GTD – Yes and No

Written by Arley Cornell.

David Allen spoke about expediting tasks and problems to external devices and entities – instead of trying to process a million things at once, the brain is allowed to function as a core processor. It is creating “an extended mind.” I thought this analogy was appropriate, since much of what I do on my computer is just that – preserve processor power by narrowing down needed applications and killing background processes that detract from what I’m working on.

Practically, this is great. Letting my mind act as a processor alone sounds awesome. I’ve already experienced the benefits of functioning like this while writing this blog. I put away all the other things, close down my to do list, and leave only this page open to be able to focus. It’s a great concept to be able to focus in and finish tasks.

Spiritually, I think that there are some facets of GTD that align with fundamental Christian values. It seems that Christ speaks about being empty of yourself, and being completely given to others. To be selfless is to reflect Christ. To be empty is in many ways a reflection of selflessness – projects and issues aren’t carried by you anymore, but they are placed at the throne of God. In this way I think keeping an empty mind reflects emptying yourself – you can keep an open mind, do more, and theoretically not let any struggles or issues that you carry cloud conversations and interactions with people. It’s a sort of renewed mind.

Picture by Arley Cornell

Allen starts off his GTD discussions by saying that one needs a way to collect and capture all the tasks, all the to do’s, every obligation. This made me think about my ways of capturing all my to dos – I use stickies on my computer and literal stickies as well.

I don’t think it works very well, however, because for the most part I carry my problems in my head. I used to use Things:

Picture by Arley Cornell

but I stopped after a while because it was difficult to quantify every detail about a task in a tiny little list. I might start using it again. Honestly, I’m excited to read everyone else’s blog on the topic, because I need a new way of keeping my tasks and projects out of my head, but organized. I wish I had an iPhone in circumstances like these.

David Allen on “Getting Things Done” |

The problem I have with GTD is that it can really reinforce a destructive cultural ideal. Our world values productivity so much that it becomes value itself. We are valued by how much we produce, and if we are not productive people, we are invaluable, lazy, and a waste of humanity. This is actually quite the opposite of how Christ values people – he spent most of his time with all invaluable people like tax collectors, prostitutes, invalids, and poor people. Today’s equivalent might be burnouts, sellouts, pissed off musicians, gangsters, et cetera. Those people don’t produce much for society, but those are the people Christ seemed to cherish the most – the lost, the sick, the corrupt. In this way, I’m wary against GTD. Getting things done isn’t always making right relationships with God. In fact, I would venture to say that many times God interferes completely with my getting things done, but my soul is far better for it.

This probably stems from the fact that my understanding of what’s meaningful for my life is vastly different than what God knows is meaningful for my life. So, when he interrupts and causes me to know myself and see myself differently, my life is steered away from just processing the next task; it’s motivated in a fundamentally different direction. I really like what Relevant said about the gospel of busyness: “It uses us for what we can contribute, and in the process we live less, feel less, even love less.” I don’t want to be used by the world to produce its ends if it costs my relationship with God. GTD might be a great tool, but letting the underlying principles dictate my actions is unjustifiable.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here