156: The State of GTD


I enjoyed the podcast and as a long time GTD practitioner I chuckled at the “problems” with GTD and the things that don’t work. There’s a healthy mix of David didn’t say that along with you really ARE doing GTD.


Enjoyed the discussion. One question during: have you been asked to do more because of your efficiency in the past and found it burdensome, or was it theoretical? David mentioned Covey and I think his is the stronger framework if the problem is being good at work and needing to turn lower value items away, or reduce working hours.

Good episode. I still see the GTD system being used in paper planner, especially Filofax style, communities. I think that’s how it really took off before smartphones and digital systems matured, but it’s interesting how it’s still embraced fully in the paper planner culture.

Yes. “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” There is not one person I know who uses digital task management, but many people who are still in a paper planner culture.

The world isn’t as digital as we think, or as we’d like it to be.


Yeah. I’ve tried digital over and over again, but still go back to my notebooks and planners. I honestly only use digital calendars for work.

It is interesting, how this experience could vary.
I am using only a digital TaskManagement (OF3) and, I know nobody, who really is using a Task Management, and who is still doing this with pen and paper…

I use digital task management … but I think I may be the only person I know personally who does so. Everybody I know uses some variety of pen and paper.

For atomic-space meanings of the word “know.” I know plenty of people digitally who use digital task management.

I know the common wisdom nowadays is that contexts are dead for knowledge workers, and you can do everything everywhere on your phone and tablet. But I do not find that to be the case.

The contexts are as much psychological as technological. For jobs requiring heavy thinking, I like to be at my Mac, in my home office, where I am ready to work.


The Big question: Are those people really “doing” a Task Management, or are they just using paper as a kind of reminder for something.

1 Like

Semantically, what do you see as the difference?

Are you talking about the difference between a disorganized jumble of notes and an actual task list?


Isn’t GTD just a list of lists? (Same as Bullet Journal in my opinion)

I would see a difference between doing a Task Management on Paper, like those Bullet-Journal-Method, or just writing thinks on paper somewhere, with the hope that this will be helpful, or not.
I know for example a couple, he is very well organized, and his wife is trying too. But she is using some of those 9x9cm paper slips, you can often find in stacks in a box.
She has literally hundreds of them flying around her areas in their house, and she has no real way to make any kind of sense from them.
So, the is using Pen-and-Paper for her notes, but I would not call it a Task “Management” from any direction of view.

Yes and no. GTD is two parts.

The first part is what actually lands on paper / in your task management software, which yes - is just a collection of lists.

But the second part is the thought process behind it. You can have lists of projects / next actions and not be doing GTD. The periodic review of everything, for example, is central to GTD. So are things like the 2-minute rule. There’s a fair bit of task management philosophy in GTD, in order to keep the lists and tasks and such relevant and useful so that you can actually get things done.

The problem is that the first part - the lists - is much easier to conceptualize than the second. Which is why if you’ve never read the books, and mostly focused on blogs and online articles about GTD, you could absolutely be forgiven for thinking that’s all GTD is.


Thanks for this podcast and your objective opinions and comments.

It can be a bit frustrating to listen to detractors find minor faults in the GTD methodology instead of themselves. For whatever reason, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

GTD is really a methodology and not a system or solution. If it was a system or solution, you’d be paying a subscription and there would be software/tools involved.

We follow a methodology or we do not. Taking the best parts of GTD and making your own methodology is what we all do. What GTD offers is an complete approach to work and life. David Allen’s attitude is “take the material and do what you want.”

I’d like to point out that a weekly review is critical to the methodology’s success. In fact, David has said, “if you’re not doing a weekly review, you’re not doing GTD.”

I appreciate David and Mike’'s respect for GTD and the impact it had on their careers and personal lives.


I like the quote, you wouldn’t happen to have the citation would you? I’d like to add this to my research vault and to my citation manager.

I found this information here

  • Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
    • Economics, Peace and Laughter (1971), p. 50

on that Website

And yes, thank you @Michael_Potter for the quote, it was added to my drafts citation folder right away!

1 Like

Thank you, much appreciated!

In case you meant the David Allen quote… it’s interesting. Lots of people have quoted him saying it:


But that search doesn’t return a primary source.

I could swear I heard it from him before, too. It is probably a throwaway line from the GTD seminars/webinars/podcast.

1 Like

Sorry I wasn’t clear, I was referring to the Galbraith quote. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Here’s a quote from “Getting Things Done… Fast,” which is an entire two-day David Allen seminar in audio format:

…if it’s not worth keeping everything out of your head and keeping this consistently reviewed, it’s almost not worth keeping a system at all. Because some part of you won’t trust that your system is complete enough to let your brain relax. And if your brain’s not relaxing because of your system anyway, now it’s just extra trouble to try to keep up a system. There’s no reason to do any of this stuff unless it truly makes things easier, and in order to make it easy, in order for me to be able to feel OK about all the stuff going on in my life but not have any concern about that right now, I’ve got to trust that my lists are complete — or at least as complete as they can be within the last few days. The only way I can do that is by reviewing at least weekly. … I’ve got my own daily review, weekly review, monthly review lists. But at least get yourself a weekly review.

He goes on to give the example of how, for most people, the most “caught up” they ever get — the most well-informed they are about the state of their entire set of commitments — is in the week before they go on vacation every year, because they’ve been forced to do a review like the one he’s recommending. He says, “I just suggest you do it weekly instead of yearly.”

Not the exact quote, but it’s what he’s saying.