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The Four Biggest Fallbacks of GTD and What to Do About it


getting things done drawback


GTD became one of the epic time management/productivity books of all times. I became a GTD fanboy as soon as I read the book and implemented it in my life. Inspite of it’s popularity and a huge cult like status, it has several drawbacks which can get you into the productivity black hole. Here are four major fallbacks of GTD and why a new approach to productivity is the need of the hour.

1. Too many To-Do’s can be a waste of time

One of the most pressing things about GTD is organizing To-Do’s under respective projects and contexts, small or big. After doing this for almost two years, I felt, I was spending more time WRITING those physical actions instead of DOING them. Big drawback. Instead of detailing every project and corresponding physical actions, it makes a lot more sense to have one simple list and start taking actions.  Many people have fallen into the extra work involved in organizing projects and actions. Time to get rid of it.

How I do it now?

I have a simple list of projects where I write key milestones and still review them regularly. All my physical actions are simplified in just ONE To-Do list.

2. Limiting Ideas by constantly writing them

GTD wants you to dump everything out of your  mind so that it’s as clean as brand new. Actually, I found that some of these idea if kept in mind for hatching can bring deeper insight. Further, we are “thinking” creatures and we constantly churn out new thoughts and ideas. If we start capturing all of them, it’s going to be impossible to actually do anything worthwhile except organizing things in ToDo’s . For mundane tasks and regular work, dumping is still applicable but it’s not required. Instead of worrying about how many things you need to dump out of your mind, it would be fruitful to focus on the right things and just DO THEM.

How I do it now?

I do not write every idea or task that comes to my mind. If something comes back again and again, I write it down in one master list of ideas. I review the list of ideas every few days and try to expand those ideas that still look promising. I remove those which become obsolete or irrelevant. Small items such as ‘go to laundry’ never get into my To-Do list.

3. Physical filing is just a small part of the whole story

GTD lays a lot of emphasis on organizing physical files using an automatic labeler and keeping great mechanics.  The truth is, we hardly use it. Most of material these days is digital. Physical filing system has become a very small subset for me. Individuals have shifted to dealing with huge inflow of digital information, which is nowhere mentioned in GTD. Physical filing may be still applicable to organizations and governments, but we are none of them.

How I do it now?

Use Evernote and Dropbox to organize digital content. I use very few physical files and often combine couple of items together. Any physical papers gets scanned and sent to my accountant. No more back and forth of physical files.

4. Mind like water by dumping everything outside your mind is a myth

According to GTD, you can achieve a mind like water state by keep everything outside your mind. That’s far from reality. You cannot expect to have a mind like water when you dump 500 hundred “stuff” outside your mind. Most people get numb as soon they see even 20 To Do’s in their list. It overwhelms them so much that they find it hard to take any action.

How I do it now?

I have four habits to nourish a mind like water state.

  1. Wake up by 5:00 a.m.
  2. Clear mind meditation to develop mental muscles of clarity and focus
  3. Conscious effort to identify and eliminate “unnecessary”, saying NO multiple times a day
  4. Personal reflection time to see where I am heading every Friday


Many people ask me, is there an alternative to GTD. The conclusion I came up with is – Instead of blindly following other’s system, create your own. Join my free productivity boot-camp where I unlock the secret to productivity using personal and business automation.

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About Hrishikesh

Hrishikesh Jobanputra is the Author of Productive Motion.com. He helps business owners and self-starters get ahead in work and life.

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