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GTD & Creativity

Can GTD be used for creative work?

In short, yes.

But, let’s consider the debate from either side:

Everyone has a valid point. Each writer moves on to lend useful ideas about how to create conditions supportive of creativity. In the end, we’re likely discussing the same thing from different angles or even using different terms for the same concepts.

All Tasks Are Not Created Equal

Tasks do exist on a spectrum. We can visualize some tasks clearly, like “Get milk” or “Schedule a doctor’s visit.” Other tasks are more difficult to envision like “Write report” or “Design website”.   The latter types of tasks are “fuzzy” or unclear in vision. We don’t know what they will look like in the end and may only have a sense as to a next step on the way there. In these tasks, much of the work is developing that clarity.

Creativity is an act of discovering what we are making in the act of making it.

To this end, the 2-minute or less oriented task is not so helpful.  But, I do not think this is a hard and fast rule of GTD. And even if it were, does it matter? The heart of GTD, at least as I understand it, is about creating a system we can trust to support ourselves. We use the measure of a clear mind in building that system.

A nice comment from Henry’s interview is:

“Systems exist to help you do the work and whenever your system becomes about the system, or whenever you’re obsessively tweaking your system in order to have a better system, then you’re missing the point.”

We don’t even have to call it GTD.  In fact, let’s go back further to the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson who described Trust vs. Mistrust as the first life stage of development. We can look at another psychoanalyst, DW Winnicott, too. Winnicott describes the importance of the transitional space in forming Play, the lifeblood of creativity.

The point is that Play requires a trusted environment to thrive. That is true for toddlers learning visuospatial skills when playing with blocks, that is true for teenagers learning social skills, and that is true for adults when trying to do good work. Therefore, our work is to develop those trusted environments within our projects, however we decide to do so.

Translating this into concrete applicable steps, I see nothing wrong with writing the task:

“Continue writing story”

and setting it to repeat regularly.  While it is not a 2-minute or less task, it does set up a rhythm of being with the work. It lessens the pressure of forcing something to happen and allows space for the work’s vision to develop over time. We discover and design an environment we can trust in that rhythm to support our own individual sense of Play.

Arranging work in this way, GTD neither conflicts with creative work nor tells us how to be creative. GTD is more about cultivating a system to support our own individual creativity, a spirit we explore, study, and discover throughout our lives.

Originally posted at

What is Productivity?

Productivity is many things. For some, it is about doing a lot in a little time.
But, truly, productivity is so much more. It is about:

  • Setting yourself up for success.
  • Being focused where you want to be.
  • Doing things that you find meaningful.
  • Being creative, sometimes even in harsh environments.
  • Forging your own paths.
  • Finding your voice and delivering it well.
  • Knowing and actively deciding on your obligations.
  • Knowing where and how to say “no”.
  • Avoiding procrastination.

Too often, many of us fall into just going along with and fighting whatever the world throws at us. “Go with the flow!”, we say. Meanwhile, we might think, “I’d like to do that one thing. Maybe one day I will.” The days go by. The goal never arrives, and then we wonder why or blame circumstance.

But when we learn to take charge of our lives and the world
around us, we start living life with intention.

“I should do that,” becomes “This is how I start”. Deliberately forging a path to our goals and dreams, we figure out what we want in life and then start taking steps there.

Of course, striking out may seem scary. It takes courage to live life with purpose and on purpose. Roadblocks and worries, fears and concerns show up everywhere.

This is my passion. I want to help you to find that sense of your own unique play to meet the world so that you can:

  • Create a life that is yours.
  • Find and follow an inner guide in a way that works for you and those you care for.
  • Decide on your obligations and meet them while building the world you want.

Productivity Journal

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