David Allen’s Getting Things Done is one of the most influential productivity concepts of the last two decades. The time management system Allen recommends was so influential that it’s now recognizable by its shorthand: GTD.
When the book Getting Things Done came out in 2005, Wired called it “a new cult for the info age.”
A 2005 article in The Guardian took the praise a step further, saying,
“For me, as with the hundreds of thousands around the world who press the book into their friends' hands with fire in their eyes, Allen's ideas are nothing short of life-changing.”
So what is this miraculous system? Well, let me show you in the form of a diagram:
Yup. That’s the GTD system. It takes every new task and runs it through a complex, branching chain of options. At the end of this chain, you will either get around to doing whatever it was, or you’ll choose an option like “incubate,” “wait,” or “plan.”
For a system called “getting things done” it sure seems to be built around putting things off. Sure, there are advantages to some of the steps. It can be helpful to get in the habit of eliminating tasks that aren’t actionable or necessary. But, a whole lot of the paths seem to end in procrastination.
In a time before Apple Reminders, Todoist, and Remember the Milk, GTD made sense. You didn’t have a device in your pocket to remind you to get milk when you passed the grocery store. When you’re working with a pen and paper, a system like GTD can be helpful. GTD provided a systematic way to go through your To-Do list and decide what to do with each item. Add it to your calendar? Cross it off? Postpone?
Today’s mobile apps can make these decisions for you. A paper planner can’t vibrate in your pocket to remind you that a task is due. But, a mobile app can. Not only that, but with a mobile app, you can swipe to get reminded again later, or even use AI to find the perfect spot in your calendar.
The future of productivity won’t involve over-complicated charts and trade-offs. Instead, technology will gather the data you need, pulling tasks from email, social media, and smart devices. Then it will use automatic language processing to categorize and schedule tasks. We’ll move further and further away from GTD and towards AI.
Of course, there will always be a need for human input. Even apps with access to our email inboxes, calendars, and smart refrigerators cannot predict every task we’ll want to complete. They also can't tell us whether we’ll feel like completing them at any given moment.
All the same, modern technology gives us many better ways to get things done than Getting Things Done. Strongweek is only one example of a completely different way to go about your T-Do list, and we're just getting started. Of course, if GTD works for you, stick with it. But I’m ready for a new era of To-Do lists.