Friday 24 June 2011

GTD = Just Enough Structure

Last week I was able to attend a webinar given by Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us .  He's started a new webinar series called "Office Hours", in which he and a special guest just take questions the whole hour, much like a professor's office hours in college. (You can listen to past episodes, such as Seth Godin, on the Office Hours page.)

The special guest last week was none other than David Allen, the Getting Things Done guy. It was a funny and informative hour.

One of the best discussions of the hour was about what tool to use to implement GTD. Dan was impressed by how the system itself is "tool agnostic" -- it doesn't matter what tool you use as long as you are comfortable using it.The key thing, he said, is to get stuff out of your head and decide what it means.  David said that until you get it all out of your head (capture) and then be very discrete about each item and what to do about it (processing), the rest of the system doesn't matter.

"I'm running across a lot of high tech people who are going back to paper, because paper is a good way to keep track of stuff running through your head," David said. The computer can be a dangerous animal, he added, because out of sight, out of mind. A computer screen or PDA screen cannot display all the relationships you have to keep in mind all at once.

Someone suggested using a database system, and while David was supportive of anything that works for you, he cautioned that if it's too much work to keep the system up, you won't use it. This was the key takeaway from the session for me, because I tend to over-engineer things. 

"GTD needs to be just structured enough, but not so much that you have to think too much, or you won't use it when things get fast-moving."