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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?

Smelley's picture

I wonder if we're not...

I wonder if we're not to a third level of problem. I have seen several things recently about how we're tweaking our systems too much. Well, maybe we're writing too many articles and comments about how we're tweaking too much. Then we're commenting on blogs about the article about the too much tweaking not enough stuff getting done problem. We're getting further from the stuff by the second. Maybe Merlin is making a living off this thinking about the tweaking, but most of us should be getting stuff done. What the hell is wrong with me? If it's bad to waste time and energy tweaking my system, how much worse is it to waste time criticizing the tweaking, and how freaking screwed up is it to waste even a second commenting about the criticism of the tweaking. I'm four freaking levels away from the stuff I'm supposed to be doing. I'm outta here.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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