Productivity and GTD

Don't call it GTD if it's not GTD

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"The process is only as good as the weakest link in its chain." ~ David Allen
Blog focus

Can you implement GTD by halves? Sure. Is it still GTD? Nope.

In many blogs and forums I frequent, I read again and again comments from people who say they use GTD partially. Also, I’ve checked out plenty of web tools that are advertised as GTD tools and they just use a few elements and principles of this methodology. If you take off stuff from a methodology and still call it its original name, then the word becomes meaningless and confusing.

I have the feeling that something like that is happening to the term GTD; it’s becoming blurred. Any application related to personal productivity is GTD. Bloggers and journalists call everything GTD, I don’t know whether out of ignorance or to call attention to a product. You can say that it’s inspired by GTD, or that it’s similar to GTD, or that it’s a subset of GTD … but please do not call it GTD.

A methodology is a tool that helps you work more effectively, telling you what to do. It doesn’t tell you everything that you need to do, but it provides a set of elements, rules and guidelines to follow. There is no perfect methodology for all situations. You must choose the option that best suits your particular circumstances.

All methodologies are strict to some extent, that is, they have more or less rules to follow. They are also flexible to some extent, i.e., they leave more or less open spaces where you can accommodate your needs. Contrary to what you might think, the value of a methodology is precisely that it limits your options. A tool that lets you do anything is not very useful.

There are a number of methodologies in almost all fields. For example, Scrum is a methodology used in IT project management, Kanban is used extensively in manufacturing systems and Extreme Programming is one of the options you can choose for software development. Does this mean you should use a methodology to develop an application, manage a specific project or manufacture parts for cars? Of course not. Doing things your way can be valid in some cases. However, you should think that a methodology has been used, studied and optimized by many people for a long time, so using it has several advantages and a greater guarantee of success.

In the field of self-management, GTD is probably one of the best-known methodologies (at least apparently). GTD offers an organized way of doing things so that you can achieve your personal goals as productively as possible. Although the teachings of GTD come from many years of experimentation and observation by its creator, David Allen, some specialists in cognitive psychology have already investigated the validity of its principles.

GTD, like any other methodology, has elements and rules that define it as such. And then, some recommendations on aspects on which it doesn’t insist too much. This means that if, for example, your system doesn’t have a Someday/Maybe list or a Waiting For list (for actions delegated to others), then it is not GTD. If you cannot choose your next step action based on the context you are in, then it is not GTD. If your system doesn’t let you use the collect-process-organise-review-do workflow, it is not GTD.

What about you? Are you implementing a half-way GTD? Or are you really implementing GTD?

2 comments

B872172fff15fe07783ef5f4392f94fa
Commented about 8 years ago John Leahy

I agree with this argument. Having been involved in some discussions recently about appropriate GTD tools it is obvious to me that some are adopting a la carte GTD, and as you say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that but ... it is not GTD. The reason I like Facile Things is precisely that it is faithful to GTD.

B872172fff15fe07783ef5f4392f94fa John Leahy

I agree with this argument. Having been involved in some discussions recently about appropriate GTD tools it is obvious to me that some are adopting a la carte GTD, and as you say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that but ... it is not GTD. The reason I like Facile Things is precisely that it is faithful to GTD.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented about 8 years ago Francisco Sáez

Yes, the term GTD is so popular today that is used everywhere. As you say, this is not that bad, because its popularity enables many people to get to know it. But it can also confuse those looking for something specific, and that's what I wanted to highlight in this post.

Thanks John. I appreciate your support.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Yes, the term GTD is so popular today that is used everywhere. As you say, this is not that bad, because its popularity enables many people to get to know it. But it can also confuse those looking for something specific, and that's what I wanted to highlight in this post.

Thanks John. I appreciate your support.

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