(I've been thinking about this for a while, but what prompted me to finally get around to writing it up is the Confessions of a GTD failure thread, especially the parts about GTD faltering when things get hectic. It's not really on-topic for that thread, so I launched this one.)
It's been common in my practice, and I suspect not unknown to others, that when my life enters a 'crisis stage', one of the first things on the chopping block is the usage and maintenance of my GTD systems. This is a bit distressing, so I wanted to analyze it a bit.
During a crisis, it's often obvious what the next thing to do is. Escape from the burning building, pull the emergency brake, call an ambulance, etc.
When it's obvious to you what the next thing you need to do is, do you need GTD? Does GTD help you at all? I'm starting to think that maybe it doesn't.
Indeed, I think this might be a big part of the "addiction to crisis" that some people and some organizations seem to have. Everything becomes simpler and clearer in a crisis. The lack of a tool like GTD hurts less.
While I'm starting to think GTD isn't helping me in the midst of a crisis, I'm gaining a greater appreciation for GTD surrounding the crisis. Before the crisis, it can help prevent the crisis entirely, build good structures for minimizing the duration and severity of the crisis, and provide an early warning system. After the crisis, it helps with the cleanup, with getting things back to normal, and with examining the situation with an eye towards prevention.
I'm still thinking this topic over, but it feels like I'm onto something.