March 16, 2009

What are your productivity bad habits?

David SparkLast Friday I attended the first ever GTD Summit, which was a conference about personal and managerial productivity. GTD stands for “Getting Things Done” which is also the name of the best-selling book by David Allen.

What’s ironic, as collaboration consultant Oliver Marks explained, is that this conference was about talking about productivity rather than actually being productive. This conference wasn’t like any other in that people were rather euphoric over the GTD philosophy. It had a kind of quasi-cultish tinge to it without actually being creepy. That’s because David Allen, the guy who started it all, is a rather mild-mannered guy. And this average guy created a productivity system that others have gone on to repeat, adopt and coach others how to do.

On the outset, most of the GTD principles sound like basic common sense. But not all of us actually adopt common sense. GTD aims to incorporate these productivity tips into people’s daily habits. Others claim that the adoption was life changing. They must believe it since they all forked over $1,000 to just talk about productivity. The topic of personal productivity is hot. Lifehacker is the sixth most popular blog on the Web.

At the conference, I asked attendees what bad habits they had before they adopted GTD.

One of the most common bad habits people kept echoing was the tendency to list “projects” as “tasks.” For example, when you write “do taxes” on your “to do list.” “Doing your taxes” is a project that requires many steps. In such a case, one should think of “doing taxes” as a project and then split it up into a series of tasks. According to the GTD philosophy, when you mislabel a project as a task it becomes intimidating. Typically, you procrastinate because it seems so large and you don’t have a clear starting point. “Doing taxes” is not something you can easily get done in just one step.

Whether you’re a GTD adopter or not, we all have productivity bad habits. Some we’re well aware of, and some we’re not. Watch this video as people admitted to me some of their worst habits. Included in the video is some insight from David Allen himself who explains that the frustration people feel is actually the symptom of a productivity problem.

See the video at top or on the Vimeo site, but I highly recommend you watch it at full-screen size in high definition by clicking the full-screen icon next to the vimeo logo on the player.David Spark, a partner in, helps businesses grow by developing thought leadership through storytelling and covering live events. Contact David by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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3 thoughts on “What are your productivity bad habits?

  1. I think I'm going to have to get this book. "do taxes" is a typical thing I write down on my to-do list and I never end up getting it done! Now I may understand why. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Thanks for the post. The challenge with these systems is that many fall into the trap of using them to procrastinate even further.