The difference between GTD’s Next Action and a simple to-do list

Pocket

■GTD for me

It has been several years since I encountered GTD, but I could not properly explain the difference between the two in my own words. Recently, I finally became able to explain my comprehension in my own way, so I write this article to reorganize that. At first, if I were to say what has changed between the me before GTD and the me afterwards, it is that my stress at work and in my daily life has disappeared, as has the woolly-mindedness I felt before. For me, this is where the difference between a simple to-do list and GTD’s Next Action lies, so I would like to rethink this difference.

■ What is collected by GTD?

The first step of GTD is to write down everything that is on your mind. What is collected by this is not just concrete tasks but also abstract feelings and ideas that cannot move into action right away. Those miscellaneous lists are the thoughts and hazy feelings on our mind that we cannot sort. Those hazy feelings rarely appear on our consciousness, but they rear their heads at small opportunities and trouble us. For example, like rubbish that has sunk to the bottom of a clear lake, it usually stays sunken at the bottom of the lake quietly if nothing is happening, but it makes the water muddy if a rock is thrown in or there are waves on the water’s surface.

■The essential difference in the collection scope

If a simple to-do list’s collection scope is just the rubbish that is floating on the water surface, GTD’s also collects the rubbish that has piled up at the bottom of the lake. Then, following GTD’s flow, there is the selection task wherein each one is ascertained to be either treated as rubbish or made clean and returned to the bottom of the lake.

■ Forgotten courage and a stress-free life

Asking what the rubbish at the bottom of the lake – the small thorns stuck in the bottom of our hearts – is a task that is accompanied with more than a little pain. If that is something you do not want to see now, it’s fine to toss it into the Someday List and follow the flow of GTD when you change your mind. If you feel relieved after the task is finished, thinking all the things that were on your mind are now on your list, you can be relieved and forget. If we say forgetfulness is a safety device to protect people’s healthy minds, GTD is a system to allow people to be relieved about the things on their minds and let them forget. If anything is on your mind, pick up a pencil right away and try putting it into words that you can see. That should be Next Action, which makes a stress-free life into reality.

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