Getting things done with resets

I’ve been using some variation of the Getting Things Done method for about 15 years now. It just works for the way my brain is built.

One of the traps of GTD is when you spend more time reviewing and choosing the tools than actually getting things done. You can get into debates about the best way to maintain your system, whether digital or paper-based is better, and how to prevent yourself from letting your system stagnate because you slowly stop using it.

I’ve changed my GTD tools many, many times. I’ve used a Palm Pilot, the Notes app in my phone, dedicated GTD apps, paper journals, bullet journals and post-it notes. And each time I slowly stop using that system.

When I stop doing my GTD routines, I’m fine for a few weeks or a month. Then my anxiety over all the things I’m supposed to be doing mounts up. I forget birthdays or have to get extensions on deadlines. And I look at my old dusty setup, and decide to ignore it. It’s just full of reminders of my failures. I tell myself I don’t need a system, I just need more willpower.

And then my life gets even more disorganised. I finally admit the truth (again), which is that I have some executive dysfunction and routines are helpful for me. But I still want to avoid the scene of my previous failure, so I pick up a fresh tool (currently ToDoist) and start again.

This used to make me feel guilty. I wasn’t doing real GTD! I’m a poorly organised person! I have no loyalty or grit!

But I’ve decided not to bother feeling guilty about it anymore. Perfect adherence to a system is for robots. It’s fun to play with new tools, and if that’s what I need to get me back into a helpful routine then so be it. David Allen isn’t going to come to my house to tell me off! And I can avoid at least a month of mild background stress if I stop delaying and just pick up a shiny new tool.