I have noticed that my level of tolerance for some things in life has become very low since I really started getting into Getting Things Done. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about if you look at your own experiences with GTD (if any).

So what things am I talking about here? Read on and find out!

Zero Tolerance

I can no longer understand the way I was approximately 6 months ago — my pre-GTD era if you will. I also suddenly notice many things in other people’s behavior that make me want to scream out at them to please start using GTD. Just knowing and practicing a working action management methodology like GTD — that has really increased my productivity — makes me completely intolerant and frustrated with my former self and the behavior of some people in my daily life.

For instance, I now have zero tolerance for:

  • Reminders for bills I have to pay
    I used to get these frequently because the original bills were stuffed into a drawer or in one of the piles of stuff on my desk. Now I never have bills lying around; they get paid immediately or stuffed into my tickler file to be paid at the appropriate time in the near future.
  • People not writing anything down
    For instance, I am talking to a client about serious things concerning their business. In the conversation I mention 1 or 2 names of experts that might be able to help them. I also ask them to research something and get back to me about it. And guess what? I don’t see them writing any of this down! I just know (also from experience) they are going to forget at least 50% of the essential parts of the conversation.
  • Simply not doing the things someone has agreed to do
    Not sending that promised information. Not doing that action as agreed upon. Not returning that phone call. This is especially annoying, because I am now meticulously keeping track of all the projects and next actions in my life using my trusted GTD system. I know I am going to do the things I promised to do as soon as possible. The consequence of this change in myself is that I simply can’t stand other people not doing or forgetting things they agreed to do!

  • People complaining about too many things to do
    I am a knowledge worker myself and I deal with knowledge workers (colleagues and clients) every single day. Somehow I cannot stand people complaining about too many things to do or too much information coming at them anymore. I just notice they have serious leaks in their “system”. I have just as many things to deal with but I feel a sense of relaxed control nevertheless because everything has been put in my trusted GTD system. I have no open loops, I have thought about successful outcomes, I have defined my projects, I have determined the very next visibile, physical action for each project. I’m convinced that people are complaining because they try to keep everything in their head, they didn’t think about successful outcomes and they certainly have no clue what the next action is.
  • E-mail in my inbox
    I used to have hundreds or thousands of e-mails in my inbox (see also: Evolution of my e-mail setup). Now I always have exactly zero e-mails in my inbox. E-mails are processed and organized right away, no exception. I don’t really care anymore if I get 10, 100 or 1000 e-mails each day. My inbox will be empty at the end of every day, or sooner. This principle extends into frustration about other people’s inability to handle their incoming (and outgoing!) e-mail stream effectively. Mails get lost, don’t get read, they complain about having never received that information, et cetera.
  • Papers or other stuff lying around the house
    My physical in-basket has become a big magnet. Everything winds up in that basket sooner or later. Mail, receipts, notes, client files, clippings, and so on. I’ve come to the point that stuff lying around the house that is practically screaming to be processed and organized, just really annoys me. I need to move it into my in-basket as soon as possible.
  • Stacks, piles, etc.
    I now have a clean desk policy. Not just at the end of the day, but during the day as well. Only what I am working on right now is allowed to be on my desk in front of me. The stacks of paper and piles of stuff I used to have on and around my desk are completely gone and will never come back. Imagine the sense of uneasiness I get whenever I walk into a client’s office and I see stacks and piles everywhere! Just knowing how to effectively get rid of these stacks forever will do that to you!
  • Meetings
    I’m sure this sounds familiar. How many times have you left a meeting thinking “OK, now why exactly did we have this meeting, what were we supposed to accomplish here, what exactly did we accomplish anyway?”. This is where my low level of tolerance really gets to me. I can no longer understand how anyone can stand a meeting where nobody talks about successful outcomes, where nobody gets or takes responsibility for specific next actions and where everybody leaves the meeting with a vague sense of having wasted 2 hours.

OK, I could go on like this for some time, but I think you get the picture. Luckily, I am an optimist. The list above just shows me that I should point out the benefits of GTD to more people around me!

Have you noticed a significant drop in your level of tolerance for some things or behaviors around you since you started practicing GTD? If so, please let me know… and also, how do you deal with it?