Getting Things Done (GTD)

I’m in Scottsdale, AZ for a client engagement and also seeing several friends this weekend, but today I’m attending David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) seminar.

All my life, as I’ve dealt with my scattered attention that some label a “deficit” or “disorder”, I’ve learned how to cope with my innate nature of being distracted and simply not having the patience to sit and organize. Though people describe me as “fastidious” and “very detailed”, it’s all an illusion. As I’ve aged and developed high level coping skills while enjoying my love of drinking in every photon, soundwave and piece of information that comes my way or shows up when I’m in seek-mode, I’ve struggled with how to put stuff into buckets that make later retrieval easy. Name a planner or organizational system created by humans and I’ve used it…and none have worked for me. The last possibility I’m willing to explore (and if it doesn’t work I’ll keep shoving crap into my desk drawers) is what seemingly all of geekdom has embraced: the GTD system.

Probably the biggest GTD cheerleader is Merlin Mann through his blog 43 Folders (the name is one descriptor of a part of the GTD system). I’ve followed him for a long time and he points out all the GTD goodness out there (software, approaches, people using it, along with general productivity stuff) but he comes across as a bit obsessive-compulsive about productivity but I really enjoy his energy and love of all things organizational.

I bought David Allen’s book and read it through some months ago. It didn’t really connect so I didn’t pursue the system and then I was chatting with my friend, Marc Orchant, a devotee’ of David Allen and his system. Some time ago he convinced me that “….you really have to experience David in person and go through an on-the-ground seminar to totally get the GTD system.” So when he mentioned he was going to a refresher GTD seminar in Scottsdale and the timing was perfect, I signed up.

I also have a hidden agenda. We live in one of the top school districts in the nation and yet our District struggles with what to do with someone like my son. He’s in the 99th percentile for IQ and is so unfocused and disorganized that he forgets to turn in completed assignments. Labeled years ago with ADHD, their solution is to place him in a class to learn organizational skills. There’s more to it than that and his teachers and staff are truly terrific, but when I try to get them to understand how to deal with him, I feel like I’m talking to physicians in the 1600’s who still want to perform bloodletting with leaches to cure what ails him.

If this GTD system can be morphed and modified to be something a 12 year old can use and accelerate his own capabilities with productivity, then I’m going to figure out how to do so. There are too many kids like mine out there who think in a parallel and associative way but are being taught by linear, serial thinkers who expect him to organize in outlines.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. DK on April 27, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Be interested to hear how it goes as I have the GTD book ready to read and a hope it to will sort through my ‘issues’ 🙂


  2. Mike on April 28, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    GTD is good Steve. Check out sometime. Full disclosure: I have zero ties to the site/company other than being a user.

    Your GTD work with your son reminds me to ask how things are going with your “Brain Hacks” experiment

  3. Sumocat on April 30, 2007 at 11:44 am

    I agree with you on the “linear, serial thinkers” who enforce conformity over creativity. They seem to forget that Albert Einstein was labeled “slow” as a child. As a tutor, I’ve worked with “thinkers” like this, but more importantly, I’ve drawn outside their lines to get kids to learn. More often than not, it works and works well. I commend you for seeking your own route to organization for your son.

    BTW, I’ve recently learned to devote some of my mental energy to organization (like you, I am not innately organized) by thinking of it as a challenge rather than an obligation. This integrates it into my thinking as opposed to the other way around. I am constantly refining my system and seeking ways to make it smarter. This is largely limited to the computer where I can use search to “recall” items. My organization in the physical world remains limited, but digitally, I can get things done.

  4. L on May 7, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Steve, I really connected with this article from April 2007 on Getting Things Done (GTD). I also have a daughter (16) who’s very bright and a visual/spatial thinker. We’re both ADD/HD and I try to help her with an organization system that will work to help her perform in school. I’ve tried many systems myself, but we haven’t hit on one that she doesn’t lose, forget, or ignore.
    I’d be interested in hearing how your son’s situation turns out.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Posts by Category

Archives (2004 – Present)

Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.