Last Friday I attended the first ever GTD Summit, which was a conference about personal and managerial productivity. GTD stands for “Getting Things Done” which is also the name of the best-selling book by David Allen.
What’s ironic, as collaboration consultant Oliver Marks explained, is that this conference was about talking about productivity rather than actually being productive. This conference wasn’t like any other in that people were rather euphoric over the GTD philosophy. It had a kind of quasi-cultish tinge to it without actually being creepy. That’s because David Allen, the guy who started it all, is a rather mild-mannered guy. And this average guy created a productivity system that others have gone on to repeat, adopt and coach others how to do.
On the outset, most of the GTD principles sound like basic common sense. But not all of us actually adopt common sense. GTD aims to incorporate these productivity tips into people’s daily habits. Others claim that the adoption was life changing. They must believe it since they all forked over $1,000 to just talk about productivity. The topic of personal productivity is hot. Lifehacker is the sixth most popular blog on the Web.
At the conference, I asked attendees what bad habits they had before they adopted GTD.
One of the most common bad habits people kept echoing was the tendency to list “projects” as “tasks.” For example, when you write “do taxes” on your “to do list.” “Doing your taxes” is a project that requires many steps. In such a case, one should think of “doing taxes” as a project and then split it up into a series of tasks. According to the GT philosophy, when you mislabel a project as a task it becomes intimidating. Typically, you procrastinate because it seems so large and you don’t have a clear starting point. “Doing taxes” is not something you can easily get done in just one step.
Whether you’re a GTD adopter or not, we all have productivity bad habits. Some we’re well aware of, and some we’re not.