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Why We Over-Complicate GTD and What To Do About It

Why We Over-Complicate GTD and What To Do About It

    Disclaimer: I am a GTD guy, so I tend to interchange GTD and productivity throughout the article.

    If you read this blog on a regular basis, or blogs like it, it is probably to find some sort of secret way to get more done in your day.

    So many people after reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done walk away with the attitude that everything outlined in it is “common sense”. The ideas in the book are simple, so simple in fact that we sometimes “fake ourselves out” into thinking that there just has to be something more to it. This can’t possibly be as easy as writing everything down and putting it in places and lists that we trust and we know that we will continually review. There’s got to be more.

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    Over-analyzing productivity

    This type of thinking that GTD and other productivity systems require some sort of special tool or workflow to become really valuable leads practitioners in a cult-like fashion to purchasing better pens, Brother labelers, and to go on the never-ending Google search to find the perfect GTD application and setup.

    The thing is is that we are only complicating the idea of getting things done in our lives and only making it harder on ourselves. When you tweak your GTD “system” to make sure that you have your contexts, folders, and tagging just right (God forbid you screw up your tagging) you aren’t being productive. You may think organizing your project’s next actions in such a way that everything is planned out and “perfectly” is the idea of GTD and the essence of being productive, but it isn’t.

    Why we complicate GTD and our own productivity

    After a bunch of reading and looking at productivity systems over the past 5 years I have come to the same conclusion that most everyone else has about why we complicate productivity, work, and ultimately become terrible procrastinators.

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    It’s all about fear. Nothing else.

    If you have a project on your list that hasn’t been moving forward, it most always has to do with  fearing the outcome because of not identifying the correct next actions. Either that or you are truly incapable  of doing the tasks to complete it (skill-wise or other-wise). The thing is that fear is not the direct reason that we over complicate GTD and our system. Not identifying the fear of a project or action is the reason that we over complicate our systems of productivity.

    Because of this “unawareness” of fear of uncertainty about our projects, we tend to procrastinate and blame our system as the reason that we can’t get the stuff done on our lists. From here on out it is a snowball effect of trying to find the perfect tools and setup so we can get more things done.

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    Listen, I am all about making a system very approachable and fun to use, but if you can’t check off the task of calling your Mom for a couple of months, then maybe the way that you tag your tasks is the least of your concerns.

    From identifying fear to action

    If you sound like someone outlined above then there is an easy process to get back on track and make GTD work for you.

    1. First and foremost, layoff the Productivity Pr0n. That is, quit looking for the best GTD app for ‘x’, or how to GTD with ‘x’ tool. You can end up doing this forever and never getting anything done. Just layoff.
    2. Pick a tool and stick with it. Hell, just use pen and paper until you really get how to “do GTD”, or if you absolutely have to use something on a computer consider very simple tools like a text file. Just pick something that you can use to concentrate on the process rather than the tweaking of the tool.
    3. Prune your next action and projects lists ruthlessly. If there is something that has been on there for months without any movement, get rid of it. If it is something that you really need to do and you just aren’t doing then throw the thing back in your inbox to process again.
    4. Identify next actions and do them. If you don’t want to do the thing that is on your list then take it off your list.

    It sounds stupid I know; “just do the task”. But really this is what needs to be done. If you can’t do what you have planned to do, then it is time to take a deeper look at what is holding you back. This could be that you don’t have the necessary inputs or that you are over-committed with other projects and responsibilities. Regardless, to move forward on any task or project you have to either just do what you have identified or figure out why you aren’t doing it.

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    So, why do we over-complicate the simple process of GTD? It comes down to fear of doing something on our lists and then blaming our system for the project or action not getting done. Hopefully, if you take a step back, identify your fears in your list, simplify your system so it’s just you and your actions, and then act or re-commit to the actions you can stop the endless cycle of over-complicating your productivity practice.

    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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    Published on June 19, 2019

    Your Beliefs About Success May Be Holding You Back

    Your Beliefs About Success May Be Holding You Back
    Pause for a moment and think about how you would describe success.

    If your description is dominated by money or status, then your image of success is faulty.

