Lifehack: Is GTD generally too difficult for people to use?
Here is an article that, while emphasizing the overall merits of GTD, points out a few areas where the author feels that the GTD methodology could be improved or clarified in order to have a wider appeal.
The article claims that GTD methodology may seem simple, but actually isn't. I can actually imagine that being very true for the vast majority of mankind. I would guess that the most common types of methodology, in order of popularity, are:
Method 1) The age-old intuitive method to "simply do what you know that you must do". No lists, no calendars, no nothing, basically - if something stands out as particularly important, use a fridge magnet or post-it sticker or something, and if you are going for a vacation, write a packing list. But that's it. I am convinced that this is the predominant method.
Method 2) Entering all important or urgent things on a calendar (scheduling / time planning). This is very intuitive for all those who already use calendars for other reasons (appointments etc). It also goes very well with all familiar forms of organized teamwork etc, where you are accustomed to having activities scheduled by date, and it is natural to continue in the same vein with your individual tasks. Things that are not urgent or important can go on separate lists without dates. I firmly believe this to be the predominant method among those who impose some kind of structure.
Method 3) Avoiding fixed dates and fixed sequences to the farthest extent possible (GTD), and instead organize by "context" etc and analyze what is "actionable". Pick things to do based on "context", "energy" etc to make the best use of each moment. I can easily imagine this sounding abstract and academic to the vast majority, perhaps even a bit "hippie". This is the method we here all prefer.
If we continue a step further and look at those people who have vast numbers of tasks, what do methods 2 and 3 offer? Method 2 has been extensively covered and refined in scholarly work for ages. There is any level of solutions, approaches and optimizations available (resource/time optimizations, critical path analysis, Gantt charts and so on). Method 3 generally just offers the advice to keep it simple and use your gut (which might sound more like an escape back to method 1 than as a more refined version of method 3). The absence of a more advanced methodological layer probably contributes to making GTD look difficult to implement for those who feel they would have needed that.
Why do some people have such long lists, anyway? We are all limited to our 24 hours a day, so what makes some people end up with so many things? I think some of the possible answers are:
- a more fragmented life - many small things, not so many time consuming things
- a desire for depth and detail, and a need to remember every detail (anxiety about forgetting)
- a long-range and/or strategic mindset
But whatever the reason, people with lots of tasks can be expected to have more advanced requirements on the methodology and on the tools.
So, if someone has an overwhelming number of Next actions (in each of a number of contexts), is there a better way to deal with this than to just attack them all at once flat out with your gut (method 1 inspired)? And without escaping into scheduling and fixed sequencing (method 2 inspired)? I believe there is - especially if the constraint is lifted that it must be possible and easy to implement using paper - the fundamental concepts of GTD are robust and effective enough to be able to be taken to a more refined level for those who wish.