GTD v. ADD

I just attempted to read Getting Things Done by David Allen. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been looking at the Wikipedia article on GTD and the Evernote / GTD manifesto The Secret Weapon but I’d never read the source of the whole movement — a bit embarrassing. I’ll have to stay embarrassed, because I could not get through the book. I was hoping for an insight into how this might work a little better for me, but between the original GTD tome (what I could read of it) and The Secret Weapon, I’ve only managed to come up with one blazingly clear observation:

None of these people has ADD.

If they did, the Secret Weapon people would not casually speak of going back to their master list several times a day to pick up new things to do. They would not dismiss recurring events so casually as habits in formation. Mr. Allen would not talk about “mind like water” if he’d ever experienced Mind Like Teflon.

You know those times you’ve forgotten something? Something important? Have you ever dismissed ADD with statements such as, “Everyone forgets things. Everyone gets distracted. What’s so special?”

Several times an hour, I forget what it is that I’m trying to do. I’ll find myself on the stairs with no idea why I’m there. It takes me two to three hours to leave the house in the morning — I plan it into my schedule because I KNOW I’ll get distracted. If I have to leave faster something will be left undone — brushing my teeth, taking my aspirin, packing my lunch. I might pack my lunch and leave it behind on the kitchen counter. These are not “senior moments.” I find it bitterly amusing to hear an older person complaining about distractibility crap I’ve lived with all my freaking life.

To be successful, I need to limit my daily list of things to do to three to five simple items outside of routine. I need to have periodic but not daily routine things show up automatically somehow because I won’t remember them at all if I don’t do them daily. (Before I had electronic devices to do this, I had to try to put them on calendars. It wasn’t very effective.) I need a daily checklist so that I won’t forget, yes, things that have been nominal parts of my daily routine for years. Habits? I wish. I’m never sure if I’ve actually done something routine, or if I just thought about doing it, or maybe I remember doing it from last week.

These guys don’t deal with under focus. Neither do they deal with hyper focus, that state in which I cannot reduce my focus on a (probably irrelevant to my true goals) task or process. They don’t understand not being able to control the level of focus. They simply assume that once you’ve managed to figure out what you should be doing, you’ll get ‘er done.

Yeah, capturing everything I think about maybe doing is really valuable. But I need to boil it down to a real short list every day. I need to not go back and update that list during the day — the short list is challenging enough. And contexts? No, I’m not going to have a list for here, one for there, and another for everywhere. One list. Per day. Five items, tops. Daily checklists for routine stuff.

So. My implementation of (sort of) GTD. Evernote for one-off stuff and for collecting everything I think of to do. Pocket Informant on my iPad (synced to Toodledo, Evernote and my iCloud calendar) for my daily checklists and for periodic (monthly, biweekly, whatever) tasks. Everything shows up on my iPad in PI. I put an iPad screenshot of each finished day back into Evernote. If I have any other daily notes, I create them in PI for sync back to Evernote, or in Notability (if they need handwriting and/or a template) and email them to Evernote. So I have everything recorded in Evernote. On my Android phone (yes, Android. The horror!) I have the PI widget and the Evernote widget on the same page, showing me my entire system. On the Mac, Evernote and Toodledo on the web hold everything.

Now I need to simplify. Big time. Because right now, what I’ve got is far too complex to be sustainable for my distractible brain for any length of time. Suggestions are welcome.

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2 thoughts on “GTD v. ADD

  1. I’ve found that using a GTD system helps me keep on focus and keeps me from the paralysis of analysis and review. What I do like about GTD is that unlike many other productivity systems the author isn’t focused on the technology and the process can be hacked into something that works for you.

    I don’t have a calls folder nor 43 folders for follow up. But I do get my inbox sorted and organized in a way that I don’t forget or miss things.

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  2. Thanks, David. When I’m hyper focused (as I am on GTD at the moment 🙂 ) it’s really easy for me to build up an elaborate structure that I won’t be able to maintain when the hyper focus evaporates (as it will.) I’ve ridden this roller coaster often enough to recognize the rise, the drop, and the turn even if I can’t control it or get the heck off.

    When my focus on GTD goes away, I need to have a simple task system in place. Ideally it will take 15 minutes a day tops to maintain, with no more than a half hour of weekly advance planning, because if it takes longer, I’ll blow it off. And it can’t make me feel guilty looking at all the things I haven’t done, because that will cause me to blow it off, as well.

    I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer.

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