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David Allen on GTD's future (and why it just works, as is)

Productive Talk #08: GTD 2.0?

43 Folders and The David Allen Company present the eighth in a series of conversations that David and Merlin recently had about Getting Things Done.


In this episode, Merlin asks David one of the most popular questions about GTD; if he could write the book all over again today, what would he do differently? David addresses how people’s understanding of GTD evolves on repeated exposures, as well hinting at future plans for making GTD easier for people to start and maintain. He makes some great points on learning to pay attention to your "higher altitudes," and wraps up by underscoring the importance of not having to rethink every task throughout the day. (13:11)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen here (after the cut).

Merlin's comments

If you bend David Allen's ear for more than 30 seconds about GTD, you'll hear some variation of a phrase that I heard a lot over the couple days we hung out in Ojai: "It's all in the book!"

Say what you will about The David, but he is not a man who suffers from The George Lucas Complex. Much to the consternation of his publishers, his fans, and -- one suspects -- even some of his colleagues, David feels like he has already written the complete and definitive work on the Getting Things Done system. And he very clearly has no desire to futz with that basic system without a good reason; it's sound and complete, as is, and there you go. Next subject.

And, I have to say, in a lot of ways, I've come to really admire this.

For one thing, it was immediately clear to me that, although David heads up a smart and growing company that enjoys a ravenous fanbase, his interest in the strictly pecuniary aspects of his work sometimes seems hilariously modest. While he long ago could have flipped DavidCo into a Shake-and-Bake franchise of ghost-written paperbacks (an idea I apparently once thought was a pretty great idea myself), David and his staff usually have more interesting things in mind. And while I can't say that I think every idea is a guaranteed winner from my own perspective, I really respect the fact that DavidCo seems unwilling to sacrifice the quality of their product and their message for a fast buck. Not something you see every day.

I'll admit that there's still a part of me that thinks both David, the fans, and the system itself could benefit greatly from more examples of and options for sane GTD implementation and maintenance (and how to narrow the options to what's best for my particular hang-up). Funny thing, though: in talking to David, it became clear to me that, on some level, that dearth of "official" material on implementation options was an undeniable factor in the early success of 43 Folders. So, in retrospect, I probably shouldn't complain too much.

In many ways, though, David's right; it is all in the book, even if you aren't yet at a place to understand how it potentially fits together in your world. So, in this episode, I really like how he highlights the way repeated readings and exposures to GTD inevitably lead to "getting" some part of the system that used to seem corny, pointless, or hand-wavey (God knows that's been true for me). So, I guess I do see part of the challenge from David's point of view; how do you get somebody quickly ramped-up into a system that may not reveal its best stuff to you for two or more years? Definitely tricky business.

But for those of you out there already doing GTD and feeling like you sometimes miss the "there," I think this particular ep provides some very sound insight into how these pieces down on "the runway" are inextricably and necessarily tied to "the higher altitudes."

Last planned episode....but wait...

Although this eighth episode of Productive Talk is our last in this series (yep, we're already talking about doing it again), I do encourage you to stop back by next week.

In addition to offering my own thoughts on the series and what I learned from it (hint: a lot), I'll also be sharing the (very very highly requested) single file download of all 8 episodes. Yes, it will have iTunes chapters. No, it won't have bonus footage or director's commentary. But it will make it a bit easier to take Productive Talk with you and listen to the whole series at a sitting. Subscribe via iTunes to receive the last last episode as soon as it goes live.

Listen to Episode #08 of Productive Talk

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen from here:

powered by ODEO

Subscribe to the 43 Folders Podcast on Odeo.com Subscribe to the 43 Folders podcast in iTunes

johnwin's picture

Merlin, Thanks for a great series...


Thanks for a great series and a single file d/load will be great - will this include your thoughts on the series?

Again - thanks for the 'DA goodness' :-)




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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