Doing GTD Without Doing GTD


I’m not really doing GTD any more. There. I’ve admitted it.

That feels better. Why? Well, it’s just too much to manage for the stuff I actually need to track. I can’t use a single system, as work related stuff has to remain at work, and personal stuff has to remain outside work’s systems. I suspect most people are in this situation, unlike the upper management level people David Allen tends to address his writing and seminars to.

At work, everything has to be in a specific online system, and there isn’t really the time to duplicate all that in another system to apply GTD to.

Personal stuff, like PigPog, can be managed however I want, but isn’t all that complicated, and there’s a big advantage to keeping the work in progress for these articles right here in the Wiki – it means that the whole process is more open, and anyone can jump in at any stage. Anyway, that’s just my reasons.

Who Doesn’t Need to do GTD?

Anyone without all that much stuff to track. GTD is great when there’s lots of new stuff flowing at you. If there isn’t all that much, it may well feel a bit over-the-top. Not everybody has a life that complicated. Doesn’t mean it’s easy or they don’t do much, but it might not actually take much tracking.
Anyone who can’t mix personal and work stuff. You could maintain two separate GTD systems, but you’re looking at a lot of overhead. Some people might need it anyway, but not everyone.
Anyone with defined systems that have to handle their stuff. At work, there’s a system that everything has to be in so other people can see what’s happening. It’s not perfect, but there’s very strong reasons why it has to be used. For PigPog stuff, the ToDo page here in the wiki (no longer exists, but did at the time of writing) and draft posts for the blog can keep everything online, and for the wiki, gives anyone who’s interested visibility of what we’re planning and what we’re working on. Again, strong reasons (nearly the same reasons) to use those systems.

So Why an Article?

If we’re not going to do GTD, why another GTD article? Because there’s still a lot to pick up from GTD even if you’re not doing the full thing.

Things to Take from GTD Even if You’re Not Doing GTD
So what can we gain from GTD if we’re not going to bother with the whole system?

Next Actions

One of the core points about GTD is defining Next Actions – the very next thing you’ll do about something to move it on. This is still a great concept. I still think in these terms about things I’m planning to do. The first action for writing this article was just adding it to the ToDo page, so it was there, listed in public, with a quick note of what it was going to be about.

That one little action was enough to kick-start me into writing it.

Don’t think about all the things you’ll have to do – just the next one.


In GTD, capturing is the first stage – any new ideas or thoughts you have should be captured – just scribbled on a bit of paper and chucked into your inbox to process later. I still think this is a really important thing – to let yourself capture thoughts and ideas without feeling the need to do something specific about them at the time, or even think about what you might actually do about them later. Just capture it. Come back to it later, and it might mean nothing, in which case, discard it. It might be a valuable idea, though, that if you’d made yourself try to think about at the time, you’d have given up and lost.

Make sure you’ve always got something with you to capture ideas, even if it’s just a folded up sheet of paper and a pen or pencil.


Keeping lists is something David Allen is very keen on – lists of things he might want to buy, things he might want to do, places he might want to go, or anything else. Lists are useful, and they can clear things out of our mind so we can stop worrying about them. If you find yourself trying to remember a list of things, write them down, and save your brain for something else.

Trusted System

Even if you’re not doing GTD as such, it’s worth having some sort of Trusted System. However much system you do have, make sure you can trust it. I found GTD too much effort to manage for the stuff that I was tracking with it, so I resisted doing it, and things fell through the cracks anyway – being too organised became a problem. Simplifying has let me trust the system I do use.

So, What Do You Do Now?

If I’m not doing GTD, what am I doing? Do I still have some sort of system? Yes. I do. It’s simple, and works pretty well for me. I’m calling it the PigPogPDA.

What About The Books?

If you’ve not read David Allen’s books, I still recommend them – even if you’re pretty sure you’re not going to do GTD – there’s still penty of good information and ideas, and lots more detail on some of the stuff I’ve covered here.

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