    For example, there are countless people who have these assets but don’t feel successful. Some of these people have enormous amounts of disposable income, but work so many hours during the day that they have no life beyond their work.

    Would you regard these people as successful?

    At first glance, I likely wouldn’t.

    And, then there are the endless celebrities who go from fame to failure (think bankruptcy, addictions and worse).

    Are they successful?

    Probably not.

    In truth, success is about happiness and fulfillment in life.

    But, there is more than one definition of success. Just look at the above example of the person who worked too hard to spend their money. If they’re happy with their life, then we shouldn’t criticize their version of success.

    So how about you? Do you have a clear definition of what success looks like for you?

    If you don’t, you’ll be constantly chasing someone else’s idea of success, and could find yourself totally unfulfilled and miserable.

    The good news is that over the next few minutes, I’m going to give you the tools you need to build a crystal clear picture of YOUR SUCCESS.

    Positive Thinking

    With the right attitude, anything can seem possible.

    For instance, if you’re fed up with your job, but do nothing to change it, then you’ll likely be stuck there for years to come. But, if you see the job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better, then not only will you enjoy your work more, but you’ll have something positive to aim towards (e.g., a promotion or new job).

    The example above demonstrates a little-known factor of success… suffering!

    Yes, suffering may be a negative thing that most people go out of their way to avoid; but successful people use suffering as a springboard to big achievements. Mindset really does separate the losers from the winners.

    Another thing you can do, is to gradually build up your positivity and confidence by tracking your progress towards your goals. And, each time you accomplish something – however small – be sure to celebrate it!

    This is a great way to propel you towards success.

    The Purpose of a Purpose

    What is your purpose in life?

    These are questions I suggest you spend some time thinking about. To help you find the answers, consider the following:

    If you just seek a career, all you will find is a career.

    But, if you seek a purpose, you’ll find something much more than a career – you’ll find your calling. And when you’ve found this, and you begin following it, you’ll be firmly in the middle of the happiness, satisfaction and success zone.

    This is backed by science, with research showing that people who have a purpose and meaning in life have an increase in:[1]
    • Overall well-being
    • Mental and physical health
    • Resiliency
    • Self-esteem

    But, don’t mistake seeking happiness and success as your purpose. These things are a natural result of following your purpose – but shouldn’t be your focal point.

    Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said it well:

    “It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness.”

    What about YOUR purpose?

    If you’re struggling to identify it, look for the things in your life that you’re good at, enthuse you, and provide a benefit to the world.

    Becoming a Better You

    Are your beliefs holding you back?

    If yes, here are three things you can do RIGHT NOW to break out of your mind trap:

    1. Boost Your Confidence: you can do this by overcoming challenges that come your way. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, face this challenge head-on by agreeing to do regular presentations for your company, or by joining a public speaking organization like Toastmasters International. Speak in public often enough, and your fear of it will plunge like a river going over a waterfall.
    2. Develop Healthy Habits: I’m talking about positive habits that will serve you day in, day out. Habits such as lifelong learning, eating well, and waking up early. When these things are automatic for you, you’ll reap incredible benefits from them. Take eating well, for example. You’ll feel better. You’ll look better. And you’ll have way more energy to make things happen in your life.
    3. Invoke the Magic of Goal Setting: Without goals, you’ll drift through life like a plastic bottle in the sea. But with goals, you’ll be like a 100m sprinter running towards the finishing line. Goals really are powerful tools. They’ll direct your focus and energy, and will allow you to track your progress in life. I recommend the SMART goal-setting method (find out about this here).

    And, always remember… don’t compare yourself to others; only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

    Each step you take forward is making you a better version of you.

    Success Is Self-Love

    I encourage you to take the tips I’ve shared in this article and put them into action in your life. Ideally, starting right now!

    Firstly, transform your mindset by facing up to challenges and overcoming them. Then spend time to discover your purpose. And, once you’ve found it – start following it.

    Becoming a better version of you will take some time, but will be worth the wait. Not only will you reach into untapped potential in your life, but you’ll also develop respect and love for yourself along the way.

    So don’t let your beliefs hold you back anymore. BREAK FREE from them and start enjoying a happy, healthy and successful life.

    Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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