Falling off the GTD Wagon... And Getting Back OnAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” ~ Japanese Proverb
You feel overwhelmed by the large number of commitments that you have to deal with in your life. You just can’t keep up. You have tried to apply all the tricks that you found on the web to get better organized and you’ve tried all the tools that promised to improve your productivity, but you haven’t achieved a significant improvement.
In that search for a better quality of life you got to know GTD, a method of personal organization that describes itself as the art of stress-free productivity. Well, it seems just what you need, doesn’t it? You read articles and comments on the web and you do not end up seeing it clear: some people say they have failed to implement it successfully because it’s too complicated, although those who have succeeded are raving.
You search for information to know what exactly GTD is about and you realize that it will not be as simple as taking a pill. There’s even a book that it seems you should read! Still, something inside tells you that if all the quick and easy tricks you’ve tried so far have not worked, there must be a reason.
Since you know that every process of improvement takes time, you decide that investing yours in learning GTD may be helpful in the end. So you read the book, you subscribe to some blogs and choose one or several applications to implement your system. You need to put your life back in order once and for all.
You begin to implement GTD in your personal life and your work and you feel great. Taking things out of your head makes you feel lighter. By clarifying what each of these things mean your overwhelming anxiety begins to disappear. By putting everything in its place you realize you’re regaining the self-confidence that you had lost by avoiding taking certain decisions. Eventually, you start to focus. Alleluia!
But a few weeks pass and boom! All those wonderful feelings fade away. Without knowing why, little by little, you’ve been failing to capture the things that catch your attention. You’ve stopped making decisions in your daily life and your organizational system is again something abstract and, therefore, stressful. Have you failed? Is GTD too complicated for you, too?
No, GTD is not complicated, neither for you nor for anyone. What happened to you is known as falling off the wagon, and it is as natural as a child falling off the bike when learning to ride.
José Miguel Bolivar expressed this perfectly in his book Productividad Personal: Aprende a liberarte del estrés con GTD (“Personal Productivity: Learn to De-stress with GTD.”)
“GTD is easy. It is a series of simple habits that, combined, produce spectacular results… What is not so easy is to implement GTD. This happens because people are “creatures of habit” as the saying goes… Its learning conflicts with other prior learnings we’ve had on the same subject."
Developing new habits generates some resistance in your mind for a while. So it’s normal to fall off the wagon, not once but several times. And it will keep on happening because you must “unlearn” certain beliefs that contradict the habits needed to enjoy good productivity without stress.
When you fall off the wagon it is easy to give up, blame the method and keep looking for the magic pill that will effortlessly eliminate the chaos of your life. Let me clarify one thing: that pill does not exist, so you’ll have to put something in on your part. But, just as you learned to ride a bike getting yourself back up on it every time you fell off, there is no reason for not implementing GTD successfully and achieving an excellent level of personal productivity. Falling off the wagon and getting back on is part of the learning process.
Of course, to return to the path of productivity, you have to realize first that you’ve left it. Then just remember how good you felt when you got it first. It will happen again, and this time it will be better.
If I had to give one piece of advice to prevent you from falling off the wagon, or to get on it again if you’ve already fallen, it would be: “Do the damn Weekly Review!” Reserve some time on your calendar each week to review and update your lists. Of course, follow the right steps to do the Weekly Review for it to be useful. And stick to that habit, because that is the key that will help you develop the other habits.