One of my favorite web sites that I find myself revisiting is Bruce Keener’s blog Keenerliving and his PDA resource for Palm OS and Windows Mobile users. He also offers a free ebook which is a portable summary of all his suggested best practices and principles from years of experience in corporate America. Keener, as an author, is both practical, humble and highly effectively in his writing. He offers real gems of incite covering the finer subtleties of Getting Things Done implementation and execution, devoid of the fluffy egotism rampant among many of the blogosphere’s blog gaggle of new wanna be gurus. Humility in this world is something that we all need more of. In a candid, brief interview with me, Keener gave me his opinions about the Getting Things Done Phenomenon.
Spencer: Why do you think that Getting Things Done (GTD) has been so successful?
Keener: GTD helps people overcome procrastination. It does so through several techniques, with the more powerful ones being:
1. Its emphasis on the distinction between a project and a task …too many people put projects on their task list and keep putting those projects off because they haven’t thought through the next action for it.
2. Its emphasis on Being Where You Are: that is, in having lists ofnext actions organized by context so that you are not looking over a list of Home actions intermingled with Computer actions intermingled with Office actions intermingled with Phone Calls and so on. Procrastinators get stuck when they have intermingled lists because they can’t decide what to do next. GTD simplifies by telling you to do something consistent with Where You Are.
3. Its emphasis on Just Do It … that is, the two-minute rule. Why belabor a task if you can just go ahead and do it in short order (presuming that it is one you should do).
4. Its emphasis on Getting Everything Out of Your Head and Into an Appropriate List (or action stream). Admittedly, all time management systems speak to this … GTD just does a better job of emphasizing it, and emphasizing that it should be a periodic activity.
5. And, of course, its emphasis on Capturing All Actions … again, all time management systems speak to this, but GTD speaks to it best.
Spencer: What is your preference for an approach to time and life management systems Top-Down or Bottom-Up?
Keener: Regarding my preference for a Top Down or Bottom Up approach, my preference is Top Down. I am 59 now, so more of my life is behind me than in front of me, and I realize looking back over the years that I have been fortunate to have worked on the kinds of things I wanted to work on … a lot of people are not so fortunate. But, it all begins with deciding what you want to be about, who you really are, what you want to accomplish, and then designing activities that let you do that. Oh, I’ve done a lot of things that wasted my time … nobody is perfect. But, if you don’t keep a list of your priorities in life in front of you, if you don’t periodically examine who you are and what you feel you should be doing, then you are truly susceptible to being a leaf in the wind. I therefore believe that priorities are important, and I don’t think GTD does a very good job of ensuring you align to your priorities. Some people seem to be able to brute-force it to work well enough for them … for me, I had to blend the Covey and GTD techniques in order to feel balanced on “on target.