About seven months ago I posted a message here about Wired magazine's article on David Allen. That article was written by Gary Wolf.
Today I read in the current issue of Wired another article by Gary Wolf. This one's about Piotr Wozniak, the creator of an electronic flashcard program called SuperMemo. I believe that Wired posts their articles on the web a few weeks after the print edition has been distributed.
What was fascinating about Wozniak (to me) was that he lives his life by following a principle diametrically opposed to one of the principles that underlies David Allen's GTD system. Wozniak enters absolutely everything into his system (so far so good). And he assigns it a priority (you can see where this is going). His system then spits out an ordered list of what he should be doing, which he slavishly obeys.
Wozniak was not always like this.
I have a lot of admiration for people who live in a world they create, even at the cost of monetary reward. But most human beings are social creatures with all kinds of bonds and connections to other people. Very few of us can live as Wozniak does, or would even want to. For the rest of us, David has it right. We do need to be able to respond to the rapidly changing environment that we inhabit. Sure, some of it's noise, and we need to develop methods for filtering it out. But my real world will always be a few steps ahead of my electronic representation of that world (at least until I can hook up the electronics directly to my brain). For that reason, I am in Allen's camp, not Wozniak's. I am not going to follow an ordered list that my system spits out for me. Rather, I am going to decide, on the fly, which action to do next.By the mid-'90s, with SuperMemo growing more and more popular, Wozniak felt that his ability to rationally control his life was slipping away. "There were 80 phone calls per day to handle. There was no time for learning, no time for programming, no time for sleep," he recalls.
. . . He doesn't own a phone. He ignores his email for months at a time. And though he holds a PhD and has published in academic journals, he never attends conferences or scientific meetings.
. . . [Now] Wozniak no longer wastes time worrying that he hasn't gotten to some article he wants to read; once it's loaded into the system, he trusts his algorithm to apportion it to his consciousness at the appropriate time.
The appropriate time, that is, for him. Having turned over his mental life to a computerized system, he refuses to be pushed around by random inputs and requests. Naturally, this can be annoying to people who messages tend to sift to the bottom. "After four months," Biedalak [CEO of SuperMemo World] says sadly, "you sometimes get a reply to some sentence in an email that has been scrambled in his incremental reading process."