Productivity and GTD

Do You Need High Tech to Practice GTD?

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“There was a time when nails were high-tech. There was a time when people had to be told how to use a telephone. Technology is just a tool. People use tools to improve their lives.” ~ Tom Clancy

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High tech

Technology is sometimes a double edged sword. While it allows you to do more and faster things it also allows you to do the wrong things easier.

When you practice GTD with high technological tools—software, smartphones, etc.—you end up confusing the tools with the methodology, and when your habits and personal organization starts getting weaker you end up blaming the tools and hence the methodology. It is because of this that the GTD experts tend to recommend to start practicing using pen and paper. By doing so you can concentrate on the work flow as well as the habits and you don’t get distracted with the latest improvements of a determined software, which is likely to have nothing to do with GTD.

Just as David Allen states, it’s possible to implement GTD using low-tech tools such as paper, pens, folders, and post-its. At the end of the day, it’s only about managing lists.

Even though these tools of low technological profile allow you to capture things easily (you only need to take out your notebook when something comes to your mind), they can be quite inconvenient for the rest of the GTD’s work flow—clarify, organize and review—when you already have a few dozen items in your lists.

Therefore, as one starts to get into the GTD practice, inevitably ends up searching technological tools that make life easier. It’s part of the pursuit of a higher personal effectiveness what has led you to find GTD. It’s obvious that you need to spend some time each day keeping your tasks and projects under control, and the correct software can help you reduce the amount of time considerably.

I don’t think that the technological and non-technological worlds are confronted. They can be combined in order to make the most out of each one. When I’m away, there is no better tool for collecting things than a simple notebook, it never fails. However, since I have to spend a considerable amount of time in front of my computer, tablet, and smartphone each day, it’s reasonable to make the most out of these devices and their tools in order to maintain my system organized with less effort. That is also called being productive.

You can use a specific software for GTD or different tools combined, high- or low-tech (email, calendar, folders, etc.) A specific tool will make it harder to divert from the productive pathway, while with a generic tool you will have to make an extra and important effort to define and maintain up to date the necessary structure that will allow you to use GTD correctly, and more importantly, to not do what you should not do (the usual and imperceptible errors that end up leading you to fall off the wagon).

In any case, whichever tool you choose, the important thing to be effective is that you are “doing GTD”, and that’s not any tool’s responsibility but yours.

5 comments

8bb2c9a97155fbcffcc91ca918d103c7
Commented over 3 years ago Cyrus

Another great article.

I am guilty of attempting to get the tools I use to do the work for me, straining and sometimes breaking fundamental GTD principals in the process. I am not looking for shortcuts, but for ways to be more productive. The problem is, the "need for speed" is highly seductive. You'll catch yourself constantly looking for the "better, faster, bigger, more" application rather than just focusing in on the methodologies of GTD. Which, as it has already been stated, is really nothing more than managing lists.

Francisco and I have gone back and forth a number of times in quasi-philosophical arguments over certain "enhancements" that I have requested. In all cases, whenever a request I provide goes off the GTD tracks, Francisco guides me back and explains the "what" and "why" of the idea I am suggesting in regards to it not being beneficial. Many times I have agreed with him and many times I have not. Technology is a tool and it is there to make our lives better. Sometimes what makes things better or not is subjective. In these cases, it is Francisco's vision of what GTD will be that keeps my suggestions for change at a distance.

Now that is a great lesson to learn. How often do we think we need something more? Our needs tend to take on a life of their own and we seek to satisfy them by going off our own tracks to find the "next big fix". Not the case with GTD. The system is bonehead simple, and yet flexible enough to incorporate anyone's lifestyle. What is not easy is the ability to stick with it. It is a discipline of sorts that I have always compared to being a master chef. In the kitchen of life, many things need to be ordered, cut, prepared, cooked, served, and arranged. One chef cannot do it all. They must delegate, organize, prioritize, and above all else, know what is NOT going on so they can focus on what IS going on.

Productivity is a state of mind. You cannot find it in a tool, but a tool can certainly help you get there. Hiking books will not climb the mountain for you, but they will help you get to the summit. This is what GTD will do and what FT is designed for.

Many, many more suggestions on improvements are on the way, Francisco. Just a friendly warning...

8bb2c9a97155fbcffcc91ca918d103c7 Cyrus

Another great article.

