zenhabits : breathe

Why is GTD so popular?

By Leo Babauta

Frank of What’s the Next Action was interviewed by CNN for an online article about The David.

The CNN article only printed a small excerpt of the entire email interview, but Frank posts the entire transcript. The part I liked best what his answer about why GTD is so attractive among bloggers:

I have been thinking about that and I feel there are some elements in GTD and David Allen that makes it attractive:

  1. David names the tools. He talks about the labeller, folders, In-tray etc. All standard tools for any office warrior. But it’s also a starting point to tweak, hack and play with those tools. How can you most effectively use this in-tray? How do you design your desk layout so everything is in perfect place and form? They are all simple tools you can get anywhere. So it’s easy to play with them
  2. It is a very yes/no driven principle. The core of GTD lies around the question “Is there an action involved?” and this only knows two answers. Yes or No. One or Zero. It is a very mechanical-like approach of a human problem. But that is the surface. As I said above, the core principle of GTD is more fluent and martial arts than just “follow the five steps and find Zen like peace”. But you find this hidden layer once you worked and played with the mechanical top layer
  3. The principle leaves parts open for discussion and personal involvement. It doesn’t really say “you should first do this in this manner and do that in that manner” It gives direction. Better yet, it gives control and perspective on your work and your life. How you fill this is your own choice. I think this really resonates with a techie crowd for some reason.
  4. Cosmic coincidence :-) But the main reason, I think all pieces just came together on the right time at the right moment. If David Allen released his book in the 70’s, the following might have been very different. If someone else came along a couple of years earlier than David Allen with a similar principle, it also might have created an online following. When the book was released, the internet was also changing. New ventures, web 2.0 if you may, came along and we all started suffering from information overload. Along comes this guy from California with a magic cure against this overload. The webcommunity embraces it and because of the mechanical toplayer, creates webservices and applications around the GTD principle. The David Allen Company is also very active online with forum, GTD Connect, blogs etc. This makes the connection even stronger.

Great thoughts, Frank. My take? I love GTD because:

  1. It is complete. Many organization systems help you organize a single part of your life — your work tasks and projects. GTD captures everything in your life, and has a systematic way of organizing everything. I love that!
  2. You are on top of things. Keeping your inbox clear, and your desk clear, and everything where they belong? That’s so Zen. And I feel like I’m more on top of things now than ever before, even if my lists are as long as ever.
  3. It’s so adjustable. People love playing with the tools and tweaking their system. You do what works for you. Whether you’re into your PDA, Gmail, Backpack, Moleskines, Hipster PDA or any other of a long list of tools, GTD can adapt to whatever you love.
  4. Ubiquitous capture. Never before have I been so good at remembering things. Stuff has a way of slipping through the cracks in our lives, but GTD teaches you how to get it all down, on paper (or digitally) so that you never forget it. And then it teaches you to review it, systematically, so that anything that might have leaked through this system is still captured. Result? Awesomeness.
  5. Mind like water. Yes, it’s almost unattainable. I doubt that even The David achieves this state of readiness and balance more than once a week or so. But it’s so alluring! I hope to attain this state someday.

What are your reasons for loving GTD? (Or hating it?)

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