3 unexpected benefits of GTD
My own experience has validated that the benefits of GTD are real. Since incorporating these principles into my work habits 4 years ago, the challenges I outlined which led me to explore GTD have either been eliminated or significantly reduced. Improved response to changing priorities and a greater sense of control are welcome, but I also discovered three benefits which were completely unexpected.
- Permission to stop trying to remember everything. Somewhere along the way I started believing that I should be able to remember just about anything that was potentially relevant. Maybe it was a by-product of the emphasis on rote learning during my education. Maybe it’s just a carry over from when life was simple enough that I actually could remember most things. Maybe it’s just age.
I’m not saying that being able to remember relevant information is not a useful skill — it’s very useful. When your mind is focused on an idea it seems so important that you couldn’t possibly forget it. But ten minutes later when you’re fixated on the next juicy idea you’ll likely struggle to recall what the first one was (unless you capture it somewhere). Remembering to buy bread on the way home from work seems simple enough in the morning, but after a mentally draining day even simple tasks become a lot more challenging.
GTD advocates capturing anything that has your attention into a trusted system. Simple tasks like buying bread get the same treatment as more complex activities like drafting the next strategic plan. This enables your mind to work on creative problem solving rather than just trying to recall ideas. As David Allen puts it, “You should be thinking about your stuff, not of it.” Relying on memory is not particularly smart. I just needed someone to point this out. The habit of writing everything down is far more powerful than I’d ever imagined.
- Better sleep. I used to frequently wake up in the night with my mind churning over things that I should have done or needed to do the next day. Once my mind gets into this mode, it can be hours before I fall asleep again. The difference in the quality of my sleep since adopting GTD has been like day and night. I put this down to:
- consistent capture of any ideas and tasks I can’t act on immediately, no matter how trivial they seem; and
- regular review of the projects and actions I have some commitment to complete.
- Discovering talented and inspiring people. GTD attracts people from all walks of life. The common thread is that they all have a deep desire to maximise their impact. This is a group of people who are constantly looking for ways to be more effective in what they do. As I’ve searched out ways to improve my own workflow I’ve come across talented people producing great content on a wide range of subjects. I’ve also formed personal connections with others who have expanded my view on what’s possible.
None of this comes free. Unless you regularly capture, clarify, organise and review what has your attention, entropy quickly sets in. There’s also a front-end investment in setting up the system to work for you, but this can be done gradually. In my view the ongoing benefits far outweigh the effort required.
Question: What’s the greatest benefit you’ve experienced by adopting GTD?