Connecting GTD and the Art of procrastination!

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Connecting GTD and the Art of procrastination!

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des. 31, 2015, 7:51pm

After reading Getting things done by David Allen and The Art of Procrastination by John Perry I felt like I found an answer for a wholesome productivity system (for myself at least).

First let me sum up my thoughts on both these books individually:-

Getting Things Done by David Allen : -

This book has a strong message but it is dug deep inside extremely irritating and boring language which makes it a very tough read. It asks not to keep stuff(ideas, tasks etc.) in your mind. Collect them all in a proper system that you have setup already. Then later sit down and clarify what each entity in your collection is actually. Now organize these entities by putting them into proper place holders i.e actionable items into a projects or a tasks list and non actionable items into a filing cabinet or a trash and so on. Then reflect on whatever you have organized and finally engage in action.

The Art of Procrastination by John Perry : -

This book is a very enjoyable read taking not more than 4 hours. The author's sense of humor adds a lot more to its enjoyment. I found the book extremely relatable to myself too. It basically gives a way to look at the overly exaggerated issue of Procrastination from an optimistic perspective. By justifying the proposition that procrastinators perform tasks provided it gives a way for them to not do some other more important task, the author goes on to suggest that by creating a task list sorted in decreasing order of importance and working from its bottom, procrastinators can become a lot more effective. It further explains how triaging tasks, losing the perfectionist fantasy which is a major contributor for procrastination, creating daily to do lists, setting up multiple alarms, organizing horizontally rather than vertically and working with non/lesser procrastinators can help taking this system a long way.

Now, to connect the dots...

The to-do list's necessity: -

David Allen seems to gloss over daily to do lists while John Perry's focus seems to be primarily on it. To quote David,
This might be heresy to past-century time-management training, which almost universally taught that the daily to-do list is key. But such lists on a calendar don't work for two reasons.
He goes onto explain that given the highly dynamic nature of most professions daily to do lists may not make much sense. I am not arguing his explanations are wrong. He himself goes on to later say:-
That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating a quick, informal, short list of “if I have time, I’d really like to …” kinds of things, picked from your Next action inventory
The catch though is that David Allen focuses on your work life but in your personal life(waking up in the morning, going to sleep properly, eating at appropriate times) most things are pretty predictable and also if you want to create a habit out of something(like waking up at a certain time in the morning to go out for a jog) doing it daily in a particular time really helps. Therefore daily to-do lists make a lot of sense for me at least and seem like a must have.

Interesting to note is the flipside of this. John Perry focuses on personal life more! Other than suggesting that one should create a task list sorted by importance he doesn't say anything much. Here David Allen comes in and says how to collect these tasks and how to organize them and all that which are essential.

In this way these two works seem to complement each other - One focusing more on your work life while the other more on your personal life, clearly showing how one can combine them to his/her's advantage!

Purpose: -

The two systems have different purposes. GTD's purpose is to provide you with a system to externalize 'stuff' so that you don't have to remember it and can have a mind like water. But that is not what John Perry is going on about! His system is about optimized for the procrastinator's psychology. John says:-
You might think the purpose of a to-do list is to remind you what to do. And it can be useful in that way. But that is not its primary purpose. The main function of the daily to-do list is to give the procrastinator the experience of checking off tasks as they are finished. Putting a check in the box next to the item, or crossing it out with a flourish, gives one a little psychological lift.
I say create a system to suit both purposes! Have daily to do lists to check boxes and proper task management systems to remind you of your tasks.

The 'But what to do next?!' conundrum:-

The other thing I noticed is the suggestion on how to choose what to do next. This is something that always is an obstacle: You have all your tasks organized like a pro...but which of these tasks are you going to take up right now?!

John Perry's answer seems to be(not quoting him but role-playing), "Well, you organized your tasks in the order for you to work through in the first place didn't you? So as I said, get the least important thing in the bottom done now" David Allen's answer is (role-play again), "There are four factors in the specified order for you to consider - Context, Energy available, Time needed, Priority. Think through each factor. Eliminate those tasks that don't fit in and choose the one remaining." So which is better? The only answer to this seems to be to me to keep oscillating. Sometimes David's factors work and sometimes John's procrastination does. We can just choose which of the two ideas feel right at the spur of the moment. Sometimes you are feeling lazy and unproductive. Go with John's way. If you are feeling good and you are ready to rock n' roll go with David's way.

Admitting defeat: -

David Allen addresses failure as
While no empirical data yet exists for the idea that those individuals who utilize GTD are more successful in recovering from failure (resilience), it’s certainly been validated anecdotally for me from scores of the best and brightest individuals on the planet.
John Perry addresses failure as
Breaking big daunting tasks into smaller, less daunting ones is crucial on those occasions-rare but awful-when the structured procrastination system breaks down.
Intoto, both systems are not free of failure! But combining their ideas and exploiting them to suit the immediate need can make them less falliable or so I feel.

“Life's not about how hard of a hit you can give... it's about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.”
― Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa
And I feel these systems help you move forward when you are hit. By 'hit', I mean you have seen way too much TV and have eaten way too many sweets in these holidays! It just seems so hard to get back to work. But you should keep moving forward when the holidays end. That is where these systems come in handy! They can really help you get started with your work! I hope I connected the dots and got a clearer understanding and have got myself a wonderful system to keep moving forward! Overall, it was an intriguing experience going through these books. I would recommend this to anyone interested in making themselves more productive.

I am very interested to know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts. Cheers and wishing you a happy and productive new year!

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