The downside to Getting Things Done

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

This morning I had a thought that I found a little sad. In my life pre-entrepreneurship there would be mornings where I would wake up and think, “I’d like to finish that book I’ve been reading.” That would be my goal for the day and it would be a successful day if I spent it lying on the couch and ultimately reading the last page and closing the book for good.

I don’t have those days anymore.

The methodology of Getting Things Done has been great overall for me. In particular:

  1. Putting everything on paper (or in Asana) rather than storing in my brain
  2. Do it, delegate it, or defer it.

I never struggle to remember things anymore because I have a system in place that ensures I never forget anything.

However, omniscience is also a curse. Knowing everything you need to do is a weight unto itself and does not lend itself to spontaneity, creativity, or relaxation. It has put me into a state of feeling that I need to be doing the most productive thing with every minute of my day with no time for recharging.

I dread those morning emails from Asana reminding me of my seemingly never-ending task list.

Asana morning email

An even bigger issue than the fact that I never wake up with a day where I have nothing to do is the fact that it seems as if every day I wake needing to do more than I could possibly do. My list never gets shorter! My morning emails from Asana typically greet me with a subject line of, “You have 37 tasks due…”. Great. Just great. Never does that number drop below 36 and I think they stop counting at 50.

Let’s look at the GTD ethos of doing it, delegating it, or deferring it and revisit my list. I count seven things I can do in less than five minutes each. Let’s get those done and trim the list down to 30.

Some of these tasks are ones that I have been putting off for years and never get around to completing. Here is one I created on 5/20/17 and have since rescheduled 15 times. It is something I would still like to do someday but is not pressing (hence why I’ve put it off so many times) so I’m just going defer it indefinitely by removing the due date completely and marking for later which will keep it off of my “Today” list and off of my morning task reminder emails.

Asana rescheduling tasks

A few of these other tasks are ones that are a bit more urgent but also not ones that I need to address today. Those are getting deferred until next week or later.

What is missing from my bag of productivity tricks is delegation. I’m a one-man band at the moment and don’t have someone sitting next to me to delegate to (thankfully as the room would be a bit cramped). Until I have a (virtual) assistant I need to get better about utilizing online services such as Fiverr for accomplishing some of the simpler tasks that crop up. I had success with it a few years ago but, at some point, I started feeling as if I didn’t even have the time to write up a task and stopped using it. That has to change in order to make my busy life work.

Down to 14 tasks to do today (in Asana–let’s not talk about the lists in Trello, Jira, Evernote, and my notebook). The day is half over so I won’t get to them all but things are looking up.

So, the problem is not with Getting Things Done but with me putting too much on my plate and not being able to get it all done. Secondarily, I need to modify the Getting Things Done methodology just a bit and make a clearer distinction between ideas and tasks. Just because an idea forms in my brain (and thus needs to be jotted down) does not mean it should be added to the task list and assigned a date for completion. Those can easily be cards in Trello or notes in Evernote without a date constraint.

I am feeling more spontaneous already.