Getting Started On GTD

I've recently started studying Getting Things Done (aka "GTD"), and so far it's been interesting, though I haven't totally drunk the Kool-Aid yet. One of the main points of GTD is that you need to collect everything you want to get done into some kind of system. Initially I felt vindicated since I've been using my Palm PDA and Outlook to manage my to-do items for years, and sometimes I felt I was being too geeky by capturing everything into it. After reading about GTD, I'm finding that I haven't been capturing enough things, nor at the correct level of detail, and not in a sufficiently defined way. There are many other GTD things I haven't been doing in my own system, but one thing at a time.

After getting an initial sense of what GTD was all about, I began to mention it to others around me. In every case, the response was, "I already keep a to-do list like that."

Those discussions were interesting in and of themselves, as it was enlightening to see how other people were managing their tasks. But keeping to-do lists is not what GTD is about -- it's about how you keep those lists and what you do with each task once you have it. The road to GTD might look familiar at first, and I think anyone who keeps a to-do list is already somewhere on the path, but then you realize there's a lot more to it.

Those initial conversations made me realize where the power of GTD comes from. We all have our own systems for task management, each one with good points and flaws. What David Allen did in the development of GTD was look at how different people approach their lists, and identified the strengths and weaknesses in each system. The final "GTD" system takes all of the good things, combines them into a complete system, and provides the instructions on how to actually use it (7 Habits make a lot of good points, but it doesn't really provide a game plan for day-to-day achievement).

Given enough time and scrutiny, one might be able to come up with a system like GTD on their own. But extra time is one thing most of us don't have the luxury of, and we would probably spend that time doing something other than reviewing our own to-do systems. I suppose most human knowledge evolves this way, but by using GTD, I don't need to evolve the system myself, and can begin to reap the rewards sooner rather than later.

Now all I need to do is finish reading the book and start to process all of my "open loops".