If you had read my three-part series on Getting Things Done (GTD) and my implementation of it, you would know that I am a GTDer.
David Allen describes the following three stages to become a GTDer:
1. Understanding – You understand the distinct differences in the five phases of mastering workflow. You understand a project versus a next action. You know how to transform what you’ve collected by asking the key processing questions, clarifying what something is, and what you want to do about it.
2. Implementation – You have installed at least the basic gear to support a GTD system, including ubiquitous collection tools, functioning reference systems for your non-actionable information, and seamless buckets with “clean edges” for tracking your projects and next actions.
3. Behavior Change – The five phases of mastering workflow are second nature to you. You have changed the way you think and work and are achieving stress-free productivity on a regular basis. When you “fall off” you know what to do to get “back on.”
The first two stages are relatively simple. The third one is the most difficult.
GTD demands the GTDer to completely change their behavior to a point where the workflow becomes second nature to you. In essence, you have transformed yourself. It’s a cultural change. It’s a change in mindset. It’s a change in how you function by default.
In other words, you have carried out a transformation. It’s not a simple adoption of a set of tools or following a distant process. It’s becoming second nature to you.
And this is where the primary point of failure lies in adopting new systems like GTD, which involve a fundamental change in the way we live or work, whether at a personal or organizational level. These systems require a complete buy-in and change of behaviors, habits and culture to be successful. They require unlearning before learning. They require letting go of old habits, no matter how much you love them. They entail doing the dirty thing called ‘change’. They need you to be completely sold to them. They are not tool-changing events. They are paradigm shifts.
Many people or organizations fail at adopting such systems because they are unwilling or unable to transform themselves. They hate change. They want to stay the same, even if it hurts them. Sometimes it is out of unconscious incompetence, sometimes due to conscious incompetence. They want to continue with the same core while applying the changes at the facade. It’s like simply cleaning up the arteries from the outside when what you actually need is a heart transplant.
So, with every intended personal or organizational change, it needs to be evaluated on the key scale of whether it is just a change of modalities or it is a change that entails a core transformation. Most major changes are transformational in nature. Where we fail is when we address them on the periphery.