Getting Things Done - GTD

Changing Attitudes

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez Tags Motivation Habits
“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou

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Changing attitudes

Whenever a FacileThings user cancels his subscription, or simply doesn’t renew it, I try to find out the reasons. If they answer my email and the reason is something that is not working properly, or it’s not easily understood or they just don’t like it, it becomes an opportunity for me to improve the service and avoid that other users end up with the same (bad) experience. However, one of the most usual answers I get is something like “using the application meant doing things in a different way than I am used to”.

That is a very frustrating answer for me because provoking changes in people’s productivity habits is precisely one of our goals.

It’s as if you want to get in shape and then give up saying that this meant going out running every day (or cycling, or swimming or going to the gym…), something that you are not used to. Shaping your mind, as well as shaping your body, requires effort and time.

The main reason why someone looks for a new personal organization system is because everything he has tried before hasn’t worked very well. I know that still it’s very difficult to abandon old habits and start implementing new ones, even if they have been proven to be efficient. And obviously, I know that GTD doesn’t have to be the ideal solution for everyone.

But I think that when you are trying to improve your personal efficiency you need to assume that having to change some other habits is very likely. You have to be ready to change attitudes.

Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, assures that the main factor for building a new habit is the frequency in which you perform the new behaviors, and the second most important is the change of attitude in regards to your behaviors. So for a new behavior to end up being a routine it has to happen with a significant frequency and it also has to be perceived as useful.

Therefore, if you are going to try to be more productive or if you want to be in shape, lose weight, quit smoking or any other thing you believe you need to do, you need to invest time in new behaviors. To try improving any aspect of your life and abandon trying just because you need to change something is ridiculous. Sure you need to change something, you are looking for your best version!

Invest time. The more time you invest, the greater the perception of usefulness will be. It is a psychological phenomenon known as escalation of commitment that has many variations (I talked about one of them not long ago, effort justification). The escalation of commitment describes a wrong way of making decisions—it means making irrational decisions based on rational decisions from the past or to justify decisions that have already been made—, but if you are aware of the phenomenon, you can use it in a conscious way in your favor, and achieve the changes you need.

If you are doing something new that you know will be useful, be constant, repeat those behaviors that will transform the new in routine over and over again, even if goes against your current habits or believes. It’s OK to leave if it is not as beneficial as you expected. But don’t give up just because it’s taking you some effort.

Beard avatar
Francisco Sáez
@franciscojsaez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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4 comments

00d0a361be3efa69c937adcb1446d9cd
Commented about 5 years ago Günther

Hi Francisco,

once again thank you very much for a good and valuable reading. Since I adopted GTD and realised how powerful and "game changing" it can be, I've recommended it so often that I can't recall the actual number. Even though I in the meantime do this via highly condensed information on the benefits (I started out with recommending David's first book), not even one person decided to give it a serious try and only few were willing to give it a serious look - this while all of them can be considered as highly intelligent people who are overwhelmed by all the stuff they have to cope with.

I think that this, among other potential reasons, has mainly two reasons in addition to what you wrote above: Firstly, only a few people are principally open-minded enough to deal with complexity when avoidable (GTD is complex in the beginning, containing elements that are unkown to many people) and most people who would need such a system badly are stuck in their workload so deeply that they do not allow themselves to take sufficient time for anything beyond their rat race. Secondly, it actually is a considerably big effort to adapt GTD and to evolve its full power - even though in comparison to the life-long benefits the effort in effect is infinitesimally small.

After years of looking for a way which fits my needs for an efficient and effective GTD system and several unsuccessful attempts I learned about Facilethings one year ago - and finally I was able to adopt GTD sufficiently well in order to keep me motivated for going all the way: I'm still learning how to use it. Based on my experience two things could strongly help:

1) A written guidance for the first months under explicit consideration of Facilethings and tipps for other complementary tools to really cover all areas. This should also contain a condensed "roadmap" as well as selected actual experiences of users, both successful and unsuccessful adopters.
2) An optional "habituation mode" in Facilethings which makes it easier to grow into the method, e.g. a set of respective routines.

