Productivity and GTD

10 Reasons Why GTD Might Be Failing

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"Chaos is in the world. Not in your head." ~ David Allen
Gtd failing

Your life was a complete chaos and you decided to put it together once and for all. You had heard or read about GTD somewhere and that sentence, the art of stress-free productivity, sounded just like the perfect solution for your organisation problem. However, you’ve been using this methodology on a daily basis for a while now, and, even though things are certainly improving, you don’t feel as if it has made a significant change in your personal productivity.

What could be going wrong? Here you can find ten reasons why your GTD implementation might be failing. Read them carefully and think about how much you can relate to them.

  1. You don’t use GTD as a whole. You’ve read some articles here and there, you know the workflow is made up of five steps, you know the name of the different lists and you more or less guess the rest of it. However GTD is a complete methodology in which every rule, element and process is highly interconnected. If you are doing some things correctly and other things incorrectly, the whole system won’t work as it is supposed to. To understand GTD completely you should start by reading in depth the book Getting Things Done. Here you have an introduction to show you what you might be missing out.
  2. You don’t capture everything that comes into your life. Not collecting everything that goes through your mind in some reliable, external space, is a common mistake when you are starting to implement GTD. That is because we tend to not give this habit the relevance it deserves. We trust our memory way too much and we constantly end up overloading it. The problem is that everything that stays in your mind is creating constant noise that consumes a great part of your energy and it keeps you from taking advantage of one of the greatest benefits of using GTD: stress-free productivity.
  3. You avoid making decisions over your things. You need to do something with everything that comes into your life. If you capture things and you simply just let them there, you will only get a frustrating feeling of having more and more things to do and you will lose control over your things. What will make you skeptical about the usefulness of the methodology. You should dedicate time to clarify the exact meaning of things and make decisions over everything that concerns you quite often in order for GTD to work correctly.
  4. You don’t go over your system enough. From time to time you need to clean things up and put your lists up to date, because if the system contains obsolete information, you won’t trust it. To do the Weekly Review is essential. Even though it will take up some time, it will save you time on the long run in addition to giving you clarity and peace of mind. If your system isn’t up to date you will lose the confidence you have in it, you’ll stop collecting everything, you’ll stop making decisions and you will end up falling off the wagon.
  5. You are too focused on technology. There are numerous programs and apps around personal productivity: online, for you computer, for your smartphone, for your tablet… Nevertheless, technology should be there to help you and make things easier. It doesn’t make any sense that you try to be more productive, and, at the same time, that the way of implementing GTD is making you waste time or is putting even more stress on you. GTD is a system independent from technology, what means that you can adapt it to whichever organizing system you feel most comfortable with, in order to implement every principle. So let technology aside and keep in mind that personal productivity, is mainly, a matter of habits.
  6. You keep prioritizing in the traditional way. We’ve all used at one point of our lives the traditional systems of allocating priorities in our to-do lists. But it’s the XXI century and it’s time to change our way of thinking. It isn’t a question of managing your time but your attention. Your goals and areas of responsibility tell you what are the most important tasks at the moment, and the context will tell you which of them you can and cannot do, depending on where you are at the moment.
  7. You are just using it for your work. Many people think that it is only important to manage their “working life”, but there is only one life, and it includes everything from the personal to the working areas of life. If you are only giving focus to work and forgetting personal issues, this will end up affecting your work, and the other way around. Everything is interconnected. If you let one part of your life out of your system, you will never get that feeling of having everything under control.
  8. You have overcomplicated it. It’s really easy to get carried away in excitement when we discover something new that we like and it is completely normal to try to get the most of it. More often than not, this excitement translates into a tendency to overuse and overcomplicate things unnecessarily. You want to have everything completely under control and you end up having infinite lists of contexts and tags; defining projects for every little thing; developing every project to the last detail; feeling the need to use and implement multiple productivity tools, etc. This excess might end up in an overwhelming feeling that is stopping you. If you need a lot of time to keep up with your system you have probably overcomplicated it.
  9. You think you are smarter than the system. A common error when you start using GTD is to try and modificate the system in you image and likeness. You believe that you are “adapting it to your needs” when in reality you are eliminating what you don’t seem like doing or requires you an extra effort. Therefore, you are missing virtues that the original method had. GTD is based on the idea that personal productivity is directly proportional to your capacity to keep calm. It’s a system that comes naturally, based on common sense, developed for over two decades and empirically proved in addition to have been validated for millions of people. Even science has verified the principles in which it is based. So you should try to adapt to it, not the other way around.
  10. You don’t have enough motivation. Implementing GTD requires, mostly always, changing some habits. And that’s not easy. To make it work, it is necessary to feel the need and to be sure that all the effort will be worth it. With a lack of motivation is extremely easy to find excuses and blame the method during the adaptation period.

3 comments

F8ec08f434c059e6b143edcf68b0b24c
Commented over a year ago Shaun Dicker

Great article thanks! I think #1 on the list is soo 100% true. I get excellent results when I’m “all in” and using all aspects of GTD together. It can be hard in the beginning, especially to get the perspectives (and areas of responsibilities) clarified. Once I got over the hard thinking (it took several weeks), my GTD with FacileThings is creating results I’ve never seen before!

F8ec08f434c059e6b143edcf68b0b24c Shaun Dicker

Great article thanks! I think #1 on the list is soo 100% true. I get excellent results when I’m “all in” and using all aspects of GTD together. It can be hard in the beginning, especially to get the perspectives (and areas of responsibilities) clarified. Once I got over the hard thinking (it took several weeks), my GTD with FacileThings is creating results I’ve never seen before!

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented over a year ago Francisco Sáez

Hi Shaun,

Sure! I think that's the number one problem for people who starts implementing GTD. It requires some effort but it's worth it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Hi Shaun,

Sure! I think that's the number one problem for people who starts implementing GTD. It requires some effort but it's worth it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

B106331265724a910e735e2ebf3895a3
Commented over a year ago Steve Parker

Great article!

B106331265724a910e735e2ebf3895a3 Steve Parker

Great article!

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