Cal Newport on GTD

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Deep Work author Cal Newport identifies a big problem in the productivity system David Allen describes in the famed Getting Things Done:

Sometimes, this isn't a joke. (Image via Pixabay.)
Creating real value requires deep work, which is a fundamentally different activity than knocking off organizational tasks.

Deep work cannot be reduced to clear next actions. It is, instead, a philosophy that must be cultivated. If you read Robert Greene's Mastery, for example, you'll encounter story after story of remarkable people who didn't carefully organize tasks, but instead marshaled their energy toward the obsessive (and often messy) pursuit of something new.


To Summarize: David Allen's universalism is seductive, but ultimately flawed. Cranking widgets cannot create results of lasting value. That requires something deeper. [links and formatting in original]
To be clear, Newport is not completely dismissing the kinds of tasks GTD is good for: He uses the system to organize what he calls "shallow work." But it is clear that, say, listing "spend many hours obsessively doing deep work on problem X" as a next action does not help much when the time arrives to do this. Anyone who has tried implementing GTD and found it not to be a cure-all might want to consider Newport's idea that there are different kinds of tasks that should be tracked differently. That line of thinking may well be more productive than, "You're just not trying GTD hard enough."

-- CAV

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