myths about productivity

GTD is not about planning! – Killing some of the myths about productivity

There are a lot of myths about productivity and GTD. “GTD is absurd, you cannot plan everything.” or “Only obsessive compulsive people follow Getting Things Done. I need some freedom in my life.” Heard these before? Read on to learn the perfect answers to some of the common misunderstandings about GTD.

From time to time I’m confronted by people saying that they “…have to much to do to have time to plan everything.” or some variation of the above statements. The first times this happened I didn’t have a good answer. I would start explaining, but by the time I was finished they would have left the room shaking their heads.

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Here is what I have learned since then, and how I try to explain it to other people.

One of the biggest myths about productivity and GTD is that it’s all about planning

Having a parking space for ideas and action items frees up mental capacity. It creates mental space to think, to solve problems, to be creative. You cannot be creative if your head is occupied with trying to keep track of all kinds of mundane tasks.


GTD Is not about planning, it’s about creating mental space


Doing GTD enables you to concentrate on what you are doing

The main reason to practice GTD is to be able to concentrate on doing the things you have to do, not trying to remember what you should be doing. You don’t need to be reminded that you need to buy milk in the middle of preparing your presentation for the next board meeting.

I find that if an item like that pops into my head it’s because I did not write it down in the first place. What I will do if I suddenly remember that I need to buy milk in the middle of doing something else is to write “Buy milk” on a piece of paper and place it in my Inbox. Then I will forget about it because I trust that I will deal with it later.

This is how you should try to deal with most distractions. Park it in the appropriate space and forget about it until you have the time to deal with it later.


I (almost) never say “Oh shit, I forgot…”

Having a systematic way to capture and process all “stuff” ensures that most things get done in a timely manner. I almost never have to put out fires.

This is not something that will happen overnight. I think it took me around two-three months before I noticed that the number of oh-shit-moments had dropped significantly.


The weekly review ensures that you are on the right track

In my opinion, one of the biggest myths about productivity and GTD is that the Weekly Review is a waste of time. When was the last time you had a complete overview of your commitments, projects, and priorities?

The reason I’m able to totally forget something after writing it down is that I trust that I will tackle that something later. At the least, I will find it in my inbox during my weekly review.

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Having a parking space for ideas and action items makes your everyday life less stressful. It enables you to concentrate on what you are doing and to live in the moment.

Knowing the extent of your obligations and being confident that all deadlines are met makes it easy to relax and enjoy life.

Knowing that you are making progress and moving in the right direction boosts your confidence and saves you from worrying about the future.

At the end of the day, Getting Things Done is about capturing and processing – ultimately leading to control and relaxation.





  1. The problem I see with GTD is that it recomends to capture everything in our houses picking stuffs and putting them on a box or other recipient, to clarify it later. It seems contraintutive to me and even harmfull since all the books,sites, videos about productivity say we should prioritize only what is more important (Eisenhower Matrix, Pareto Law 80/20, and so on) So I think the GTD is a reactive process. Running around the house to find things we should work on is not keep our mind clear as water, but just the opposite. Another thing is not differentiate to buy milk, for example, and to work on the goals I want to achieve – both are considered projects, acording to GTD rules.

  2. Hi Sergio,
    I think, respectfully, that you have misunderstood parts of the concept of GTD. Going around your house looking for and capturing stuff you have open loops on is only a very small portion of GTD.

    Five steps to gain Control:
    1. Capture the Stuff that has your attention and then
    2. Clarify what they means to you, and what you need to do about it, if anything, and
    3, Organize it in a systematic way on a calendar and in some simple lists, and on a regular basis
    4. Reflect on your commitments and bring your lists and calendar current and up to date, you are then free to
    5. Do what is most important to you.

    The 5 steps gives you a clear head and maintains an optimal state of readiness to tackle what life throws at you.

    David Allen proposes that you start with getting all the small and big things that pulls on your psyche under control, before tackling the big questions of life. You are then ready to explore what he calls the Horizon of Focus (HOF). HOF is a simple model for you to figure out your Values and Principles, and your perceived life purpose in order for you to make sure there is a coherence between that and what you prioritize in your everyday life.

    This all to enable you to get more done of the right things with the least effort possible.

    I hope this is helpful.

    All the best,
    Morten P Røvik
    GTD Master Trainer

  3. Thanks for your reply and comments.However, I still have some doubts about the effectiveness of GTD. Does putting something on a list called “someday/maybe” really helps to get it rid off your head or it only will be achieved when you finally do someting about it? I am afraid that, by the end of the organization process I will be overwhelmed by the amount of stuffs I have colected and ending up becoming an expert in managing lists and productivity apps rather than becoming a high achiever,
    Thanks for your time anyway

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