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Getting Things "Web" Done
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Posted: Nov 04, 2009
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Below is an except of an interview with David Allen on GTD for the Web-Worker (noun?). I stumbled on this a couple of days ago and wanted to share it with all here in the forums. You will notice how David Allen addresses several of the topics we have had for discussion around here and I found it very insightful. Hope you do too. You can read the full article here.


Bob Walsh: OK. Well, I'm wondering, since your first book came out I think it was early 2001 things have changed a lot in terms of what a lot of people do. They spend more and more time working on the web. Has GTD evolved for you at all since the proliferation of web applications and cloud computing? The original book was very focused on paper and cut and dry silo working. With information overload and active exchange of ideas and comments online, has anything changed?

David Allen: No.

There's no difference in the cloud of information that's sitting in the web or the cloud of information in the forest. It's all of your filters in terms of what you do with it. What's changed, if there's anything that's changed, it's just the speed and volume of stuff that has potential meaning in it has probably gotten faster and bigger.

So the necessity to do GTD, that is to make quick decisions and appropriate decisions on the front end when things show up on your radar, instead of just letting them lie fallow there just becomes that much more critical. So I wouldn't change a thing in terms of the book.

Nothing has changed, because it's not about paper. The book is not about paper. By the way, you're never going to get rid of paper. It's just an externalized communication and information transfer medium. So the medium really doesn't make that much difference.

Bob: Well, I know as somebody who practices GTD, that I find myself, basically I have sort of two contexts in my life: at the computer and not at the computer. Any implementation tips for people who, all their work happens within the Internet?

David: You only need as many as you have contexts. You don't need to carry your bills around to pay it if you pay them every Friday night at your desk, just leave them where ever you pay them. That's fine. Since you only work on the web you don't need, unless you need when you're away from the web to be able to see what your work is on the web. So when you say they only do work on the web, does that mean they only need to be reminded of it when they're setting up their computer? And if that's so, fine.

So if you think doing GTD means you have to have a bunch of lists, you don't get it. And by the way, if you only had 18 things to keep track of, put them all on one list, it won't blow your fuse if you look at the whole list. The only reason to separate it into context is if that makes it easier. Most people have over 150 next actions to write, and if you stick those all in one list, you get to a phone, you'll blow a fuse trying to find all your phone calls.

All I did was add complexity that made it simpler.

Bob: All you did was add complexity to make it simpler?

David: Well, it's the cybernetic principle. If you're trying to make complex things simple, you need an equally complex system in order to make it simple.

Most people are using too simple a system to manage a lot of complexity, that's why it feels so overwhelming. So you have to have, it's one of those "get it as simple as possible but no simpler" kind of things. And you say people only do work on the web. I say yeah, well do they ever go out for errands? Maybe there are people who never do, I mean, I don't know.

Bob: Once in a while, but more often it's flipping over to Amazon to buy something.

David: Sure. If you never go out and about and need anything or a reminder, or one Post it because you only do it once a week for one thing, a Post it is fine. If you even need that. I don't need to write down all the food to buy, I just walk down the aisles in the grocery store and that's enough of a reminder.

Bob: So the key for people who spend all that time online isn't the way they track all this information, it's much more about getting it out of their head, whatever way they find that works for them to externalize it?

David: If they can in 35 seconds see every project they're committed to and all the next action they need to take on all of those, they have some improvement about relaxed control. If they can do that, they've done enough.

The only thing about GTD is look, there's something on your mind, if it happens twice on your mind then you don't trust your system, so what do you need to do so that you trust it? Hardly anybody is ever disturbed by where they need to be two weeks from Monday at 3:15 in the afternoon because that's a system they trust called their calendar.

They know it's in there and they know they'll look at it at the right time. So all GTD said is, well look, if you want everything off your mind, like not having to keep track of your calendar, just make sure you put it in the same kind of a system that you trust just like your calendar. Meaning you trust that it has all the content it needs and you trust you'll look at it when you need to see it. That's all it's about. So it's nothing to do with paper or email or where you sit or any of that.

Posted: Nov 04, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
Wow, thanks for sharing this, Lance! I'm going to have to read the rest of the interview later -- it's going on my task list!

Posted: Nov 04, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
Thanks Lance.

This is something we discussed and it's great to hear David say it himself. Too many people create more context and list than they have should. Some may need it, but not everyone and so many people created all the Context David used because it was an example.

That does not mean it's right for you.

Great article.

Posted: Nov 05, 2009
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It does feel nice to have David validate our discussions on the concept of 'contexts' in an interview.

I think too many people, myself included, when first reading David's book think that you have to have all those contexts, and then some. After many years of GTD, and several re-readings, I finally 'got-it!' I only need contexts for those situations I interact with. And those will change from time to time.

Linden, your very welcome and I'm glad you found something of value in it.

Thanks also to you Proximo and the others for sharing your own experiences with GTD.

Posted: Nov 06, 2009
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Posted by Lance:
I think too many people, myself included, when first reading David's book think that you have to have all those contexts, and then some. After many years of GTD, and several re-readings, I finally 'got-it!' I only need contexts for those situations I interact with. And those will change from time to time.

I did the same exact thing at first. I created a David Allen GTD Setup but I my work environment was completely different than Allen's. I soon realized this and started to make my own GTD Setup for my way of working.

This is where everyone who uses GTD will eventually end up.
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