5
Sep

GTD Unplugged

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What goes around comes around and one of my hobby-horses has come around again. My personal approach to GTD coaching is to emphasis the mental game. It is not about having a particular set of macro's or a specific tool. It is about how you think. For me this is very basic, but I keep having to prise people away from a technology of some kind and demand they do their own thinking.

It is a  great human weakness to wish for a magic wand, the device, glistening and replete with hard-coded wisdom, that will fix your wagon for good. It should dovetail itself to your psyche without actually needing any kind of conversation with your conciousness or change on your part whatsoever.

No dice.

This applies in many fields of effort. I remember consulting with a company which insisted that only the promised following version of a particular bit of call-center software would enable them to do their jobs properly. One of my other clients had the same job to do. For that client is was executed by an experienced and painstaking man with a bunch of file cards and an excel spreadsheet.

This particular train of thought was sparked for me by a course I gave recently, my super-fast half-day GTD intro, in which a lady sat who, without being difficult about it, had already implemented the behaviors I was describing with simple tools. This was for the good and sufficient reason that she had what Dutch people call a Duo-Baan or shared job. She and her job-partner rarely met, but remained in absolute synch with each other by exchanging lists. She had knife-sharp Next Actions, well-defined Waiting Fors and a complete project list all set up in Excel and paper files. Her partner could walk in and pick up everything that was relevant immediately.

The tools are not important. Clarity is important. Completeness is important and above all Thinking It Through until it is blisteringly explicit is very, very important. If you can get those things right you could probably use trained rats and parchment to run your life.

18
Apr

Personal effectiveness does not mean you suck...

Now if you are going to disagree with someone to make a point, you need to pick someone who's opinion is worth considering. So I am going to pick on the thoughtful and helpful Merlin Mann.

Now I have been gettingt lots of useful information about how to get yourself moving on things, how to handle forgetfulness and distraction, from 43 folders, but an alarm bell went off when Merlin started saying that we all "suck at something". I just hate the focus on weaknesses. Well of course he is right. I am pretty solid at GTD these days, I love and work hard at facilitation, coaching and clarifying communications but.... I am kind of terrible at short-term, common-sense logistics. The kind of stuff my way smarter wife effortlessly juggles when we need to shop, drop the car off at the garage, get someone a haircut, take a kid to a play-date and truck another one to a swimming lesson in one afternoon.

But it is certainly not just Merlin.

Lots of the personal effectiveness stuff I read is focussed on dealing with common human weaknesses like that. The only trouble is that spending all your time working on your weaknesses is rather depressing. I have been reading about focussing on strengths recently and the basic wisdom there is that you should spend most of your time investing in the things you do well and just do minimal "damage control" on the weaknesses that really hamper you.

For every hour of effort and attention put into handling something you are not good at you can get ten times the results by extending and deepening an existing strength. The time you focus on weaknesses is when they fundamentally prevent you from deploying a strength, given the context you are in, the work you are doing.

They way Getting Things Done fits into this for me is that it is an "enabler". It allows me to get clear of the anxiety that I am not sufficiently in control, missing something important and leaves me room for creativity, for fun. It clears my head, so I do feel more able to use my skills. It is a catalyst. My personal strengths lie in first contact with new people, communication, finetuning, and connectedness. Feeling in control helps me have the confidence to lean into these strengths and apply them.

So I am still still dedicated to self-improvement and any and all methods that let me achieve that. The kicker is that you need to make sure that your self-improvement effort is focussed on your strengths, no your weaknesses