Is GTD Still Relevant in 2024?AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
GTD became very popular in the years following the publication of the book Getting Things Done by David Allen in 2001 and, although it no longer has the hype and expansion it had in its early years, it is a methodology that has firmly established itself as one of the best personal management systems.
But is GTD still relevant in 2024, more than two decades after its creation? Is it interesting for you to know it, understand it and apply it in your life? I sincerely believe it is, and I am going to give you some reasons why you should consider it.
It solves fundamental problems
The problems that made GTD so popular twenty-something years ago still exist. In fact, they’re getting worse. More and more people around the world are living under excessive stress, feeling out of control of their lives, and having great difficulty focusing on what they need to be doing.
The need for balance between personal and professional life, and between all the areas of responsibility that fall to each individual, is growing. Working from home, a growing trend since the pandemic years, opens a gap in the relationship between professional work and personal life that needs to be managed.
Changes and surprises continue to occur, and probably at a faster rate than a few years ago. Stress is the disease of the 21st century. We need more freedom and a more calm way of dealing with our commitments.
Technological advances help solve many problems, but they also keep us hyper-connected 24 hours a day. The large amount of inputs we receive every day on our devices makes our attention span decrease. Messages, emails, social media, etc. generate a lot of distractions and add difficulties to our ability to be present. It is increasingly difficult to concentrate on something for a long period of time.
If we want to manage our commitments without stress, we must be able to objectively evaluate each new thing that appears, and know how to integrate it into our life with the appropriate level of reaction. This is the foundation of GTD.
GTD is meant to deal with surprises, uncertainty, and shifting priorities. It’s a personal management tool, not a time or task management tool. GTD represents a new approach that solves all the traditional problems of time management and the promise of achieving something we never even considered before: stress-free productivity.
The concept works
GTD is the result of real work done with real people in real situations. After many years advising and helping super-busy people to be more productive and live in a more relaxed way, David Allen wanted to “package” all that knowledge into a compendium of techniques and behaviors that anyone could use.
To this end, he was able to identify and extract the principles that served as the basis for these techniques, which allowed more work to be done with greater focus and serenity.
Actually, it’s very simple. Your world is not going to stop being the way it is, nor is its complexity going to suddenly disappear. However, your feelings change radically when you’re able to express what’s in your head in an objective way and when you stop constantly thinking about things you should be doing but aren’t. Your perception of the world is very different when you add clarity and eliminate stress.
- Clarifying all the things in your inbox is still the most appropriate way to interact with your environment, with the new things that appear in your life.
- Organizing and reviewing with some regularity all your unfinished business or open loops is still the most effective way to manage your projects and workload.
- Reflecting on your areas of focus and responsibility is what gives meaning to what you do and motivates you to progress.
Interestingly, one of the groups in which GTD has been most successful is programmers, computer engineers and people related in some way to technology. The nature of all these jobs is to help people do more things with less effort, something that fits completely with the fundamentals of the methodology.
It’s a complete system
As I said, GTD is not a simple task management tool or a time management model. It’s a complete personal management system, which serves not only to be well organized and manage tasks on a daily basis, but also to develop a purpose and a long-term vision, as well as to identify and develop the goals we want to achieve both in our professional career and in our life. The goal is to train our attention to do what seems most important to us at any given moment and thus enjoy life without stress.
None of the time management models that had appeared previously worked as a complete system. They were always a set of techniques and tips to facilitate project planning and task management. They were partial and overly simplistic solutions.
To be organized means to be in control of your environment. This cannot be achieved as simply as breaking down a project into tasks, assigning priorities to those tasks and putting them on a calendar as a guide for execution. Things need to be perfectly clear so that they can be organized in an effective way. Even when they have been clarified, they need to be reviewed regularly because their relationships with other activities, and therefore their relative priority, can change.
Traditional systems were concerned with the management of tasks and their organization over time, but they didn’t indicate how to prioritize these tasks or how to fit commitments into a scale of values that would allow to approach the operation from a higher perspective. The constant change of priorities implied constant changes in the organization and a great deal of stress.
