Highlights from the David Allen GTD Teleseminar

I was listening to the David Allen Teleseminar last night, and there were two pieces of the call that really stood out and are worth sharing with all of you.

You need to reframe productivity as relaxation, not being Type A.

The idea here, and I’m a huge fan of it, is that a good productivity system isn’t just about accomplishing a blur of activities with superhuman energy. The mark of a productivity system that works well for you is one that eliminates stress.

The obvious follow-up question, of course, is just how does that work? From my point of view, it’s about finding a system that lets you create a harmony between your goals, your commitments, and your resources. When that clicks, the tasks you commit to doing, whether to yourself or to someone else, become things that you can accomplish without being overloaded, and are a part of creating the kind of life you want.

GTD does this for me, because I needed the ability to separate having ideas and requests on my time from the process of deciding whether or not to commit to them. By reviewing once a week, I can choose what is plausible as an actual commitment. And with a conscious idea in my head of what I’ve already committed to for a week, it’s much easier to handle choosing from incoming, spur of the moment requests – because I already now how close to the limits of my time and attention and finances I am.

What’s the relationship between spirituality and GTD?

I wasn’t sure whether there would be a tie in between these things, but given the popularity of GTD among clergy and the religious community, it was interesting to hear Allen’s ideas about the connection here.

The first half of the answer was about clearing your mind. By creating a trusted system for distributed cognition, and using that system to train your mind out of having random thoughts jump in, you create the kind of openness to focus on the present that recurs as a part of Christian prayer life, meditation practice, etc. Being proficient at reliably creating that kind of mental space, without “oh, right, I need to call Bob tomorrow” popping into your mind repeatedly seems valuable.

The second half of the answer revolved around acceptance. By going through the collection stage of GTD, gathering together all the physical and mental objects in your world, you set the stage for accepting your current situation. The collection and then processing stages of starting with GTD serve as more than just step 1 of getting organized. Those stages also provide a time for you to explicitly acknowledge each thing, and form a catalog of your circumstances.

While not part of the call, I’ve been fascinated by how this idea of having a catalog of all my thoughts and resources has changed my attitudes. Having everything laid out and sorted gives me a bit of distance to really evaluate where I am and the steps I need to take to move on.

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