In our latest podcast episode, Todd and Robert discuss who GTD is really for.
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0:00:02.0 Todd Brown: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another Change Your Game with GTD Podcast. My name is Todd Brown, and I’m here with Robert Peake.
0:00:12.7 Robert Peake: Hey, Todd.
0:00:15.8 TB: Hey, Robert. Our goal in this podcast series is to give you the opportunity to explore the ideas behind the Getting Things Done methodology, how that can enable you to get more of the right things done in less time and less stress, to generate more mental clarity and to align what you engage with day-to-day with not just the critical sort of gotta-be-done-this week kind of things, but also with your larger purpose and your long-term goals. And Robert, as you and I were talking about what we were gonna talk about, I think one of the things that we both agreed would be interesting to explore would be, who does this? Who’s drawn to GTD? Who engages with it? Who does GTD? I think was the headline that we came up with. Does that sound right? And if so, what’s your experience?
0:01:07.8 RP: Yeah, that sounds great. I think it’s the start of a new year, that’s often the time when people, as a ritual, choose to take stock of things and decide what they want to do in the coming year. And hopefully this will be a little bit of an enticement to consider that you might be someone that wants to give this a shot. I do GTD. [laughter] I’ve been doing it for 22 years. Easy to… Easy calculation, ’cause I met David in January of 2000, David Hound, the creator of the Getting Things Done methodology. And it occurs to me that people from a really wide range of backgrounds do GTD, but they do tend to have a few things in common. I think fundamentally, one of the things that most of the people who take to this and work this and really become proficient with it and see the benefit, and realize the benefit of doing so have as traits, I think one of them is that they have a mindset of wanting to grow and learn and better themselves and better their environment. So, who doesn’t do GTD? People that are convinced that this is the way things are and always have been and always will be.
0:02:32.9 RP: And feel like victims of circumstance, generally don’t tend to gravitate toward this, because this is a methodology that says, Look, this is about getting you more in control of the kinds of things that you want to bring forward in your life rather than just sort of harping on the challenges of the past. So being forward-looking, forward-thinking and also having some sense that there may be a smarter way to do things, that simply pushing harder, that simply longer hours isn’t the only way to necessarily get ahead. Also people that care about their well-being, I think one of the few silver linings perhaps of the recent experience with the pandemic is this awareness that we all have a responsibility to our mental health and personal well-being, and so people that are aware of that, conscious of that, wanting more of that in their lives, I think that’s a starter for who broadly might be attracted to this work. What about you? What’s your experience with all of that?
0:03:46.8 TB: Yeah, I’d echo a lot of what you said. I thought it was interesting, this idea that people who are forward-looking, open to change, open to the possibility that they could work differently and think about their work differently and organize theirselves and use their tools differently, and that would generate positive results. And it occurred to me that we sometimes talk about that as if it is a fixed mindset, somebody is open to change or not, but I think the other thing that occurs to me is that that can be quite situational, so if somebody… They just… The email that arrived this morning was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and they just sort of throw up their hands and go, “Okay, this is just not sustainable, I just can’t do this anymore.” And whereas yesterday, they might have been quite not really thinking that they were open to change, now, the situation has changed, their perception of the situation has changed so that they say… Perhaps with a little bit of a sense of desperation, “Hey, I really need to change here, I really need to change.” And sometimes, I think it really is brought on by people just saying… They may not express it in these ways, but they recognize that the ways in which they’re working are not sustainable, leading to the…
0:05:01.3 TB: The negative outcomes you’ve been talking about, about wellness, about mental health and physical health, and also of course, just lack of productivity, lack of getting the right things done, as well as not being able to shut off… It’s funny, I was thinking… My wife and I were watching a movie the other night last weekend, and I was sitting there really engrossed in this movie, really just sort of hip deep in it, mentally, emotionally engaged, the whole thing. And I flash back on maybe… I don’t know, before I did GTD, so let’s call it 20 years ago or something like that. I’ve been in the game for 16 or 17 years now. And one of the things that occurred to me was that it was not at all an uncommon experience for me back in the day, that I would watch a movie and really struggle to focus, just really struggle to be in the kind of relaxed place that would allow me to engage with it, because I had so much else on my mind, and somehow I just felt like, Well, I’ll do my best to try to focus on this movie, but at the end of the day, all these other things are distracting me so much that I’m really not able to engage with it.
