Why GTD is Like My Mother’s Recipe for Ox-tail Stew

istock_000011945640xsmall.jpgRecently on Facebook, I had the chance to answer a question about my motivations for creating my recent video:  Permanently Fixing the Weekly Review.

Here was my original post:

I just finished a video that focuses of fixing the problems many of us have been having with the weekly review. It calls for a major upgrade in time management
systems based on systems that use lists, like GTD
®. I’d love to hear
your thoughts! http://mytimedesign.com/wordpress/fixing-the-weekly-review/

Here was the response I got from Coach Kelly, who works with GTD®, I believe.

Getting Things Done – Official GTD Page

Coach Kelly here–Francis, perhaps it’s just me, but I can’t tell if you are a fan of GTD or not? Your approach seems to be about what’s wrong with GTD. It’s fine to realize GTD does not work for you (it’s not for everyone) but does there have to be something wrong with GTD (or other approaches) for your approach to work? Seems like a negative approach.

Here was my response:

When I bumped into some limitations I was forced to do some things differently — which I think most people do at some point. Then the game changed for me — instead of trying to “follow it” I started to use what I learned from it and other systems as the starting point in upgrading to a system that worked for me.

But I’m no different from most people, I think. Only a few people are able to follow the system perfectly — most have to make their own modifications to fit their life, culture, job, family situation, techno-savviness, etc.

In the case of the video I just did, there are lots of people having trouble with the weekly review (as I did), and it happens when the number of time demands they have to deal with exceeds their ability to use GTD’s recommendations around “scheduling” and “listing.” That doesn’t happen for everyone, but it happens for many people, some of whom could benefit from the “re-balancing” I talk about.

Now…. that might be WAY too much of an answer for a Wall post… hope it doesn’t take up the whole page!!! LOL 

I didn’t quite say everything I wanted to, due to space limitations and I thought I’d add a bit here that might illuminate the angle that the 2Time blog takes.  It involves Jamaican ox-tail stew.

When I was a broke university student, I was forced to start cooking for myself one summer to preserve cash.  A friend convinced me that cooking Jamaican food wasn’t that hard (even for a beginner like myself) and  I called home to get some recipes, including one for my Mom’s Jamaican ox-tail stew.

I followed her recipe as closely as one could given the distance between Kingston and Ithaca, NY.  The result was close enough… a good tasting ox-tail stew.  Kinda like what I remembered.

That was in 1986.

Over time, I actually learned how to be a better cook, and eventually learned to follow the recipe more closely, replicating more of it by using better ingredients.

However, the time came when I wanted to cook ox-tail using my own recipe, not my mother’s.  When I had learned some more about the fundamental principles of cooking I experimented a bit and over the years I developed my own recipe, which is spicier and sweeter than hers.

I still love hers… but I wouldn’t trade it for mine.

Getting Things Done, or GTD®, and ALL the time management systems that I have found in books, tapes, websites, programs etc. are all about selling good recipes for time management.  They tell you exactly what to do, in excruciating details at times, and lay out the exact steps that must be followed in order to implement them.

Of all the commercial systems I have found, GTD® offers the best recipe to follow.

However, I think it’s more powerful to each people how to cook… or in other words, how to craft their own time management system, or upgrade.

What I have tried to do here on the 2Time blog and in the NewHabits and MyTimeDesign programs is to do just that — teach people how to do their own upgrades — in the belief that when people know the fundamentals of how stuff works, they are empowered.

This seems to be particularly true in the field of time management, which is about building habits, rather than selecting cooking ingredients.

Our habits are personal… and idiosyncratic.   We each have our own, and the vast majority find them difficult to upgrade. With better understanding comes more success, and systems that work better because they match our individual needs and habit-patterns.

Cookbooks and recipes are much easier to change… simply add another tablespoon of salt, and take away the pimento, while substituting fresh onions for onion powder, and a different result is produced in a matter of minutes or hours.

Perhaps it goes without saying that habits, on the other hand, take a long time to change.  Simply handing someone a fresh set of habits to follow in a new system isn’t enough.  Most people respond by instantly customizing  what they are given into something that they can actually use without being overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, this blog is the only one that I know of that aims to help people learn the fundamentals of time management, in order to be able to take charge of, upgrade and implement their own system.

Hmm… that sounds a bit arrogant.

Here’s a better way to say it:  This blog is the only one that accurately describes what people are already doing… taking charge of , upgrading and implementing their own time management systems.  Precious few are picking up commercial systems and implementing them as they are designed, and instead they are doing thing THEIR way… to paraphrase Frank Sinatra.

So, at the end of the day, I love my mother’s recipe for ox-tail, and I love GTD®.  I just don’t follow either set of instructions any longer.

They simply aren’t substitutes for what I can do on my own, now that I understand how to cook, and how to upgrade my own time management system.

P.S. Here is the link to the GTD® Facebook group:  http://www.facebook.com/gettingthingsdone


Mission Control Productivity, FranklinCovey, GTD and Getting Things Done are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company (davidco.com.)  2Time is not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company, Mission Control Productivity or FranklinCovey.