Re-read to re-start GTD

Does it help to re-read when I need to re-start GTD?

Short answer: Yes.

But, my advice is not to re-read the entire book.  Instead, I advise you to re-read the first three chapters.  Part 1 of the book is the basic GTD model.  This is the data you want situational awareness of so you can opportunistically get back on the GTD wagon.  Less reading means less guilt.  Less guilt means less wasted energy and less wasted time.

What am I looking for on this re-reading?

I get something new from GTD every time a read it.  But, I’m looking for gold and here is my theory of where the gold is hiding:


  • Worry reduction:
    Most tasks that take up significant mental thinking time, are not being converted to results during that thinking time. They are being worried about.  If you divide the time it takes to do a next action, vs. the time it takes to worry about the next action, the result is always less than one.  Simple fixes: 
    • Write the dang thing down so you stop worrying about it.  It is amazing how often I catch myself worrying about a next action because I have not taken the 10 seconds to write it down.  Write it down, stop worrying, and then natural project management determine when the task gets closed out.
    • Or, I can take a morning, and then rake out all your tasks that are taking more worry than work, and get them done.  If I just make a top 10 list of next actions I’m spending the most time worrying about, I can knock them off and have my brain back.
  • Rumination reduction:
    When you get all the projects laid out, and all the sub-components and moving parts laid out, and then you’ve got the next actions laid out, then you will stop thinking about the project.  Instead of ruminating, your mind can shift to productive work or enjoyment.
  • Increased focus:
    When you have a mind like water (and a “desk like water!”) the stuff you work on, you work on more intensely.  You are more productive.
  • Increased efficiency:
    comes from having the infrastructure you need to do your work, where you need to do the work.  Having a GTD desk set up so that it is pleasing saves running down lots of rabbit trails to get simple things done.  I’m really loving the rabbit-trail, station idea from THE HOUSE THAT CLEANS ITSELF in think this through.  That is, when you find to do a simple task like writing a letter, that you have to go three or four places to get the envelopes, the cards, the stamps, the pen, a place to write, etc., Mindy Starns Clark says you have just discovered a rabbit trail.  To eliminate rabbit trails, develop a station of all the supporting materials needed to do the task, that can be kept out of sight near by the task.  My desk is a work station in the Mindy Starns Clark use of the term.
  • Enthusiasm:
    The word comes from two sources: “en” which means in, and “theos” which means god.  Enthusiasm is “the god within.” When you are less worried or not worried, and not ruminating on disaster, focused, and efficient, your natural enthusiasm “pours out power smooth as silk” as James Garner said of Wankel engines.   When you get your full enthusiasm behind an efficient, effective, focused project effort, you build momentum and take people with you.
  • Improved collaboration:
    When people see you on the wagon, they are impressed.  They may not say anything, but humans are hard wired to watch one another and detect any shifts in competitive advantage.  And implementing GTD is a HUGE shift in competitive advantage.  As the people around you start adopting pieces of GTD, like reducing stuff to next actions, you will find that you can engage with them more productively.  Over time this has a big impact on your organizational effectiveness.

So, on a re-start of GTD, try substituting very tight monitoring of your own sensations of worry, rumination, focus, efficiency, and enthusiasm. I am a worrier.  Such a worrier that I did not discover I’ve had panic attacks all my life, until I was 42.  I’ve just always thought suffering through worry was “normal.”  So, today with GTD, I watch my worry thoughts closely, and then when I catch myself worrying, I drill into what I can do to create a re-organized station, to replace the rabbit trail of worry.  Same deal with rumination.  I am prone to thinking and rethinking about an un-articulated next action, without articulating that next action.  When I catch myself ruminating, I ask “What is the next action?”

This self-based approach to restarting GTD may work for you, where trying to transpose David Allen’s template into your life en mass, has failed.  One thing is a lot to change at once.  Once you get your first GTD habit down: say using Evernote for general reference files, then you can work on your second habit.  Piece by piece you can assemble a trusted system.  Just take it a day at a time.  Pick your next piece to assemble.  And remember the phrase:

Illegitemi non carborundum!

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0 thoughts on “Re-read to re-start GTD

  1. The best thing I’ve done to implement GTD to date was to watch him on the show Triangulation and do more than just watch but take notes as if I was going to have to teach someone else. My perspective changed completely. I knew I needed GTD but wasn’t willing to take the steps to really implement it. He took nearly all the stress about it away when he said (paraphrasing) don’t worry about trying to implement it all at once. Start with writing it all down then reviewing the stuff as needed. After you do that for a while move on to the next thing. Pretty soon, you will naturally want to implement the entire process for yourself. Even if you don’t do it all, get the benefits of some of it.

  2. There is also a 45 minute video on YouTube of David Allen presenting to Google Employees. It was about 4 years ago, but still valuable to hear him talk about his GTD theory.

  3. Re-reading is a great way to re-connect. I also highly recommend different presentations. David’s other book Making it all Work is a great way to look at GTD from another angle. The GTD Live! recordings (CDs or MP3) are an audio recording of David Allen presenting GTD at a company. The more informal presentation was fantastic. I had so many new insights that I had to listen to it again with pad and pen in hand. I am planning a 3rd listening.