10 reasons why GTD will fail

By Francisco Sáez • March 19, 2012

Your life is a bit chaotic so you have finally decided to put it in order. You have heard of GTD as the art of stress-free productivity and it sounds like a good solution to your problem. If you want to make the most of your time, you should keep in mind this top 10 reasons that can derail your attempt:

  1. You do not understand GTD as a whole. You have read some articles here and there, you know the workflow consists of 5 stages and you know the names of the lists, so you can intuit everything else. But GTD is a methodology in which all the rules, elements and processes are tightly interconnected. If you fail at a part you don’t know well, the whole system will not work as it should. You must read thoroughly the Getting Things Done book. Here you have a brief summary to whet your appetite.
  2. You do not write everything down. Not collecting out of your head all that comes to you mind is a very common failure when you start, since you do not give it the importance it deserves. We trust too much in our mind capacity and we tend to saturate it. The problem is that everything located in your head is a permanent noise that consumes your energy and prevent you from enjoying the great benefit of GTD: stress-free productivity.
  3. You do not face things. You have to do something with all things that come into your life. If you just leave them there, you will lose perspective and control of your stuff, and it will make you feel the method does not work. Occasionally, you have to take your time to make decisions about everything that concerns you.
  4. You do not do the Weekly Review. You must not think about the time it will take, think about the time it will save and the peace of mind it will give to you. The Weekly Review is paramount. Its function is not only keep the lists up to date and bring absolute clarity about your current situation. When you don’t do it, you cease to rely on your system because it is outdated, and that triggers the other most common reasons for failure: you stop collecting everything and stop making decisions. You are giving up. Welcome back, stress.
  5. You are too concerned about technology. There are many personal productivity applications, online and offline, for your computer, your smartphone and your tablet… Technology is there to help and make things easier. It makes no sense to try to be more productive and, in turn, that the way you implement GTD makes you waste time and add stress to your life. Simplify its use as possible and remember that GTD is, above all, a matter of habits.
  6. Your mind still works with priorities. Unlike other traditional systems, GTD is not based on prioritization of tasks. It is all about managing yourself, not managing your time. Your goals and areas of responsibility define which tasks are important, and the context in which you are tells you what you can do at all times. Most of us have been taught to prioritize all our tasks, but you need to change this.
  7. You need to be told what to do. Yes, many people are more comfortable with a well-planned system that tells you what you have to do all the time. GTD is a system that adapts to the circumstances and gives you complete freedom to decide what to do and what not to do. Unless you are a proactive person that understands the difference between productivity and activity, GTD will not work for you.
  8. You do not think you need it at home. If you use it only for work, you will underrate tasks that have to do with your personal, family or social life. And this will bring problems that, ultimately, will affect your job. Everything is connected. You will not have a sense of total control if you leave a part of your life outside your GTD system.
  9. You are skeptical. GTD is based on the fact that your productivity is directly proportional to your ability to relax. It is a method developed for over two decades and empirically tested and validated by hundreds of thousands. Later, science has confirmed the principles on which it is based.
  10. You do not have enough motivation. Implementing GTD requires, in most cases, to change some habits. For this to succeed it is necessary to feel the necessity and be aware that the effort will pay off. Without a strong motivation is very easy to find excuses and blame the method during the adaptation period.

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About the author

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Francisco Sáez (@franciscojsaez) is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a web developer specializing in Ruby on Rails who is passionate about personal productivity and GTD as a means to a better life.

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