Best regards
Günther

00d0a361be3efa69c937adcb1446d9cd Günther

Hi Francisco,

once again thank you very much for a good and valuable reading. Since I adopted GTD and realised how powerful and "game changing" it can be, I've recommended it so often that I can't recall the actual number. Even though I in the meantime do this via highly condensed information on the benefits (I started out with recommending David's first book), not even one person decided to give it a serious try and only few were willing to give it a serious look - this while all of them can be considered as highly intelligent people who are overwhelmed by all the stuff they have to cope with.

I think that this, among other potential reasons, has mainly two reasons in addition to what you wrote above: Firstly, only a few people are principally open-minded enough to deal with complexity when avoidable (GTD is complex in the beginning, containing elements that are unkown to many people) and most people who would need such a system badly are stuck in their workload so deeply that they do not allow themselves to take sufficient time for anything beyond their rat race. Secondly, it actually is a considerably big effort to adapt GTD and to evolve its full power - even though in comparison to the life-long benefits the effort in effect is infinitesimally small.

After years of looking for a way which fits my needs for an efficient and effective GTD system and several unsuccessful attempts I learned about Facilethings one year ago - and finally I was able to adopt GTD sufficiently well in order to keep me motivated for going all the way: I'm still learning how to use it. Based on my experience two things could strongly help:

1) A written guidance for the first months under explicit consideration of Facilethings and tipps for other complementary tools to really cover all areas. This should also contain a condensed "roadmap" as well as selected actual experiences of users, both successful and unsuccessful adopters.
2) An optional "habituation mode" in Facilethings which makes it easier to grow into the method, e.g. a set of respective routines.

Best regards
Günther

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented about 5 years ago Francisco Sáez

Hi Günther,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts about why many people are reluctant to make the appropriate effort to learn something that they probably need. In general, share your findings.

And thanks for your final tips. We are considering both strategies for some time, and we'll definitely implement them ;)

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Hi Günther,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts about why many people are reluctant to make the appropriate effort to learn something that they probably need. In general, share your findings.

And thanks for your final tips. We are considering both strategies for some time, and we'll definitely implement them ;)

Fb5615600ff43b8cebbebad338e5bcd0
Commented about 5 years ago Ben Creasy

Hey Francisco, I like the app and I'd like to continue using it. But when you say the most common answer is "using the application meant doing things in a different way than I am used to", I feel like there's probably something else going on that you're not pressing hard enough to figure out. You probably need to carefully think about whether the UX actually is best for all users.

We had this conversation not too long ago in a support request where I requested ways to more quickly add things like Area of Responsibility when adding notes, and you pushed back and said that needed to happen at the process step. Well, that's not going to work for me in the long-term. Adding tasks should be a lightweight and easy process. I want to make use of GTD features like contexts and areas of responsibility but I can't do it effectively if there's friction.

I also think that at the end of the day you know significantly less about why your users churn than you could, because unlike some of your competitors, you don't have a feature request site (Uservoice or similar) where users can request and vote on their most desired features. And that also frustrates users because they might see you working on things that don't help them and decide to look for someone who does. It also makes the communication a bit less clear. I know you were working on some Evernote integration stuff but I don't know understand it - I use Evernote all the time and would love to have it integrated with FT but currently it doesn't really make sense to me (don't understand why it's on the notebook level for example).

I've been a subscriber to Pocketsmith for a couple of years and noticed several times how their Uservoice forum ([link removed]) forced them to work on features which were critical but they didn't really understand the need for initially. Currently they are working on the main top requested feature, and I hope that they'll work on the next top feature. They also publish a public roadmap: [link removed]

I know you did a survey of the users not too long ago. That gives you some thoughts from your core users, but those are people who didn't churn. The reskin was an awesome and much-needed improvement btw.

Keep up the good work. But add a way for the most desired features to bubble to the top of your agenda. This is a good article on how to channel users in prioritization: [link removed]

Fb5615600ff43b8cebbebad338e5bcd0 Ben Creasy

Hey Francisco, I like the app and I'd like to continue using it. But when you say the most common answer is "using the application meant doing things in a different way than I am used to", I feel like there's probably something else going on that you're not pressing hard enough to figure out. You probably need to carefully think about whether the UX actually is best for all users.

