Every Monday is Productivity & Organization Day at Zen Habits.
Take a look at the setup on the right. It was published in a recent CNNMoney article on David Allen and GTD, and it outlines The David’s GTD setup.
It’s way too complicated.
That’s just my opinion, of course, but the master of GTD is a living example of how GTD is a great system that has great concepts, but can get way too tool-heavy and complicated when implemented.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s no reason GTD has to be so complicated. I’ve written about this topic before, of course, but I thought I’d use the graphic here as an illustration of complications, and how it can be simplified.
Let’s do a David Allen vs. Leo Babauta comparison:
- A five-tray desktop inbox
- A laptop with USB hub for iPod, camera, cell phone, labeler, digital recorder, external hard drive
- Palm Treo organizer and cell phone
- Lotus Notes software for all GTD stuff and email; Word, Excel, PowerPoint
- Two-drawer file cabinet
- 5 plastic travel file folders
- Desktop organizer
- pocket Moleskine notebook & pen
- single-tray desktop inbox
- desktop computer
- Firefox browser; Gmail, Google Docs, WordPress
That’s it. I don’t carry a briefcase, a cell phone, a Palm organizer, traveling file folders. I do have a single-drawer filing system, but I don’t use it anymore. Soon I will purge the files or put them in storage. I don’t need a desktop organizer because I don’t have a bunch of stuff to organize. I certainly don’t use PowerPoint.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that David Allen’s life and mine are completely different — he’s got a lot more going on than I do, most likely. But that’s my point — if you simplify your life, you don’t need all those tools.
Am I saying I’m better than David Allen, or that my setup is better? No. He uses what he needs to use, and so do I. But when you look at these setups, who do you think spends less time maintaining his system, and who do you think gets less stress from all of it? That’s debatable, of course, but I submit that it’s me.
The point of this exercise is to recommend that we all take a look at what setup we’re using, and see if it’s worth simplifying the setup. At the very least, give it some thought.
If you’re looking to simplify your system and tools, here are some suggestions:
- Reduce your inboxes. How many different ways does stuff come into your life? Do you have 5 different places at home or work where paper comes in and gets placed? How about email, voicemail, RSS feeds, etc.? Reduce these to simplify the overall system.
- Just have one list tool. Do you have one in your mobile device, a couple on your computer, one in your paper planner? That’s too many places to check and keep track of. Choose one and stick with it.
- Consider paper. Paper is very portable, and very simple. It is easy to use and can be adapted to your needs. You can use it at your computer and on the road, at work and at home. To me, it’s the simplest setup possible.
- Go online. I need to work on stuff from multiple locations, so a completely online setup is necessary for me. I don’t store my articles or working documents on my hard drive anymore. I use Gmail and Google Docs (and WordPress for publishing this blog), and the advantage is that it’s not only very accessible from anywhere, but easily searchable, so I don’t need to worry about filing and organizing.
- Reduce before you organize. If you have fewer things to organize, then organizing is easy. I think David’s problem is that he has way too much stuff to organize. That’s why he needs a briefcase and traveling folders and a desktop organizer and a 5-tray inbox. First of all, if he’s got a Palm Treo and a laptop, why does he need to carry around all that paper? Keep stuff on the computer instead of printing it out. Tell people to email you stuff instead of giving it to you on paper. He’s the boss! But even if that’s not possible for him, it’s possible for the rest of us. We can cut back on the amount of stuff we have, and therefore never really need to organize.
- Reduce your needs. This is related to the above point, but let me give you another example instead of just reducing your stuff: Why do people need a complicated and feature-rich program like Microsoft Word? Many different reasons, of course, but mostly because they need to format a document in a certain way, for various reasons. But the information in a document is just information — what if you could simplify how it needs to be formatted? That’s not possible for some people, but I found that it is for me, and it might be for you. Then, you wouldn’t need Word … you could use Google Docs or some other simple program. Think about your needs and see if they can be simplified — then the tools you use can be too.
What are your thoughts on this? Is your setup complicated or simple? Is there value in simplifying your setup? Let us know in the comments.
- The Getting Things Done (GTD) FAQ
- Massive GTD Resource List
- Zen To Done (ZTD): The Ultimate Simple Productivity System
- ZTD Minimalist System
- ZTD Habit 1: Collect
- ZTD Habit 2: Process
- ZTD Habit 3: Plan
- ZTD Habit 4: Do
- ZTD Habit 5: Simple, trusted system
- ZTD Habit 6: Everything in its place
- ZTD Habit 7: Weekly Review
- ZTD Habit 8: Simplify
- Forming the 10 ZTD Habits
If you liked this article, please bookmark it in del.icio.us. Thanks!