I am guilty of attempting to get the tools I use to do the work for me, straining and sometimes breaking fundamental GTD principals in the process. I am not looking for shortcuts, but for ways to be more productive. The problem is, the "need for speed" is highly seductive. You'll catch yourself constantly looking for the "better, faster, bigger, more" application rather than just focusing in on the methodologies of GTD. Which, as it has already been stated, is really nothing more than managing lists.

Francisco and I have gone back and forth a number of times in quasi-philosophical arguments over certain "enhancements" that I have requested. In all cases, whenever a request I provide goes off the GTD tracks, Francisco guides me back and explains the "what" and "why" of the idea I am suggesting in regards to it not being beneficial. Many times I have agreed with him and many times I have not. Technology is a tool and it is there to make our lives better. Sometimes what makes things better or not is subjective. In these cases, it is Francisco's vision of what GTD will be that keeps my suggestions for change at a distance.

Now that is a great lesson to learn. How often do we think we need something more? Our needs tend to take on a life of their own and we seek to satisfy them by going off our own tracks to find the "next big fix". Not the case with GTD. The system is bonehead simple, and yet flexible enough to incorporate anyone's lifestyle. What is not easy is the ability to stick with it. It is a discipline of sorts that I have always compared to being a master chef. In the kitchen of life, many things need to be ordered, cut, prepared, cooked, served, and arranged. One chef cannot do it all. They must delegate, organize, prioritize, and above all else, know what is NOT going on so they can focus on what IS going on.

Productivity is a state of mind. You cannot find it in a tool, but a tool can certainly help you get there. Hiking books will not climb the mountain for you, but they will help you get to the summit. This is what GTD will do and what FT is designed for.

Many, many more suggestions on improvements are on the way, Francisco. Just a friendly warning...

501e11ba3e9c900ac50658ed168bb92a
Commented over 3 years ago Isaac Mann

Is technology "needed" in the strictest sense of the word? No. Does technology give you significantly more freedom to use all aspects of your system at all times? Definitely. Could I realistically see myself using GTD without the help of technology? Probably not.

501e11ba3e9c900ac50658ed168bb92a Isaac Mann

Is technology "needed" in the strictest sense of the word? No. Does technology give you significantly more freedom to use all aspects of your system at all times? Definitely. Could I realistically see myself using GTD without the help of technology? Probably not.

501e11ba3e9c900ac50658ed168bb92a
Commented over 3 years ago Isaac Mann

Cyrus,

Very nice comment. I have had a couple back and forth discussions with Fransisco myself but that is just another reason I enjoy Facile Things so much. The fact that he is willing to take the time to have those occasional little debates with me.

Most things that I have read on the topic of combining technology and GTD state that you should keep the number of technologies to a bare minimum. You should also quickly pick something to use and move on to concentrating on your system. I find this to be important as well because your GTD system is constantly evolving just as technology is. Regardless of the type of technology you choose and how much time you spend choosing it, you are likely to change it later when you learn more about using GTD. The same applies to any GTD project you have. It will also change over the course of its completion. Trying to perfect either from the get go is a waste of time that should be used to focus on the task at hand.

501e11ba3e9c900ac50658ed168bb92a Isaac Mann

Cyrus,

Very nice comment. I have had a couple back and forth discussions with Fransisco myself but that is just another reason I enjoy Facile Things so much. The fact that he is willing to take the time to have those occasional little debates with me.

Most things that I have read on the topic of combining technology and GTD state that you should keep the number of technologies to a bare minimum. You should also quickly pick something to use and move on to concentrating on your system. I find this to be important as well because your GTD system is constantly evolving just as technology is. Regardless of the type of technology you choose and how much time you spend choosing it, you are likely to change it later when you learn more about using GTD. The same applies to any GTD project you have. It will also change over the course of its completion. Trying to perfect either from the get go is a waste of time that should be used to focus on the task at hand.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented over 3 years ago Francisco Sáez

Hi Cyrus,

I totally agree with your comments, especially with that at the end it's me who always decides, haha. Joking aside, as you say, productivity is a mental state, and technology, properly used, can help us more easily achieve that state.

Suggestions are always welcome ;)

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Hi Cyrus,

I totally agree with your comments, especially with that at the end it's me who always decides, haha. Joking aside, as you say, productivity is a mental state, and technology, properly used, can help us more easily achieve that state.

Suggestions are always welcome ;)

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented over 3 years ago Francisco Sáez

Hi Issac,

I totally subscribe your words. Thanks for sharing!

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Hi Issac,

I totally subscribe your words. Thanks for sharing!

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