Staying GTD Over The Hype

Two or three years ago, a strange topic about organization skills, de-cluttering and mind like water exploded on the Internet. It was about GTD, or Getting Things Done, a methodology for boosting productivity invented and shared by David Alled in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity [aff link]. This phenomenon lead to a sudden surge of new blogs, with 43folders.com of Merlin Mann becoming the icon blog for this trend. Soon, other useful and very popular blogs appeared. At that time even yours truly was a GTD wannabee and one of my very first posts in this blog – and one of the most popular, I must say – was about GTD for people in transition countries. GTD posts and blogs where spreading over the internet at light speed. It was the Golden Era.

But now the hype is over. Merlin Mann has switched his 43folder.com and we must re-learn how to use what was once the Internet Bible of the common GTD’er. Icon GTD blogger Brett Kelly handed over his popular GTD property Cranking Widgets Blog to a new voice, Andy Parkinson and in recent posts claim he cured his addiction for this technique.

GTD hype is over for good. But the benefits are here to stay. In this post I’ll outline what was left from GTD in my productivity rituals after the drop of the hype.

GTD Leftovers

There are at least 4 different things that somehow survived the golden era of GTD in my organizational behavior. Let’s take them one at  time:

Emptying your RAM

And getting rid of  “open loops”. In GTD terminology an “open loop” is a thought that is not solved, hence keep popping up in your head all the time. Solving this “open loop” is a matter of taking it out of your head and storing it in a trusted system, for further processing. This is something I kept and found extremely useful.

I don’t know about your brain, but my brain is not a rolodex for sure. I prefer to use my brain for doing creative stuff like writing, coding or something like that. I also use it for learning, either by absorbing information, either by experiencing. I don’t want to be bothered in these processes by unsolved “open loops”.

Next actions

I kept the habit of breaking projects into “next actions”. In GTD jargon, a “next action” is the next physical action required to move forward a project and it doesn’t have nothing to do with the logical structure of the project, most of the time. For instance, if your project is to change your plumbing, the next action will be “look up phone number of the plumber in the agenda @phone” and not “call the plumber”.  “Call the plumber” comes next to “look up the phone number”. Pretty logical, of course.

Next actions are a fantastic glue to my flow. After I created and constantly sustained the habit of breaking my projects into next actions, something nice happened: I started doing stuff instead of organize my day all day long.  It’s not rocket science, but it’s effective.

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