0:06:15.0 TB: So yeah, that occurs to me, is… Both I suppose, goes in the list of benefits the GTD generates with this kind of mental clarity. But also, one of the things that people who are drawn to GTD, that’s what some people are looking for, is, I’ve got… In this sort of area would go, I can’t focus, I’m at dinner with my family, I’m just so distracted, I just can’t… I feel like I’m really not there, and I have the sense that they probably sense that I’m really not there, just in the sense of being totally engaged, or I’m having a hard time at the end of the day or at the end of the work week, shutting off and just saying, Okay, no more. I’m not gonna focus on work for a while. So again, I think people who are looking for solutions in those kinds of areas quite often are drawn to the work. And something else that just occurs to me, so another sort of group of people, and of course, these groups all overlap, so… Or they can overlap, anyway. But another group of people are people who are just really into their technical tools and they love them, and they just think the tools are the best, and they really wanna try new things and they wanna try using the tools they’ve got in new ways.
0:07:30.0 TB: And so those… Quite often, those folks are also drawn to our work, because getting things done gives them a way to take all of the capabilities of those technical tools and align them in such a way that they are making sure that those tools are optimally supporting both their productivity, great, yeah, and their ability to get things done in effective and efficient ways, but also enabling them to be clear-headed and un-distracted as well.
0:08:01.9 RP: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think those are all really relatable states, hopefully for people that are listening in terms of some of the problems and challenges that just go partly with modern living. And yeah, I definitely have seen the kind of tool geeks of the world gravitate toward this for all the reasons you mentioned, that they also recognize that there’s often a better way, and sometimes technology enables that. But a lot of people, I think, do have a love-hate relationship with email, [chuckle] so if that’s you, if you can relate to that, or a sense that having thousands of emails in your inbox might not be optimal, or there could be a better way. That’s definitely an in-road, I think, to GTD as well. So there’s a lot of problems that I think people can relate to that GTD really helps a lot with and solves. But also, I noticed one more, we’ve been around for a while. To some extent, everybody’s doing almost a little bit of GTD these days, it feels like, to me. So there’s some best practices that seem to have just kind of seeped into particularly corporate culture that I’ve seen, one being just talking more and more about actions, what’s the action? Who’s gonna action this? I’ve got some actions or some steps to take, or whatever.
0:09:23.6 RP: That kind of thinking. I think a lot of people think that maybe we invented our name based on that being a more common thing in the parlance. I think it’s actually the opposite. I think actually the Getting Things Done methodology as it’s permeated a lot more corporate culture, people are starting to talk about and think about actions, what’s the practical next step to get something done? And as you said, the tools… I think a lot of these tools are starting to advertise themselves as… Well, they actually say, “Get more done, get things done, get her done, get it done.” There’s a lot of get-done, completion-oriented thinking and marketing, and these tools might not even know that a lot of that mindset that they’re trying to help people achieve as a group, or a solution, or as a better way to try and filter your email or whatever it is, a lot of that really does stem, again, I think from GTD seeping in. So you may be influenced by GTD in ways that you don’t even realize. If you found this kind of thing helpful, and if you are the kind of person that likes to get things done, that likes to accomplish, that likes to complete, that likes that feeling of completion, then really coming to the source as it were, and looking at the full methodology and what it can do for you, is probably a worthwhile…
0:10:45.2 RP: Exercise or foray. As an example, you know, my wife does some elements of GTD. She doesn’t do all of it, but at the end of the year, we sat down together in some quiet time and did what we call a kind of annual review. We kinda looked back and forward at things, we decided and set some intentions for the coming year in a way that mirrors and is drawn on and is inspired by the GTD best practice of the weekly review, which is foundational to this whole methodology. So I think a lot of people may be doing bits of GTD by stealth, not even realizing it, so as much as you may be feeling the pain of modern living and information overload, you may also be feeling some of the benefits and not even knowing the line of thought that it actually came out of, which was David Allen’s work. I don’t know, Todd, have you seen that seepage of [chuckle] thinking into the mainstream world?
0:11:46.4 TB: Absolutely, and I think one of the interesting things I think is more about David Allen’s perspective on his own work, and David will actually use the words, not that he invented GTD, but that he discovered it. And this sort of goes to your point that David uncovered something that was there already, okay. And related to that, as you say, is an awful lot of people are doing a lot of the best practices already. I have experience of this from this week, I spent this week… A big chunk of this week working one-on-one with one of the most senior people at a very big online business, and as I was working with him, what I recognized very quickly was an awful lot of what we would recognize as best practice, he had already engaged it. So, for example, his email inbox, very sort of one level down from the CEO in this very large online organization. His email inbox was incredibly well controlled, he was getting to zero regularly, he was… When he showed up for my meeting, I think he had 30 or 40 emails in his inbox. He had good ways of keeping track, for example, of the things that he needed to discuss with his direct reports. So, that was all being handled. It wasn’t totally optimized, but it was in very, very good shape, I would say.
