Done with To-Do Lists

Can I be effective without a fancy workflow?

Done with To-Do Lists

Can I be effective without a fancy workflow?

I’ve been addicted to fancy versions of to-do lists ever since I first read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” several years ago. The ideas behind GTD are powerful and can be very effective when applied consistently. I drift in and out of using a full-on GTD workflow and am constantly tweaking my “system”. In fact, I spend so much time trying to get things perfect that I stop actually getting work done. That’s a problem.

Last week I noticed that the most productive people I work with don’t seem to have a system at all. How can that be? Sure, they have a calendar and take a few notes and may put something in Reminders on their iPhone but that’s it. No noticeable weekly review, no @contexts, no elaborate Omnifocus perspectives. It appears that they just get to work and that’s it. Unheard of!

So I started thinking about to-do lists and realized that I may not need a fancy system for managing my to-do list at all. In fact, many things don’t need to be written down in the first place. Do I really need to put “Buy Groceries” on a list? Or “Deposit check”? Probably not, since not doing those things will become obvious pretty quickly. I’m unlikely to forget them when I’m broke and hungry.

Today I read James Altucher’s post, “To-Do Lists are Ruining the Planet. A bit hyperbolic, but still, it was right in line with how I’ve been thinking. I like the idea of letting “themes” guide my next actions rather than whatever I shoved into OmniFocus during last week’s review. I think I’ll try living without an overwrought workflow for a while and see what happens. Maybe I’ll just get some work done instead.

Also posted to my blog: