Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen is the singular most influential productivity book that I have ever read. The methodology that is laid out provides me with a framework to easily track all of my current obligations, remind myself of projects that I may want to do someday, and most importantly decide what is the best thing for me to be doing at any given moment.
GTD®, as it is known, recommends certain behaviors to accomplish this organizational wizardry. The five stages of GTD® are Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, and Engage. Each stage identifies certain steps you must follow in order to successfully implement that part of the process. Some steps are simple and straightforward while others are more challenging and complex.
For example, let’s look at one of these behaviors — the Weekly Review. As anyone who has had success with GTD® will tell you, the Weekly Review is critical to the success of the system. You must have complete trust that your system contains all your information. A lack of trust will cause you to stop using the system and you will be back at the starting gate once again. By reviewing the entirety of your tasks, projects, desires, and anything else you can think of every single week, the contents of all your lists will be up-to-date and your trust in your system will remain in good standing. The weekly review is just one of many aspects of GTD® that keeps your swirling life grounded while simultaneously keeping the throughput of your tasks flowing.
But what does GTD® have to do with toddlers?
GTD®, like a toddler, is really, REALLY, time-consuming!
I love my sweet daughter and there is nothing about her that I would ever want to change (except maybe her diapers — I don’t really want to change those anymore). But despite the fact that I will do anything for her (and I will), I look forward to a time when she can do a few more things for herself. The bottom line is that a toddler is the best anti-productivity tool ever conceived.
She needs to eat. NOW. She needs to drink. NOW. She just pooped. AGAIN. Therefore, I have to change her diaper. NOW. She wants to play. NOW.
Amazingly, she likes to help! I love that she wants to help with everything and I pray that she still feels that way when she is a teenager (I’m still a little delusional, I mean optimistic, about the future) but just try unloading a dishwasher with the help of a toddler. It will take about three times longer than without her help. Not too bad I suppose, but from a productivity standpoint, that is what we might call friction.
I have had the same experience with my GTD® system. I love GTD®, but it does seem to take a lot of time to maintain the system. An average weekly review alone will take about two hours. Every week. That is a lot of time to devote to thinking about my stuff. I know that the benefits of doing this review far outweigh the impending disaster of ignoring it, but knowing that does not create two free hours in my week where I can quietly sit down and do the necessary thinking. I’m too busy changing diapers! When I do manage to find that two-hour block of time, it usually seems to coincide with periods of low energy and low focus — the exact opposite qualities that are required for a successful and helpful weekly review.
Ultimately, it feels like maintaining my GTD® system is itself causing friction in my system. It’s a lot of work! Intellectually, I know that it is better to maintain the system than letting it go, but practically, finding the time for all of the needed GTD® behaviors is something like swimming upstream — You can see your destination but sometimes you just get tired and give up!