Podcast of the Week: The Case for Capturing (GTD)

TL;DR – upgrade your productivity and change your life in this podcast of the week!

Like most people who need a book on productivity, I’ve had David Allen’s Getting Things Done on my “to-read” list for years. Something compelled me to finally start reading it last week, and I have to say – it’s one of the few books I’ve read in a long time that I believe is truly life-changing.

That’s not an exaggeration.

If you’re someone who:

  • Is fairly productive already, but knows you could be better
  • Simultaneously yearns for relaxing “days off” while also waking up on those days with a sense of dread, wondering “what am I going to do all day?!”
  • Consistently feels as though you “should” be doing something else
  • Occasionally feels so much anxiety about your to-do list that you’ll go days (even weeks!) without looking at it and just “winging it” based on what items you know in your head need to be accomplished
  • Walks around with that nagging feeling of “I should be doing more” (feel free to replace “more” with “better”)

Then this book really is a must-read for you – and I don’t say that lightly. I read a lot – at least one book a month – and I don’t get this excited about a book all that often. However, I used to think that the above fears and anxieties needed to be assuaged with affirmations like “I’m good enough. I’m doing enough. And gosh darnit people like me!” Here’s the thing: those nagging “I could be doing better” fears might actually be true!

Hear me out.

I am not saying that we should give into insecurities that for someone like me might say things like, “I’m such a lazy bum” (never mind that I’m in business school and work full-time, I literally just knit a sweater in 3 weeks, and somehow manage to make time for friends and family)… but if I think I could take my performance and productivity to the next level – who am I to say I can’t!? It’s important to parse out nagging insecurities from ambition. I love that this book gives practical habits that ameliorates those limiting beliefs through performance-improving action and not just “a new outlook on life” (not that there’s anything wrong with that – we could all use a little of that, too).

I’m not even halfway through the book and one thing in particular has truly clicked for me, which is:

I’m relying on my brain WAY too much!

And that is precisely why I loved this week’s episode of GTD (the book’s subsequent podcast). Even if you don’t plan on reading GTD, give this episode a listen.

The main takeaways:

  • Our brains are for creating ideas – not for holding them.
  • We need a trustworthy container for all of our to-do’s – even if they’re small mundane tasks, big projects, or loosely defined “someday maybe” goals
  • Without such a container, these items create latent anxiety for us.

That last point is the game changer for me. I don’t know if I qualify for clinical anxiety, but I do know that I often wake up feeling like “Oh God…another day of a to-do list I will never get through.” And sometimes, that results in not even being able to stomach looking at the dang list, let alone attempting to get through it. Instead, I rely on the tasks and projects that are lucky enough to either be present in my conscious brain or that I’m reminded of through some external trigger (i.e. a “friendly reminder” email from a colleague, a frustrated phone call from an advertising salesperson, an overdue phone bill in the mail, etc).

Like I said, I’m still not even halfway through the book, but the first portion gives such a comprehensive bird’s eye view of its main principles, I’ve already made some big changes to my habits. For instance, it used to be only the things that were crucial got put on my task list. I was too worried about getting overwhelmed with little mundane things I thought would “probably remember anyway,” that I was hesitant to put anything on the list that wasn’t absolutely critical to my goals and values (which David Allen explicitly says is a very foolish way of prioritizing).

Now, every blessed thought that enters my head about something I hope to or need to accomplish in the future, gets put on one of several lists (unless I can get it done in 2 minutes or less or can delegate to another person). Each item has a deadline and thanks to technology I can trust (the reminders app on my iPhone and Macbook), I am reminded of what needs to be done at the precise time I need to remember it.

I especially love Allen’s decision map for determining what to do with such “stuff,” which can show up in so many different forms – thoughts of “I should write a book some day,” a full sink of dirty dishes, a friend who emails asking you to proofread a letter, your mom’s birthday coming up, a bill that needs paying, or something as big as your company’s merger. Check out his decision map for when “stuff” shows up in your life:

decision map

The process seems time consuming and complex at first glance, but it becomes habitual very quickly and I believe, saves a lot of time (and anxiety!) in the long run.

Okay, I think I’ve done enough fawning over a book that I have yet to actually finish, but if nothing else, I hope you’ll give the podcast a listen.

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