HACK / MAKE

GTD for Creative Work

Dave Lee on how GTD sucks for creative work:

Though I still appreciate some of GTD’s principles (next action, desired outcome as project, brain dumping, etc), I think the system can actually work against the creative innovator. It boggles down the innovator with a flood of tasks, when the innovator needs space and room for experimentation and discovery.

Most task/to-do software is based around the concept of projects and tasks. It’s really too bad. The tendency is to fill up your task software with dozens of projects and tasks under each project. But the more you look at your projects and tasks every day for the next few weeks, it gets discouraging. It feels like a never-ending river of stress.

GTD is and always has been a framework, not a set of constraints. If you feel like some part of Getting Things Done1 isn’t working for you, change it. Frameworks are flexible.

If you’re just “filling up your task software” so it begins to “feels like a never-ending river of stress” than you’re probably doing it wrong anyway. Just because something makes it into your inbox from a brain dump doesn’t mean it’s something you have to do. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start moving more things from your inbox into the trash. Make more decisions up front in the process that something isn’t worth your time—it probably wouldn’t have gotten done well anyway.

Back to the creative stuff. I have an Area in Things that I use to list topics I want to write about. I don’t create massive projects with overwhelming lists of todos when I write an article. I do use the standard GTD flow when I think of topics. They get dumped into my inbox and at some point processed and put into the area where I’ll add notes if I have other thoughts. Or they will get put in the trash if it’s not something I want to write about yet. If it’s worth doing at some point, it’ll come up again when the time is ready and I won’t have to be managing an extra task in the meantime.

A challenge for creative minds is a want to create new solutions when minor tweaks to something tried and tested may be all that’s needed. Get over how cool it would be to design your own productivity technique and create more cool stuff.


  1. “Getting Things Done is copy write of DavidCo, 2001” as Merlin would say

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