GTD For Me: Still Broken

This weekend at the conference or the pre-dinner someone asked me how I was doing with GTD. The sad truth is, not at all. My original attempt atrophied and failed, my reboot atrophied and failed and now I am in a state without any functioning part of it. Had I been working on the conference with a functioning GTD implementation, life would have been much easier for me. As it was, I was in a constant state of almost screwing things up. Things got done but more things would have gotten done better with less effort if I could have been better organized.

Here’s where the truth starts to hurt. I’ve tried things a couple different ways and the one thing all the failed attempts have in common is me. It’s not that I’m not capable of it because obviously I am. I failed to fully commit or stay disciplined or something.

What I wonder now is that despite bouncing off of a couple of attempts, I still believe in GTD as a system and I believe that it would make my life better if I had it working. Why do I believe in GTD in a way I never believed in the XP programming methodology? I bounced off of attempts at both, but the latter I derided because whenever implementations failed the response was always “You weren’t doing it right.” I didn’t like that mindset of non-falsifiability. There appeared to be no way to fail at XP without the proponents pinning the blame on you. Surely it can’t be universally perfect for everyone in all situations so there has to be some way of determining it isn’t right for you.

Is it possible that GTD isn’t for some people, or that it isn’t for me? Is something in my makeup or my character (or lack thereof) that keeps me from succeeding at this? Do I say I want it and think I want it and then subconsciously sabotage myself when I try? I have lived my whole life as a disorganized and messy packrat and maybe deep down I don’t really want to change that.

I don’t know that I have it in my to try that reboot in the next week. I’m just too exhausted and beat down and will be that way for at least the next week as both work is hard and home repairs happen – all this in the aftermath of CREATE South and the deep down tired it left. A good tired, but a tired nonetheless. Maybe I need to read the book one more time to get refilled with the holy fire and try it again. I’m not defeated, but my faith on this topic is wavering. I need to get a win under my belt.

Published by


Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

4 thoughts on “GTD For Me: Still Broken”

  1. AA says:

    Are you seriously throwing such a softball? 🙂 Of course GTD isn’t the right solution for some people. There is no one size fits all solution so the key is to modify and adjust until you find what works for you. One of the first keys is to see your excuses. Even if it is a valid excuse (too tired after work is my biggie) it is STILL an excuse.

    Start small, find ONE thing you can do consistently that will have a long term effect. Are you overwhelmed by the largess of GTD? (Personally, I like the idea, but keeping track of all those lists/etc takes more time than just doing stuff.) Use it as your basis and adjust until it is both evil and genius enough to work for you.

  2. Steve Holden says:

    I would recommend maybe you consider the audio book version. It might help digest the material. Another suggestion is to find someone to coach you and keep you honest. 🙂

  3. Tia says:

    Hi Dave 🙂

    My mother and I are as far apart on the organizational personality style chart as two people can be. I cannot function without organizational systems, I create them in my sleep and maintain them almost subconsciously. My mother is like you – a highly creative whirlwind, plucking her tasks out of the tornado that swirls around her at any given time.

    I thought GTD was going to be revolutionary, and eagerly ate it up. I was thoroughly dissapointed. It provided nothing really new for me, and was way too “big” for my mother. It seems well suited to the average individual, but if you fall outside of that spectrum it doesn’t do you much good.

    There are books and systems out there for “messies”, people with generally disorganized personalities. Most of them are dedicated to space clutter and written to an audience of married women, which might make you dismiss them out of hand.

    However, for someone with a lack of ingrained order and structure, dealing with space clutter is a great way to get started. The results are immediate and gratifying, and the backslides that you need to catch are much more noticeable earlier on than in a more intangible mental clutter eliminating system such as GTD.

    The habits that you develop when dealing with space clutter will stay with you and make the transition to dealing with mental clutter much easier. I have some books I’d be willing to lend if you’re interested.

    One other observation. For a highly creative person who has lots of different tangents going on at any given time, something simple like a PDA or a notebook won’t cut it as a GTD capture device. Going back to that tangible vs. intangible thing again, I also find that sticking stuff into a digital organization system is like shooting it off into a black hole. Out of sight, out of mind.

    I have several giant white boards, mounted in plain sight where I have to walk by them multiple times per day. One is just for my personal life, one is for business and projects, and the third is for household mundaneness such as grocery lists, meal planning, etc. For really comlicated long term projects (such as your conference) I also use tabbed dividers that help me further divide the whole into subtasks and keep track of things.

    And I guess the last tip would be, one step at a time. Trying to jump into a whole system all at once is almost a gaurantee of failure. Pick one organizational habit and don’t add another till the first is second nature. Its sort of like weight loss, the all or nothing approach gets you nowhere.

    BTW, congrats on the conference! I have been having some health problems and wound up in bed that day. I hate that I missed it. Looking forward to next year, though.

  4. Tommy says:

    It’s not you. It’s GTD itself. It sucks.

    Welcome back to sanity 🙂

Comments are closed.