Nowadays it’s rare to find people who have such a simple and stable life that they can function with such partial work models.
There is one thing we cannot deny. Life is, by nature, complex. Things change and we find ourselves in unexpected situations frequently. In addition, we develop, evolve, grow, and our way of engaging with our world also changes. Any system that doesn’t allow us to adapt to the constant changes in reality will not work in the long run.
GTD offers a structure that allows the integration of the varied complexity of personal and professional life and, at the same time, offers the necessary flexibility to maintain stability within a reality whose only constant is change.
It’s easy to implement
There is no need to use special tools or develop new skills to do GTD. All its techniques are based on common sense and fundamentally human behaviors. In the worst case, it will be necessary to establish some productive habits and/or get rid of some unproductive habits.
It is such a generic methodology that it has been successfully implemented in the most varied industries and by all kinds of people from different countries and cultures: CEOs of large companies, project managers, artists, students, NGOs, startups, family businesses, etc.
To implement the GTD principles it is possible to use any type of tools and organizational structure available. You can start with what you already have.
In fact, to do GTD you only need something to write on and a place to keep your lists. That is, a simple notebook is all the technology needed.
Many people need to implement GTD in a digital way. Well, here it’s not necessary to use a specific application either. You can combine different tools (notes, calendars, to-do apps, etc.) to achieve a coherent system, although it will require the right configuration. Obviously, there are more specialized solutions that can provide specific features that facilitate the application of the methodology.
In 2024 we have technological advances that can facilitate the use of GTD and its integration with all our areas of responsibility. Today it is possible to use tools such as Zapier or Make to automate daily workflow processes between different apps (email, calendar, etc.). In addition, advances in Artificial Intelligence can streamline other aspects of personal organization (detection of duplication, immediate access to reference material, suggestions for action, etc.).
GTD describes a logical, coherent and efficient way of doing things. Its success lies in the method itself, not in the tools used to implement it.
It generates key habits to deal with life
I have been using GTD since 2010 and it has been a long time since I had the feeling of using a personal productivity methodology to get things done. There came a time when its principles started to become part of me and, from then on, doing GTD was not only effortless but it was very easy to expand its philosophy to any area of my life to experience greater effectiveness and less stress.
The GTD perspective levels (the vertical horizons) make you reflect on the important issues in your life, such as your purpose, principles, values, vision, etc. All this, over time, makes you become more aware and experience life in a more meaningful way, with a more evident sense of direction.
At a deeper level, some people manage to integrate the model as if it were a philosophy of life, as a tool to deal with any eventuality that may arise.
The model offers a solution to what to do with whatever you may encounter in your day-to-day life. It teaches you to accept it, evaluate it, integrate it into your life, organize it and reassess it when appropriate.
When you manage your attention and your actions in a comprehensive way, time disappears from the equation. You simply get hooked on life and enjoy the experience, whatever it is you are doing.
GTD teaches you to see what is really important to you and how to always have a sense of control and perspective in your life. You can’t always have that feeling but it’s easier to get it back when you have the right tools to do it.
The habit of clarifying things before incorporating them into the organizational system (the lists) and acting on them makes everything clear and removes confusion and anxiety. It’s easy to realize that the same thing happens with the problems we have with other people; when something is not clear it can be a source of problems. The habit of clarifying everything helps, therefore, to have better relationships with the people we relate to.
GTD is a method that teaches people to have an objective inventory of everything that is part of their reality before making value judgments, to value everything in context and with a proportionate level of reaction. Has your vision of life changed? Perfect. Do you have an empty fridge? Noted. All the things in your life have their importance in the right context. If you wake up in the middle of the night hungry and forgot to get groceries, you’re going to have a bad night, regardless of your outlook on life or your purpose.
So… is GTD still relevant in 2024? In my opinion, more than ever! ;)