Beyond GTD

I read Cal Newport’s take on Getting Things Done (GTD) that is subscribes to task universalism:

[W]hen you get down to concrete actions, all work is created equal.

I disagree with this idea.

Creating real value requires deep work, which is a fundamentally different activity than knocking off organizational tasks.

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work

I’m coming to the same conclusion. In The ONE Thing, Gary Keller advocates blocking off a large part of time to work on your one priority. I’ve been looking to spend half my time on my priority.

In defence of GTD, your “ONE Thing” possibly does have a “next action” to get you toward your ultimate goal. The tension arises when your next action is something like “think deeply about the problem you are trying to solve for an hour”.

I’m intrigued by Newport’s pointing to “fundamentally different activity” for achieving creative projects.

What does that look like in practice? For me to do this, it probably means multiple sheets of paper in front of me, including blanks A4s and hopefully a bigger notebook too. It means a pencil, and drawing a mindmap. It means drawing systems diagrams. It’s messy. It’s on the border of “I wonder if this is possible to do”. It’s firing the creative parts of my brain.

I’m still subscribed to attempting GTD for all the “other” things that need to be done. For my one priority, this more looks like a bunch of notes on paper (what David Allen refers to as project reference material).

In practice, I just won’t bother putting in a next action for my “ONE Thing”.