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A Roadmap to Spectacular GTD Failure


It’s rather funny to me that I write all this stuff about productivity, GTD and the like – the truth is, I’m probably one of the poorest practitioners of this stuff that there is. My system is constantly a mess, I’m always trying new little tricks and whatnot to get things working better (which typically blow up in my face). Even though many people think I’m all organized and such (seriously, people tell me this), I’m actually quite a wreck a good portion of the time.

And even though I might know a fair bit more about this stuff than the average person, there’s another area that I’ve gained a hell of a lot of experience with during this last year of “doing” GTD:

How not to do it.

Despite having countless blogs, articles and other resources at my disposal, I still made all manner of rookie mistakes. My system went “un-reviewed” for several weeks, projects weren’t managed, stuff fell through the cracks. The worst part was, I was frustrated, tired, stressed out and – obviously – grossly unproductive.

So, having said that, if you want GTD to over-promise and under-deliver, follow these simple steps…

  • Do your weekly review when you’re damn good and ready – Make sure to never even attempt to schedule a regular time for your weekly review. Friday afternoon, Saturday night, Wednesday during lunch. You’re a busy person with a dynamic life – you clearly can’t be expected to block out 1-2 hours per week!
  • Give your projects really ambiguous, confusing names – A few good examples might be “kitchen” or “make more money”. After all, you’ll look at “kitchen” and clearly know exactly what that means and what you need to do about it. All this stuff about how your brain is unreliable is a bunch of bull! I don’t recall hearing about how Einstein did GTD, do you?
  • Make sure your never know when a project is done – Because you’ll know when you can fill in the checkbox next to “Be a better person”, right? I mean, come on, there has to be some little contentedness switch in my head once I’ve crossed this line.
  • Don’t practice GTD at home – Your work is serious business. That’s where you make your money, that’s where the advancement, hell it’s the source of most of what makes your life work! What do I care if my house looks like a toy factory and a book factory got into an Epic Battle right in the middle of it? My personal life is a snap compared to work, I don’t need any help there, thanks… sheesh…
  • Make sure your filing system consists of unholy amounts of papers and crap strewn around your entire physical life – My office is too full of stuff to make room for a filing cabinet! I’ve had this “unorthodox” filing system for years and it’s only let me down… well, a couple of times. But who has the time to organize when you have as much stuff as I do!
  • Never keep a pen and paper on your person – If I get stopped in the hallway by a coworker, they need to realize that I can’t be expected to take serious note of those types of conversations. I have a desk, email, voicemail and an (overflowing) in-basket for a reason. What, should I take out my hipster PDA while I’m taking a leak just because I happen to have an idea?
  • “My email inbox is my to-do list” – I’m perfectly fine having an email from my wife about cupcakes right along side an email from my boss about a new acquisition. They’re all projects, right? I know what to do with them when I see them – and if I have time, I do it! Besides, every single thing I’m responsible for comes through my email! Well, except for phone calls. Oh, and voicemails. Oh, and…

As I said, I’m no expert on this stuff. I’m just a dude who has been doing his best (and failing miserably, in some cases) to keep is ducks in a row. All of these things were, at one point, symptoms of my own weak understanding of GTD and productivity in general. Hopefully you find them useful.

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