We had this conversation not too long ago in a support request where I requested ways to more quickly add things like Area of Responsibility when adding notes, and you pushed back and said that needed to happen at the process step. Well, that's not going to work for me in the long-term. Adding tasks should be a lightweight and easy process. I want to make use of GTD features like contexts and areas of responsibility but I can't do it effectively if there's friction.

I also think that at the end of the day you know significantly less about why your users churn than you could, because unlike some of your competitors, you don't have a feature request site (Uservoice or similar) where users can request and vote on their most desired features. And that also frustrates users because they might see you working on things that don't help them and decide to look for someone who does. It also makes the communication a bit less clear. I know you were working on some Evernote integration stuff but I don't know understand it - I use Evernote all the time and would love to have it integrated with FT but currently it doesn't really make sense to me (don't understand why it's on the notebook level for example).

I've been a subscriber to Pocketsmith for a couple of years and noticed several times how their Uservoice forum ([link removed]) forced them to work on features which were critical but they didn't really understand the need for initially. Currently they are working on the main top requested feature, and I hope that they'll work on the next top feature. They also publish a public roadmap: [link removed]

I know you did a survey of the users not too long ago. That gives you some thoughts from your core users, but those are people who didn't churn. The reskin was an awesome and much-needed improvement btw.

Keep up the good work. But add a way for the most desired features to bubble to the top of your agenda. This is a good article on how to channel users in prioritization: [link removed]

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented about 5 years ago Francisco Sáez

Hi Ben,

UX is essential in any application and, of course, not having a great experience is a perfect, fair, and valid reason to give up and not continue using the application. Also, having or not having certain features is equally a valid reason to use or abandon an app. I know that we have many things to do to improve the user experience and we'll do them ;)

But that's not the point I wanted to make in this article. I probably should have better tinged the nature of the feedback received. The message "using the application meant doing things in a different way than I am used to" had nothing to do with UX or features in the cases I refer. It's about habits. It's about collecting, processing, reviewing, etc. For example, it's not about how to better process stuff, but more like "FacileThings forces me to process and I don't want to do that".

Although this is another matter, I agree that a feature request site would help both users and us to improve faster and better. Right now, believe me, I have more feedback that I can handle. I receive lots of emails and support tickets from users and customers. It's not a voting system, but it has some advantages because this feedback is usually well argued, and that's great for a niche app. However, we are considering adding a public road map in the future (maybe with a voting system).

So it wasn't not about UX, features or churn (I think I have a clear idea about our most common churn causes). It was about personal attitudes.

Thank you so much for your comments, and thanks for sending me the links apart (we had to ban links in the blog comments because we had to spend too much time deleting spam comments.) I will carefully read those articles.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Hi Ben,

UX is essential in any application and, of course, not having a great experience is a perfect, fair, and valid reason to give up and not continue using the application. Also, having or not having certain features is equally a valid reason to use or abandon an app. I know that we have many things to do to improve the user experience and we'll do them ;)

But that's not the point I wanted to make in this article. I probably should have better tinged the nature of the feedback received. The message "using the application meant doing things in a different way than I am used to" had nothing to do with UX or features in the cases I refer. It's about habits. It's about collecting, processing, reviewing, etc. For example, it's not about how to better process stuff, but more like "FacileThings forces me to process and I don't want to do that".

Although this is another matter, I agree that a feature request site would help both users and us to improve faster and better. Right now, believe me, I have more feedback that I can handle. I receive lots of emails and support tickets from users and customers. It's not a voting system, but it has some advantages because this feedback is usually well argued, and that's great for a niche app. However, we are considering adding a public road map in the future (maybe with a voting system).

So it wasn't not about UX, features or churn (I think I have a clear idea about our most common churn causes). It was about personal attitudes.

Thank you so much for your comments, and thanks for sending me the links apart (we had to ban links in the blog comments because we had to spend too much time deleting spam comments.) I will carefully read those articles.

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