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GTD in a connected world

GTD asks us to “capture”, which means to write down stuff or use audio recordings or whatever.

Sometimes it feels like writing down “Email Alice and Bob about how such-and-such” would take longer time than just writing & sending that actual email, if you have a good comfy modern email app, especially if you’re capturing with some level of detail what the email is about.

In the modern era, that’s not just true for email; there are plenty of other things we do that work similarly.

GTD has the two-minute rule to prevent this; when things would be quicker to just do, you just do them instead of forcing them through the system.

But when almost everything falls under that “two minute” umbrella, you lose out on one of the main benefits of GTD in the first place, which is to live a more directed and intentional life where the stuff we do is the stuff we want to do the most right now.

This is a problem for GTD in 2024.

One GTD idea that has fallen by the wayside was to have “agenda lists”, you’d keep an “Alice” list with stuff you wanted to talk to Alice about the next time you see her, and a “Bob” list and so on. These days, it’s hard to argue for having such “agenda lists” when you have your computer in your pocket so you can always send things to them right away instead of waiting for a chance to see them. Writing the thing down on the list takes almost as much time as just writing it down in a message to them.

But it’s not a worthless idea. Some people we still do have in our IRL lives (although because of the pandemic I went 15 months not seeing anyone IRL—yeah, I went a li’l crazy) and I’ve been experimenting with using agenda lists again. Jury’s still out but it’s something I’ve been trying for the past half a year.

I’ve been trying to be more asynchronous lately and the setup I’m currently on does introduce more overhead and inefficiencies. I’ve still got more things I can sand down but it’ll probably fundamentally still be a li’l less efficient than to just do it directly. The reason I’m doing it is to get more intentional and more selective. That my takes will be cooler and more though-through and less urgent. But I have limited spoons and if this does end up too efficient, I’m not sure I can afford doing it this way.

There’s a li’l bit of hope though. Even as I’m introducing these inefficiencies, I’m making my overall routine more efficient in other ways that I hope can make up for it. There’s less context switching and more batching. I can plug in my keyboard and bang out a bunch of stuff in one sitting that’d otherwise trickle out across several days without getting anything else done. And I can do other things without the same amount of inner turmoil and distraction, if I can internalize that to everything there is a season. Time will tell if I can make up for it completely (or even more, so that I’ll net gain time) or if I can at least make up for it somewhat, enough that the directedness and intentionality makes it worth keeping up.