72: Is Getting Things Done Dead?

Originally published at: https://effectiveremotework.com/2020/11/72-is-getting-things-done-dead/

Cal Newport’s recent article titled “The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done” seems to insinuate so. But is it really?

Cal Newport has an interesting view of the rise and fall of GTD. I remembered when I thought GTD would be the magic pill that would solve all of my problems regarding effectiveness.

As time passed, I’ve found that GTD is great for planning my day, week, and month. But it missed badly on planning on a quarterly, annual, and long-term basis. I had to look to other books such as the 12 week year for long-term planning. I also had to turn to other workflows and ideas from Atomic Habits to develop routines and habits. Then I needed other ideas to deal with execution (Pomodoros, hyperscheduling, 3 Most Important Tasks, and the Big Rock).

GTD has helped me immensely when dealing with planning for the short-term to near future. GTD is a tool that I included in my toolbox. It’s not the answer to everything but it’s a good start towards planning (capturing/brain dumps, organizing tasks into projects, providing context to my tasks, and reviewing projects on a routine cycle).

A lot of flack has hit GTD because it was marketed as the answer to productivity. GTD was a great idea that started in the early 2000’s when we weren’t overwhelmed by social media and email overload. As the times have changed, the concept of GTD contexts has evolved from location, and tools to mindsets (writing, reading, brainstorming).

Don’t look to GTD as the answer for everything. Look at GTD as a building block that will provide a solid foundation for an effective workflow.


I read the article. It’s interesting but I didn’t fully agree with it. Or at least, not in the personal space. It’s not dead for me at all. I use full GTD (try to) for my personal tasks.

To me, GTD plus a task manager has proven very useful in taking care of my ‘BAU’ life. Not as much for the ‘change my life’ part of it (projects, goals, values).

I think to get your BAU life under control it is quite a good value, since the myriad things we do just to keep going take me about 70% of my personal time, if not more.

I agree with the author that for a team to collaborate we need other methods, since GTD only takes a look at your task universe and preferences. For work, I use whatever communication and collaboration tools are provided by the company I work for and used by everyone there,

Maybe GTD workflow needs a digital transformation, D Allen didn’t for some reason fully embrace it, Some things like tickler files or reference material classification are a bit out of touch with today’s tools, and we can find shortcuts to the analog GTD methods in the digital space.


I’m with you there. GTD is simply a tool in our tool belts to manage the responsibilities on our plates. The fact that people have gotten sucked into hyper-productivity/efficiency doesn’t invalidate the helpfulness a system provides to folks.

I do think GTD works for some folks and not for others :raised_hand:, but Newport is almost to the extreme of pessimism on productivity.

GTD did attempt to address the higher level stuff but I felt GTD worked best for me from the task level up to the projects level. I had to go outside of GTD to figure out the higher levels for goals and values.

It was interesting to see David Allen attempt to develop an official GTD app. But that might work best for him. Everyone has different needs and it will require time for us to find tools that fit our current needs. Life can change suddenly and these same tools might not to be replaced or adapted to fit the new situations that are thrust upon it.

I’m glad GTD is a part of my core foundation but it’s just one of the building blocks for me that is still evolving over time.

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