourself sane.

Enter, capture. Capturing allows the GTD practitioner to close the open loops in their life by writing them down and keeping them out of their mind. This is how one starts to get to the aspect of “mind like water” and starts to relieve the stress of all of the things they have kept in their mind for so long.

Identifying the next action of any project is another secret of GTD.

Seeing what the absolute next physical action is allows us to take the first step in completing a project of any size. The issue with many projects that are stalled or not yet completed is that they haven’t been thought through and the next physical action to get the project moving hasn’t been identified.

When I started to identify the next physical action I was surprised to see how quickly I could get a “stuck” project moving, no matter how little the next action really was. Things like, “call Bob to get the name of number of his accountant” is enough to spark a large project like “Form your LLC”.

Capturing and next actions are the secrets to why GTD is the best productivity system.

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Conclusion

If you take in most aspects of GTD, you will feel a sense of relief regarding your work and life that you haven’t felt before.

GTD is the best productivity system because it spans such a wide range of use-cases and is simple and complex enough to support a personal system as well as can be used for some of your biggest projects at work.

GTD’s bottom-up approach to productivity helps you get the pressing things done in your life so you can have the energy to answer the question “what’s my life purpose?” It helps you review your progress weekly and allows you to plan effectively for the future.

And with GTD’s capture and next action ideas, you can use it to instantly close open loops and move dead projects forward.

Even though the GTD has been around for a while now it still proves itself to be the best productivity system we as knowledge workers have access to.

If you want to get to know more about the GTD system, don’t miss our exclusive interview with David Allen:

GTD Leaders: A Lifehack Exclusive Interview with David Allen and Mike Williams

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

CM Smith

A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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