Working the List

I am currently reading the book, ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen, reviewing major points about it. I have read quite a lot of advices about the GTD method in various blogs/ articles/ videos. The book is giving me a more comprehensive look at it both as a system and a practice.

Two points stand out for me:
– Next action
– Capturing (as mindsweep or braindump)

While on one hand, I am awed by the thorough detailing of the system in the book, on the other hand, I am also getting overwhelmed by the sheer weight of executing it in practice.

To escape out of the pain, I have started reading and re-reading posts by Richard Branson and James Altucher.


Because they take a completely contrasting views when it comes to ‘to-do list’. While James considers to-do list as evil, Richard attributes his success of him being an ardent list maker – that he build his empire (literally) out of the list in his notebooks.

My position – using a list to write your thoughts, ideas, questions, tasks is useful in and of itself. Using a pen and paper, I found, also aids my thinking process either by making a list, mind mapping or freewriting. I like the cuteness of maintaining a personal dairy – tasks included.

The classic argument by David Allen is that the power of externalizing one’s thoughts and committing it on paper frees one’s mind up for more creative endeavor and sharp attention to the work at hand. As he is famously quoted saying, ‘The mind is for having ideas, not holding them!’ In the recent 2015 edition of GTD (the book), he dedicates an entire chapter to note recent development in cognitive sciences that validate this hypothesis. Though with its shortfalls, I think there is merit in capturing thoughts in written format. Knowing that ‘the stuff’ is on my list, in my notebook assures that it will not be lost and will be attended as and when appropriate.

Now that brings us to the next big question, how to engage that’s written and act on it.

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