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The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/the-rise-and-fall-of-getting-things-done

newyorker.com

The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done
How personal productivity transformed work—and failed to.

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Personal Productivity: A Primer

Personal Productivity: A Primer

In the 1950s, work shifted from being labour-intensive towards being mind-intensive and eventually started to overload people’s cognitive abilities.

This led to the personal productivity boom, and books like ‘Getting Things Done’ and many others were hugely successful, as managers, professionals and knowledge workers tried to be productive while juggling their work and personal life.

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Systems Of Productivity

Various organizational tools, production methods and other ways towards efficiency appealed to the logical mind, but slowly it dawned to many that the basic concept of these systems were the industrial processes themselves, and just a reusing of repetitive, mechanical motions, repackaged for knowledge workers.

These systems, however logical and appealing they looked, were not aiding productivity even though it seemed like that on the surface.

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Inbox Zero: The Implosion Of Productivity

A productivity method called ‘Inbox Zero’ by Merlin Mann, a productivity hacker and creator of many other productivity tools like 43 folders, became a rage in 2007. It was based on the fact that all email should be answered or categorized until the inbox has zero emails left.

While sounding great, this personal productivity method actually increased a person’s email, leading to a circular path of pseudo-work: replying to the endless email.

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Tragedy Of The Commons

Most productivity methods do not address a fundamental problem: How work actually unfolds in an organization.

They essentially limit themselves by seemingly providing a great organizational tool to an individual, not taking into account the cumulative negative effect it has on the entire group, and the additional work it creates for the other individuals.

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Productivity Is Not Personal

  • Our productivity is actually connected to the productivity of other people in our organization, our clients and even end-users.
  • Management has to intervene in order to ensure that there is productivity across the company, making this a top-down approach.
  • A factory style routinization of work using flowcharts or other processes is not appealing to expert knowledge workers, who prefer an organic approach tailored to their unique ways of working and their lifestyle.

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Efficiency In The Remote Setup

As offices got shut down all around the world, all the inefficiencies in the present systems and the haphazard work models got amplified.

The humble inbox became a repository of everything that is pending, with many not even knowing what all needs to be done, leading to overload and chaos.

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A Transparent System

What organizations need to develop is a system that externalizes tasks, with virtual task boards that specify who is working on what at any time, along with the current status.

Optimization on a large scale only becomes possible when transparent data is there for each team member's workload.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Measuring Employee Productivity

Measuring Employee Productivity

Fixing employee productivity in the industrial age, when most workers were handling machinery and it’s parts, was a tedious but doable process. The managers had to fix the people who were making mi...

The Old Productivity Formula

The basic productivity formula(productivity= output divided by input) worked well in the industrial age as the output and input were clearly defined and measurable.

Today’s leaders need innovative solutions to measure and improve productivity in a knowledge-based workplace, as the measurement of output and input is not what it was.

Quality And Quantity

While assigning value to the output of knowledge workers, we cannot simply measure the output like before.

Coders and doctors cannot be measured by the hour, as their output is not uniform or consistent every hour.

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GTD (Getting Things Done)

GTD is a productivity method for organizing your to-dos, priorities, and schedule in a way that makes them all manageable.

Its 5 principles are:

  • Capture
  • Clarify
  • Org...

"GTD is an organizational system. It doesn't put rules around how you actually do your work. Instead, it focuses on how you capture the work you need to do, organize it, and choose what needs your attention"

"GTD is an organizational system. It doesn't put rules around how you actually do your work. Instead, it focuses on how you capture the work you need to do, organize it, and choose what needs your attention"

GTD: Capture

Capture everything. Your to-dos, your ideas, your recurring tasks, everything. Put it in a pen-and-paper notebook, a to-do app, a planner, whatever you prefer to use to get organized.

Effectiveness 

It is basically a polite word for getting things done. But the right kind of things.

Peter Drucker's Strategy 

... to become more effective:

  • Know your time: if you want to manage your time better, you have to know where it goes first.
  • Identify the non-productive work: activities that have ZERO return, with no importance if you stopped doing them.
  • Eliminate the trivial, time-wasting tasks.

“To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive, needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours.”

“To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive, needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours.”