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Fractal Implementation, or, On the Dangers of David Allen's Finger

BnugWiki : GtDBackToBasics

While doing some file pruning yesterday, I ran across a printout of a page I’d visited (and linked to, via del.icio.us) back in January.

In it, BigNosed UglyGuy throws down a sobering bitch-slap on the impulse to tinker endlessly with your GTD system—to try and catch yourself as you start into the inevitably fractal “Cycle of Implementation.” All the better, one hopes, to stop your meta-work before your head slips—completely efficiently, mind you—up your butt. Quoting:

  1. First, understand that the primary focus should always be the projects & tasks at hand, rather than the mechanics of the methodology.
  2. Scrap (or freeze for the time being at least) the extant implementation - trying to retro-engineer is just backward tweaking…
  3. Start again immediately with just tasks — a To Do list (minimal notes) and hard landscape stuff in Calendar…
  4. Only when the basics are working smoothly, start reintroducing the elements of one’s preferred implementation…

Yep. Brilliant, and right on.

This is my stake in the ground about GTD: if you can stay focused on drawing from its best practices to get more of the important things in your life accomplished, then you’ll be a happy kid. For real. But if, like a seeming majority of people I encounter these days, you allow yourself to obsess endlessly over the minutest details of implementation and maintenance—well, you’re screwed. You’re wasting your time.

Not to rely too heavily on the Zen parables here, but keep checking yourself: are you gazing at the moon, or just staring at David Allen’s finger?

Merlin's picture

To clarify. Absolutely—experimentation and change...

To clarify. Absolutely—experimentation and change is critical. Job 1 for the accomplished alpha geek.

But diabetics need to avoid sugar and drunks need to stay off the juice. And, if you’re hitting rock bottom from a real productivity standpoint, the last thing you need to do is to spend three days re-arranging lists. In other words—your “firstly” is seldom a foregone conclusion, in my experience.

I’m not against play and experimentation at all, but it’s important to distinguish when play is appropriate and when you need to just put your head down and finish your dang work. From where I’m sitting there are a lot of folks who are playing and fiddling with productivity pr0n to the nearly complete exclusion of any actual work. Then they get all frustrated because “the system” is broken, and, well, the music goes round and round. Put differently, a TODO list is only as useful as your capacity to do the items it contains.

As someone who’s frequently accused of feeding that fix for fractal noodlers, I think it’s only responsible for me to also point to resources that help folks reign in their unrestricted dicking-around.

Sort of like the the 1-800 Gambling number in tiny print on your lottery ticket. ;-)




An Oblique Strategy:
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