The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

GTD Overview Part I: The Concepts

Notice to readers: This article was written under the assumption that the audience has a general knowledge of GTD (Getting Things Done). If that does not describe you, please use these resources to familiarize yourself.


Over the past couple of years there has been a heavy increase in GTD related publication. The purpose of this site is not to regurgitate that information once again. But considering the name of this site, perhaps an overview is needed to provide a better idea of how I understand and make use of the Getting Things Done productivity model.

The Concepts I Have Taken from GTD

Process vs. Purpose

After reading David Allen's book, people who like the ideas he presents end up incorporating at least a few of the stages of his process. Collect - Process - Organize - Review - Do. Each of these stages has it's own nuances. A lot of people who read the book end up using only some of the five stages. Or they make use of them but not in the fullest extent. And most GTD tools are not designed to use all five either. But this a good thing. In the end, GTD is an overarching concept, and each person will benefit the most when they fit the concepts to their working style rather than the other way around.

It took me a while to realize that fact. In conjunction with this realization is that the five step process is really just the tool. The purpose of GTD is to reduce stress and to help you make the best use of your time—at all times. The process and changing the way you think about tasks is the method to meeting those purposes.

As well, GTD can be used in every facet of your life. Work of course, but also your personal life and your spiritual life. In fact, if you use GTD, the idea is to help you accomplish any goal that you want to in your life. Any goal.

Process and purpose. Both are key in GTD. The process, once you have trained yourself to follow it closely, is to allow you to accomplish your goals—the purpose.

Simplification

Another concept that is not explicitly mapped out in GTD is that of simplification. But many GTDers seems to find this to be closely related. The community at 43Folders has generated a lot of discussion on this subject. Reducing the amount of information, clutter and 'stuff' in our lives allows us to to focus more clearly.

We in North America live lives of excess. Excess information. Excess material goods. Excess noise. GTD can be another tool to find the peace, quiet and calm we need to (re)gain perspective and remember what's important. For me, the most important idea I learned from GTD was the weekly review. I've mentioned before how performing this exercise is exactly how I regain this perspective and take time to review all my goals.

How does simplifying help all this? If we can reduce the flood of input competing for our attention, reduce our choices and reduce some of the distractions from our lives then we allow more time to meet our goals. And hopefully we reduce our stress and increase our attention to the things that really matter.

For me, 2007 was focused on incorporating and trying out GTD. And I experienced some success meeting my goals. So far 2008 has been about simplifying. I'll expand on what exactly that has involved in part 3 of my GTD overview.

The Danger

There is one last item I would mention on this subject. As I mentioned above, I spent the last year learning and getting started with GTD. I could also phrase it another way: 2007 was a year of endless tinkering with my system.

This is dangerous ground. There are so many options, so many ways you can implement your GTD system that you can spend all of your time striving for perfection and never actually get anything done. This is a prime example of where simplifying is so important. Many a potential GTDer has fallen astray to the lure of the perfect system.

Remember, in the end, completing the tasks is so much more important than having the perfect list.

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