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GTD bad paths

I love the system (saved my life a couple of times) but I don’t think the book is a good place to start. I’ve read it many times because I’m obsessed with it but it led me down to a couple of bad paths when I was first starting out.

Bad path number one: writing down everything but not processing it properly.
Bad path number two: writing down and processing everything but not actually doing the stuff.
Bad path number three: having lots and lots of well-organized lists, doing the stuff, and getting stressed and exhausted.

That’s why, in my GTD basics post I instead place so much emphasis on:

  1. Get good at noping out. You have a huge list of stuff to do, be careful about taking on more.
  2. (More important than 1). Before you do something, look at your lists and select the one thing you wanna do (I like to “dot” or “flag” a handful of things that makes a sublist). Then, when you’re doing that thing, let the rest of your commitments stay out of sight and out of mind, since they are properly bookmarked and stowed away thanks to GTD.

These lessons were so much more important to me than the nitty gritty about “contexts”, delegation/”waiting for”, “someday/maybe”, “two minute rule”, tickler file, “hard landscape”, archive system stuff. Even reviews I would (controversially) put in this category. I use all of those things, I do, but they’re like 20% of the benefit while being 80% of the system, and I instead would teach those features as if they were bonus extra hacks. Pretty darn good hacks sometimes!

The book’s final chapters glance over the idea of zoomed out perspectives / areas of responsibilities. “Meaning of life” type stuff. Those are key to a fulfilled, directed, and intentional life. The book correctly doesn’t start there (you can’t think about higher purpose when you’re drowning in broken lightbulbs and cat food) but there are so many of the “bonus hacks” that are less important than that high level stuff. I don’t see that as a huge omission since later books etc place a little more emphasis there; what I do see as a flaw is how overlooked the noping out stuff and the “you can focus on X right now because Y, Z, W, and the rest of the alphabet is properly bookmarked” peace of mind.

Because the system touts “stress-free productivity” but the book’s process starts out by drowning you in stress.