0:13:08.6 TB: And as he and I worked together, of course, anything that’s already really working well for him and is aligned with the best practice as we see it, again, and in service of enabling stress-free productivity, I’m just gonna leave that alone. But one of the things that he absolutely grooved on, and it made a huge difference for him, was he didn’t really have in his system a good way to track what we call waiting fors. So, these situations where someone else in the world is doing something and you’re waiting for that to happen. So, someone in the meeting said, “Yeah, I’ll send you that document,” you’re waiting for it to arrive, you’ve ordered something online, you’re waiting for that to arrive, and one of your direct reports is working on a project for you, you’re waiting for them to deliver that project. And these kinds of waiting fors, he just didn’t have a way of tracking them. And so he and I worked on, Okay, where would we create some inventories of those waiting fors, how would you keep them up-to-date? Etcetera.
0:14:15.7 TB: And he started to work with them. And that made a huge difference. So again, just big picture, here’s an example of somebody who’s… He’s made it to this very lofty level in this big, successful organization, he’s clearly been doing a lot of things right, but at the same time, the work that we did has… He told me at the end of the second day, he said, Look, this is gonna make a huge difference. It’s gonna make an absolutely huge difference, not just in terms… He was talking about the waiting fors again. Not just in terms of me being able to follow up with people and make sure that things are happening in a kind of a timely way, but also in the sense that it’s gonna reduce distractions because I’ve been carrying… He said he recognized that he’d been carrying all of that detail as far as he could around in his head. And one of the things that we know in GTD is that the head is a great place to have ideas, that it’s a terrible place to keep ideas, because the brain really isn’t built to hang on to details in that way. So yeah, I think, again, going back to our big topic of the podcast today, I think quite often…
0:15:31.2 TB: And it’s interesting, right? So you have people… You might think if somebody makes it to that level in an organization that’s that successful, well, they’ve got it all sorted out, right? They’ve got it all sorted out. But here he was coming with a lot of good practices, say, to the table, but we made some changes in his system and his thinking that have made, so far as he reports it, a dramatic difference.
0:15:55.3 RP: I love it. I love it. Yeah, and we see that a lot. And what’s so interesting when we’re talking about who does GTD, is, because of the confidentiality factor with a lot of the work we do and the coaching we do, we have to say a very senior person or someone really dynamic, and you kinda have to take our word for it. But often, if you knew who gravitates towards this, I think it’s pretty impressive to me the extent to which successful, motivated and dynamic people choose into this methodology. It’s not a remedial thing, it’s a turbo boost for so many people. And I think for a lot of them too, the system is more of a means to an end, rather than something where they say, “Well, I’m inherently a systems type person.” There’s some degree of that, but it’s more that they’ve caught on for a taste for systems because they see how it helps them. And also, there’s an extent to which I think the people that I work with tended to find success on their own terms, so yeah, so a lot of senior people, people who are in positions where you’d say, That looks like success by traditional standards or measures in society, but also very much people who have broad, broad ranges of interests, who have very unique and interesting things that they’re passionate about, either within the context of their work as a kind of vocation, not just a job, or outside of work as well.
0:17:24.8 RP: That, to me, I think is really interesting, because GTD does help you define success on your own terms, in terms of what that means for you, what that looks like for you. So if you’re someone who’s shying away from GTD with the idea that, Oh, this is an executive thing, this is a corporate thing, this is for people that want to climb the ladder, and I’m kind of marching to the beat of my own drummer, it fits your drum beats too, is I think what I wanna say. I say to people in seminars, I don’t fundamentally identify as an organized person, I identify as a creative person. So for me, GTD is a way to focus that creativity to get more of the things that I want out of my life. And we see that a lot with a really, really wide range of industries and individuals and types of people who benefit from getting clear about what success looks like for them, what they want more of, and then not just getting clear in a kind of “hope it happens” way but then really getting concrete about what the next actions are, what the steps are, and developing both ways of thinking and habits that support them in getting more of that.
0:18:42.8 RP: So to me, it holds out a great, great promise for a really wide range of individuals, and a lot of them have in common that they’re uncommon, they’re not cookie-cutters. [chuckle] They are people that want to live a meaningful life, and they have their own ideas about what meaningful is.
0:19:05.7 TB: That Oscar Wilde quote comes to mind, “You should be yourself because everybody else is already taken,” [chuckle] and so…
0:19:13.0 RP: Easier said than done as well, I would say. I’m still learning how to be myself.
