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The four truths about Getting Things Done (GTD)

GTD, Time ManagementEdward Kiledjian1 Comment

Like I have said over and over, I love Getting Things Done. It has allowed me to stay on top of things and I try to teach it to as many of my colleagues as possible. Having worked with dozens of people, I realize that there are some misconceptions about GTD, so I decided to write this article to talk about them.

1. GTD is simple and difficult

Whether you read the book, listen to an audio training program or participate to a live training class, you will realize that the core concepts of GTD are simple and based on common sense. They are very simple to learn and understand. The tools required for GTD can be as simple as folders, papers and a pencil.

So how is it complicated? The truth is GTS isn’t complicated but implementing it may be. Humans are creatures of habit and change is difficult. In order to really implement GTD, it has to become a way of life, both personally and professionally. Acquiring a new habit can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years, depending on you. This is the difficult part. You will fall off the wagon and you have to be committed enough to get back on.

2. GTD is not free

I am not talking about cost but rather time. Many people mistakenly believe that implementing GTD will save them time (i.e. give them more free time). The reality is that GTD will require time to implement, control and manage.  You need over an hour a week just for your weekly review (mine sometimes take close to 2+ hours). Then you have monthly reviews, inbox processing, etc.

The key message here is that GTD will take more time out of your day but will give you the tools to make better decisions about how you spend your time. It will give you the confidence that you are making the right time decisions.  Consider the time you spend for GTD an investment. Like all good investments, it will reward you handsomely but you need to go in with realistic expectations.

3. You’re doing it wrong

As you go through GTD, you will realize that David Allen always gives suggestions of how GTD could be implemented but really leaves it up to you to customize it. Each user will setup unique contexts, collection tools and systems, review timeframes, etc. The message here is that there is no wrong way to implement GTD. As long as it is working for you and you are getting the benefits you need, then it is the right way for you.

Many GTDers will continue their search for perfection and will join GTD communities in an attempt to learn how others are using GTD. You may get great new ideas, tips or tricks that will help your own system but ultimately the best GTD system for you is the one that works for you.

Don’t worry about doing it wrong. Get it implemented, then start your lifelong commitment to fine-tuning it.

4. GTD isn’t for everyone

The reason there are thousands of time management books is that not every system works for everyone. GTD is no exception. Although I feel GTD is the best time management system I have ever used, and it seems to work for most people, it isn’t for everyone.  Try it, give it a real fair chance but it it doesn’t work for you, move on and try something else.

GTD is not the be all end all. It should be one tool amongst many. I believe that  an investment in oneself is the best investment you can make. They can take away your house, your car and your couch, but they can’t take away your knowledge. Remember that self-improvement is a constant journey that never ends. Strive to be a better person today then you were tomorrow.



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