Categories | Getting Things Done | Implementation | Inspiration
This post is from Maureen, a coaching client of the David Allen Company. She describes her experience using both paper and computerized GTD systems.
I have been practicing GTD for about 8 years. I use the word practicing deliberately, because it takes time, effort and patience to improve my skills. Early last year, I made the bold decision to go from a paper-based system to using tasks in a computerized system. I had observed how much of my work was generated on the computer. It seemed that I ended up never fully capturing the totality of my work in my paper system because of this. I thought switching to a computer-based system would be the perfect way for me to finally get on top of all my work, get clear on my projects and their outcomes, etc.
I was so very, very wrong.
I have spent the last year in agony, enslaved to an elegantly designed system, which had me sucked in at such a minute level that the whole thing revolted me. I almost never did a weekly review. Looking at my lists happened sporadically. I dreaded trying to locate something in the system. I was miserable.
Then about 2 months ago I chucked it. I went back to paper, and a sense of calmness has enveloped me ever since. Am I perfect in my weekly reviews? Hardly. But happier? You bet. Here is what I learned through all this:
- GTD takes hits as being overly complex/proscriptive. I say this is solely “user error.” I did this exact thing for the last year. I captured way too much in the system, then couldn’t handle all the details and thus got stuck. Don’t allow this to happen to you! It masks GTD’s beauty.
- My experiment finally drove home for me the importance of the project list, which I now supplement with a weekly priority list. If this is all I learned from my run amuck with technology, then it was worth it.
- I need to do my work where I do my work. I don’t have my laptop with me everywhere. I don’t have an iPad. But I carry my notebook with me always. So having to transfer information from my paper notes into the computer was painful and virtually never happened. Now, I easily flip a few pages, find the right list, and off I go. Ironically, I find that I have gotten that much better at listing “to-do’s” generated in email onto my paper list, more simply. Imagine that.
- I need to slow down. There is something about pen on paper that soothes me, brings clarity. It makes me more intentional when I have to take a few minutes to write something. With software-based tasks, three clicks and I created another something to do, which just added to the never-ending pile of things I kept meaning to look at but never did.
- Being 100% complete is just too much for me. I do much better at 90%. Have I captured everything I need to do? Not really. There are several small things that if I thought about it are missing. But you know what? I am okay with that. I just don’t think about them, they don’t take up psychic RAM, and I don’t get overwhelmed with my ginormous work plan.
I invite you to listen to the voice in your head as you journey with GTD. Do what feels right, not what is the coolest. This system/process/approach should be in service to YOU and what works for YOU. There is enough in our lives we have to do—processes that are forced upon us, unreasonable timelines, and more. GTD shouldn’t be one of those. It should make you feel good.