0:19:16.9 TB: With you, with you. Listen, I wanna… I can’t believe it’s almost been… We’re almost at about the end of our time here, but let me… I wanna echo something else that you said that I think is a really important point, you mentioned that GTD is not remedial, and that’s a really important thing, I think, to keep in mind. It’s astounding to me, we’ve been… The business has been around now for about 13 years, will be this coming summer. And in that time, if you look at the organizations that we work with, you can check these all out on our website if you’re new to our work. And check the testimonials that we have up there. The people who are drawn to this work are not the people who are fundamentally broken, they are people who are already getting lots done, and they’re just realizing, Hey, there’s some things that I need to optimize. There are some things that I need to… I might be feeling quite overwhelmed by what’s going on right at the moment, I’d like to focus on that. So, it’s not… It’s actually very rare that we have people who show up in our work, either in our coaching or in our seminars or in any of the work that we do with our clients, who are sort of fundamentally broken from a productivity point of view. Everybody is somewhere on this journey, and all we’re doing on this journey towards stress-free productivity, and all we’re doing is trying to help people to get there in the most efficient way.
0:20:36.5 RP: Absolutely right. So, hopefully, we’ve whet some appetites. What do you think in terms of next steps that people could take, if you wanna even explore the possibility that you’re one of these people for whom GTD could apply and could help? What would you do at the start of your journey, or what did you do to get going, to test the waters?
0:21:00.4 TB: To test the waters. Yeah, well, way back in the day, I did a lot of listening to podcasts of David being interviewed by other people, I did a bit of reading, I was very much self-taught. But if I sort of think about the resources that we can make available to people now… Well, let me just say, We’ve got… Have a look at the website, look at the resources that are available on the website. We’ve got a new… Just coming out, you’ve got a new online course, a free online course, which is an introduction to getting things done, so people will be able to make use of that, and that’ll give them, again, a taste… It’ll go beyond what we’ve talked about today and give you more of a sense of a bit deeper what some of the benefits are, and a little bit more about the methodology itself. And then beyond that, we do run public seminars, we do run… We do do coaching, one-on-one coaching for people. There are a number of different ways that we can engage with folks to help them to understand and to implement the methodology. That’s the kind of natural sequence that comes to mind for me. How about you?
0:22:03.4 RP: Yeah, I think those are great next steps. There’s a lot of… You mentioned podcast, there’s a lot of them out there, there’s a lot of people talking about GTD, some of whom have been plugged into David’s wisdom for decades and some are more new to it, but very zealous. So I’d say, take that kind of sphere with a little bit of a grain of salt, just in that there’s a lot of talking about GTD and then there’s implementing it. And I think one of the best ways to implement is to really make sure you go to the source. To me, that’s David. So I often recommend, if you just wanna dip a toe in, grab the audio book of David reading it on, just Audible or somewhere like that, listen to it through, that’s gonna be sort of the best way to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. If you really wanna take the plunge, that’s coaching, that’s the, “I’m really ready to really do this really for me,” that’s the immersive experience and the fastest way to get this. And then there’s a really wide range of offerings in between, which you mentioned, Todd, so it’s kind of where are you at, to what extent do you wanna dip a toe in and do some research? I would say, again, the best way is to go to that absolute source and get the book as a starting point rather than getting it second and third hand off of various forums or what have you. And then, see what that does for you.
0:23:28.7 RP: And hopefully get in touch with us, because I just love it. I love the range of people, I love the types of people, I generally resonate in some way, with just everyone that comes… Of the now hundreds of coaching clients I’ve worked with over the years. And I always am learning something new myself, it’s a very collaborative, collegial experience of digging in and helping someone figure out how they can take their practice of life and work to the next level. So it’s exciting work, it’s good work, and it’s a really useful journey to at least just take a step toward to see if you might be one of these people to whom GTD applies.
0:24:13.5 TB: That’s great stuff. Let me just… For those of you who don’t know our work very well, Roberts made reference to David’s first book there, and let me give you the full title in case that’s not something you’re familiar with. So, David Allen’s first book was called Getting Things Done: The art of stress-free productivity, which you can find in all of your digital and physical bookstores. Robert, thanks. I thought that was great. I very much hope that all of you out there have taken some wisdom for this. Those of you who are familiar with GTD, maybe you’ve seen yourself reflected a bit to a certain extent, maybe you’ve gotten some inspiration for talking to other people about GTD and how it could benefit them. And for those of you who are brand new to our work, welcome. We very much hope you’ll hit like and subscribe so that you’ll find out about us in the future, you’ll find out as we publish new editions of this podcast. Again, for those of you who have not been on the podcast before, one of the things that we’re very happy to do is take requests, so if you have any ideas about things you’d like to hear about, please do get in touch.
0:25:15.9 TB: You can email us at [email protected] and come and visit us on the web as well, at @thatdomain. For now, on behalf of Robert and for me, thanks for being a part of it this time, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again soon. Bye for now.