On not getting things done

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My explorations of Treo software, switching aware from Entourage, Voodoopad and Tinderbox have plunged me into the seamy underworld of Getting Things Done — or GTD to its fans. I find myself intrigued, if not seduced, and it’s all-to-easy to imagine leafing my way through the copy of GTDTB (the book), which happens to be floating around the house.

But first I need to do a little pseudo-Zen pushback. As tempted as I am to thing about GTD, I realize that my current work (personally and perhaps professionally) is to focus less on getting things done, and more on doing them.

It’s very easy for me to get caught up in the delights of checking tasks off my list, dropping answered e-mails into the trash, or completing an open project file. But I find that the esthetic of list-checking tends to distract from the experience of actually working on a project; I’m more focused on the experience of completing a project than on the experiences of intellectual engagement, personal connection and creative satisfaction that I enjoy while actually working on it.

Does the GTD methodology contribute to a mentality of checking off accomplishments rather than enjoying experiences? I don’t know. But I’d love to hear from any ers.

6 Comments on this site

  1. benc

    Hi there,

    Your question is interesting because there seems to be a conflict between GTD and zen (from which GTD is based). Zen emphasizes doing rather than “getting done”. The book may therefore be misread in that it may encourage readers to find fulfillment in rushing to finish tasks, just to cross them out of the DO list.

    What complicates it further is that there are many layers that involve “doing” in GTD — the GTD system itself is a system of perpetual “doing”, a continuous dance of sorts– using the steps DO, DISCARD, DELEGATE, DEFER– that leads to a more organized and productive life.

    Reading the book, I tend to think that author David Allen wants us to focus on the GTD dance, to make GTD a habit. As he notes in the book, that is the more difficult challenge: to change the daily habit in order to incorporate GTD.

    I won’t pretend to know much about Zen, but i think it wants to be holistic — it also acknowledges the importance of living in the material/physical plane, in which things must get done.

    So I would infer that GTD espouses zen balance between doing and getting things done, and I hope I made some sense in trying to explain 🙂

  2. benc

    Hi there,

    Your question is interesting because there seems to be a conflict between GTD and zen (from which GTD is based). Zen emphasizes doing rather than “getting done”. The book may therefore be misread in that it may encourage readers to find fulfillment in rushing to finish tasks, just to cross them out of the DO list.

    What complicates it further is that there are many layers that involve “doing” in GTD — the GTD system itself is a system of perpetual “doing”, a continuous dance of sorts– using the steps DO, DISCARD, DELEGATE, DEFER– that leads to a more organized and productive life.

    Reading the book, I tend to think that author David Allen wants us to focus on the GTD dance, to make GTD a habit. As he notes in the book, that is the more difficult challenge: to change the daily habit in order to incorporate GTD.

    I won’t pretend to know much about Zen, but i think it wants to be holistic — it also acknowledges the importance of living in the material/physical plane, in which things must get done.

    So I would infer that GTD espouses zen balance between doing and getting things done, and I hope I made some sense in trying to explain 🙂

  3. Pascal Venier

    This discussion reminds me of this posting on Des Paroz’s blog on Shu-ha-ri a while back.

  4. Pascal Venier

    This discussion reminds me of this posting on Des Paroz’s blog on Shu-ha-ri a while back.

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