Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

GTD - It's Not For Me

This post came about because of a few emails taking me to task about comments I’ve made over the years in my blogs and in a couple of articles about Getting Things Done (GTD, for short). Getting Things Done, for those of you who don’t know, is both the title of a book by David Allen, and the method of personal productivity detailed in the book.

As usual in situations like this, I’ve been accused of being a hater and not giving GTD a chance. First off, I admit I’m not the most organized or productive person alive, I don’t do too badly. I gave GTD a shot. In fact, I gave it two shots. It really didn’t do anything for me. In my case it wasn’t the advertised stress-free productivity.

And I have nothing against GTD. I know a lot of people use it, benefit from it, and are huge fans of it. While I’m not as down on GTD as this review of Allen’s book Getting Things Done, I’m not a big fan of the method.


GTD is said to be simple, but it’s deceptively complex. Overly so, in my mind. I like Allen’s two-minute rule, which states that if you can get a task done within two minutes do it first. But it’s things like the five phases of project planning, five stages of mastering work flow, six level model for reviewing your own work, tickler files and options for handling items that require no action really put a dent in the whole idea of GTD’s simplicity.

On top of that, there are a lot of concepts and terms to absorb. It all adds up to a considerable amount of setup and maintenance for something that should be easy. GTD is a complex system, and as the Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us order and complexity only decrease with time, never increase).

GTD works for a lot of people. It just doesn’t work for me. I like to keep things really simple.

So, what do I do? I use a combination of Google’s Tools and todo.txt (ironically, a tool developed by, and used by, GTD adherents) to keep track of things. Several times a day, I check todo.txt for the tasks that need to get done and do them, based on their priority. With Google Calendar, I keep track of deadlines. Tasks I don’t finish on a particular day I try to complete the first thing the next day.

This system (if you want to call it that) is simple and it works for me. I get things done. And that’s all that matters.

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