In a recent seminar based on her book, The Power of Resiliency®, Dr. Linda Andrade Wheeler shared with her audience that, “it seems to me that in this age of instability, people are searching for something that is unshakable. They are drowning in information, but starving for knowledge and meaning. People want some foundation on which they can build a brighter future–a more predictable and dependable existence. I believe that foundation is their personal power — their attitudes, knowledge, and skills in controlling their lives in positive ways. When people feel in control of their lives they tend to feel better about themselves and others.”
Hearing Dr. Wheeler’s statement made me recall back to when we first began Successories of Hawaii in 1994. At the time, there was an explosion of methods for “time management”, “task management”, or “personal productivity enhancement” that were designed to teach knowledge workers efficient routines for dealing with this overload of ever-changing demands (e.g. Covey, etc). Most of the recommendations concerned concrete tools and techniques, such as using personal organizers, sharing calendars, etc. But it seems that people were seeking more than just physical tools and priority setting.
It made me think about all of the “systems” out there designed to alleviate the feeling of overwhelm and which is meant to free our productive time. The ultimate goal of it all is to release a flood of creative energy that can take us to the next level. When I think about it, the ideal system for me would rigorously make me adhere to the core principles of productivity, while allowing tremendous freedom in the “how” I get things done. This is what I embrace about GTD®–the popular shorthand for “Getting Things Done®. The system is the groundbreaking work-life management system and book by David Allen. It’s a method for personal productivity enhancement, and reduction of the stress caused by information overload. According to their website, “GTD has well-earned its recognition as the gold standard in personal management and productivity for many of the world’s best and brightest people and companies.”
In Resiliency®, Dr. Wheeler points out, “The challenge for each person facing change is the rare opportunity to test one’s flexibility, adaptability, and resiliency to not only survive the changes, but to flourish personally and professionally from them.” Similarly, with GTD, adapting is said to be more important than planning. Unlike other “time management” methods, GTD does not emphasize defined priorities or deadlines, i.e. formalized planning objectives. Of course, these may be necessary for large-scale projects such as building a 40-story building; however, GTD says they tend to be counterproductive for everyday tasks and duties, such as answering your email, or arranging a staff meeting. According to Allen, for simple and routine activities, starting the job with just a few reminders of what should be done will get you to the desired result more quickly.
“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
The GTD team goes on to say that, it is “Sophisticated without being confining, the subtle effectiveness of GTD lies in its radically common sense notion that with a complete and current inventory of all your commitments, organized and reviewed in a systematic way, you can focus clearly, view your world from optimal angles and make trusted choices about what to do (and not do) at any moment.” In their research paper, “Getting Things Done: The Science behind Stress-Free Productivity,” Francis Heylighen and Clément Vidal say that, “The philosophy underlying GTD is that true productivity should be measured not by the number of planned objectives that are achieved, but by the number of intrinsically worthwhile results.” When you combine Dr. Wheeler’s notion of, “Personal Power”–your attitude, knowledge, and skills–with the strengths of GTD®, you can get meaningful, worthwhile things done with truly the least amount of invested attention and energy. Check it out for your self!