7 Simple Ways to Streamline Your GTD System and Boost Your Productivity

Why We Over-Complicate GTD and How to Overcome It

Are you someone who has read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and believe that everything outlined in it is “common sense”? Do you often find yourself tweaking your GTD “system” to make sure that you have your contexts, folders, and tagging just right? Well, it’s time to take a step back and identify why we over-complicate the simple process of GTD and how to overcome it.

Over-analyzing Productivity

The belief that productivity systems require some sort of special tool or workflow to become really valuable leads practitioners in a cult-like fashion to purchasing better pens, Brother labelers, and to go on the never-ending Google search to find the perfect GTD application and setup. However, when you start to tweak your GTD “system” to make sure that everything is planned out perfectly, you aren’t exactly being productive. In fact, you may just be complicating the idea of getting things done in your life and only making it harder on yourself.

Why We Complicate GTD and Our Own Productivity

After reading and analyzing productivity systems over the past five years, I have come to the same conclusion that most everyone else has about why we complicate productivity, work, and ultimately become terrible procrastinators. It all comes down to fear. Nothing else.

If you have a project on your list that hasn’t been moving forward, it most always has to do with fearing the outcome because of not identifying the correct next actions. But fear alone is not the direct reason for over-complicating GTD and our system. It is our “unawareness” of the fear of a project or action which leads us to procrastinate and blame our system as the reason that we can’t get things done on our lists. From here on out, it is a snowball effect of trying to find the perfect tools and setup so we can get more things done.

From Identifying Fear to Action

If you sound like someone who is outlined above, then there is an easy process to get back on track and make GTD work for you.

1. First and foremost, layoff the Productivity Pr0n. Quit looking for the best GTD app for ‘x’, or how to GTD with ‘x’ tool. You can end up doing this forever and never getting anything done. Just lay-off.

2. Pick a tool and stick with it. Hell, just use pen and paper until you really get how to “do GTD”, or if you absolutely have to use something on a computer consider very simple tools like a text file. Just pick something that you can use to concentrate on the process rather than the tweaking of the tool.

3. Prune your next action and projects lists ruthlessly. If there is something that has been on there for months without any movement, get rid of it. If it is something that you really need to do and you just aren’t doing then throw the thing back in your inbox to process again.

4. Identify next actions and do them. If you don’t want to do the thing that is on your list then take it off your list. It sounds stupid, but really this is what needs to be done. If you can’t do what you have planned to do, then it is time to take a deeper look at what is holding you back. This could be that you don’t have the necessary inputs or that you are over-committed with other projects and responsibilities. Regardless, to move forward on any task or project, you have to either just do what you have identified or figure out why you aren’t doing it.


At the end of it all, why do we over-complicate the simple process of GTD? It comes down to fear of doing something on our lists and then blaming our system for the project or action not getting done. Hopefully, if you take a step back, identify your fears in your list, simplify your system so it’s just you and your actions, and then act or re-commit to the actions, you can stop the endless cycle of over-complicating your productivity practice. Remember, GTD is just a tool to aid us in achieving our goals, it’s not a science.

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