Chaos and GTD

As a fan of David Allen’s GTD for more than 3 years, I am always interested in his observations and explanations, especially when they pop up in new places.

So, for a UKite, it is particularly interesting that David has published Be creative amid chaos in Wired UK. While my personal application of the GTD approach continues to be variable and, often, too tentative, it forms the basis for much of my thinking and implementation of what I do.

His point is that “the chaos is” and it is worth concentrating on, and at the same time relaxing about, one’s own reaction to it.

This is consistent with the major aspect which continues to underlie the struggle with the GTD approach for me. This arises from a discovery which is: undoubtedly known to many people; only reached me because it had been unearthed by David Allen and his mentors; and, for me at least, forms the basis for much of GTD. I find it a struggle because it stands directly contrary to assumptions that I have made for decades and to the basis for a wide range of my habits which now need to be broken/replaced.

It is this: the complexity is at the bottom, not at the top.

How could I have been duped into thinking that “long term” and “top down” issues were more complex than everyday living? As soon as one thinks about this, and compares the number of factors, interactions and choices that are involved at different levels, it becomes obvious. How could I have believed that walking across a room, driving to the shops or writing an article were less complex than deciding whether to buy a house, or where to go on holiday? Many of the high level decisions and actions are simple choices between a small number of options; most low level ones are multi-dimensional with considerable complexity in each dimension!

For some reason, I believed that I must concentrate on the big important, high level, long term issues and ignore the trivial everyday, short term chaos. I was operating on the basis that by applying more and more effort to reaching further and further ahead for the long term things, that somehow the short term mess would be dragged along and would sort itself out. It was the typical example of feeling that “everything will be fine when … “, pick any of: “I have understood this new ABC”, “I have bought XYZ”, or “other people have finally realised what I have to offer”! And these feelings are still there, because they were deeply engrained. But the elephant is turning (see this great article)!

The ramifications of the reversal of these assumptions are enormous on a personal level. Luckily, I have had some experience of seeing them in action in a couple of specific, but isolated, fields of activity; without that experience, the probability of my uprooting this thing, inverting it and planting it again the right way up this time, would have been much lower!

I continue to be an illustration of David’s observation that most people need to get into a state that is quite uncomfortable before they make a small change which make things slightly better!

Thanks, David, keep up the good work, and keep pulling on our common sense so that we have less and less choice but to apply it!

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