5 Things you should realize about \
  • You may have stumbled upon David Allen’s action management methodology “Getting Things Done” just recently…
  • You may have been Getting Things Done for some time now…
  • You may even consider yourself to be a GTD Master (!)…

… but I am pretty sure the following 5 things will hold true for you, especially if you are a GTD novice.

It is important to realize the following 5 “facts” about Getting Things Done; even more so if you are still wondering whether to start GTD or not:

1. GTD is easy to learn but difficult to master
After reading David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” for the first time, you will probably conclude that his action management methodology is strikingly obvious and can’t be all that hard to learn. And you would be right! The principles he describes are easy to grasp, the tools he describes are easy to acquire and use, and the goals he writes about (stress-free productivity, “mind like water”) are very attractive. In other words, GTD is easy to learn!

However, GTD is difficult to master! Making it the solid foundation of your personal and professional life is hard. Really keeping your inbox empty at all times, keeping track of all your “open loops”, collecting and processing all your “stuff” consistently, and most of all really cranking widgets to get things done, is a process that will require at least 2 years to really embed into your life!

2. GTD requires relentless discipline and persistence
OK, so now you know that GTD is easy to learn but hard to master. This is mainly so because GTD requires relentless discipline and persistence. Many GTD enthusiasts have fallen off the bandwagon after the initial enthusiasm because it is so hard to really keep GTD going in their lives (this is the key property of all good habits ;) ). If you want to attain stress-free productivity, you need to be ready every day to do the things you need to do to make GTD work for you… and keep jumping on the bandwagon again if you happen to fall off along the way!

Relentless discipline is key to keep the GTD machine going. Unlike other good habits, GTD actually has the benefit of being easy and fun to do! However, if you skip your daily or especially your weekly review session, your mind will not be like water… more like mud ;) . If your in-baskets become insurmountable heaps of digital or physical items, you will quickly lose your potential to really get things done. I could go on like this for some time… my point is clear I think: you need an iron discipline to successfully keep GTD going!

3. GTD takes time!
This may seem counter-intuitive at first for what some people call a time management method. However, I have found this to be true in many cases. First of all, the previous 2 points may be indicative of the (extra) time you need to put into really getting things done.

Second, be prepared to put substantial time into the daily or weekly review process (this could take hours!). The return-on-investment for the weekly review is huge, however! You will also find yourself reading more and more about GTD, especially how other people are doing it. You will quickly discover that there are many digital and analog tools and toys to play around with… which takes time of course. You will be ditching one GTD system for another… starting from scratch in many cases. Needless to say, this takes time, time, time!

4. GTD is not the final answer
A quick search on the internet or in your local bookstore will show the existence of a large number of productivity methodologies. You have to realize that Getting Things Done is basically just one of them. It is not the productivity methodology to end all others. It works for you or it doesn’t. To me it has proven to be the one best suited to my personal and professional way of life. However, I still view GTD as a building block in my personal development as a whole… an important building block, but a building block nonetheless. GTD has to integrate and cooperate with your other habits and your personal development goals. It is wrong to assume that adopting GTD will magically make your whole life better, instantly!

5. There is no particular right or wrong way to do GTD
Having discussed the previous 4 points, I guess it is now safe to say that Getting Things Done may be incorporated into your life in any number of ways. In my opinion, a successful GTD system is easy and fun to use but doesn’t rely on a particular set of tools (physical or digital). People use different contexts, different formats for next action lists, different ideas about what a someday/maybe list should contain, different reference systems, different types of in-basket, high tech versus low tech and so on. It doesn’t matter… as long as you are Getting Things Done!

Getting Things Done is an excellent “bottom-up” approach to manage the actions and projects in your personal and professional life. It is easy to learn and simple to begin with, but prepare yourself for a bumpy ride because it will take a couple of years to really get things done. If you do not have the required discipline and persistence, or if you are not prepared to invest time to really embed the methodology into your life, then think again before starting GTD. Finally, remember that GTD is one of many productivity methodologies and that there is an endless number of ways to implement it and not one of them is the right or wrong way!

In the end, you’re doing it to further your personal development and to finally, really Get Things Done!

Your thoughts?