it includes detailed advice that approximately no one will follow

Hey, I read the book in 2012, and I still have a GTD-ish alphabetical file, GTD-ish desk "inbox", and GTD-ish to-do list. Of course they've all gotten watered down a bit over the years from the religious fervor of the book, but it's still something.

If you decide to eventually do a task that requires less than two minutes to do, that can efficiently be done right now, do it right now.

Robert Pozen Extreme Productivity has a closely-related principle he calls "OHIO"—Only Handle It Once. If you have all the decision-relevant information that you're likely to get, then just decide right away. He gives an example of getting an email invitation to something, checking his calendar, and immediately booking a flight and hotel. I can't say I follow that one very well, but at least I acknowledge it as a goal to aspire to.

What does Pozen discuss in terms of constraints on how OHIO works in practice? I might have all the "decision-relevant information" about a project, but not have the resources, e.g. the time, to start and complete the project immediately.

I'm not sure how well this would fall under that principal, but I'll often outline a project right away, e.g. with tasks to book a flight, reserve a hotel room, etc., if I decide to attend some even to which I've been invited (and making that decision would depend on checking my calendar first).

11Vaniver2dOHIO has also been a useful corrective for me, as I've had a lot of success 'processing things subconsciously', where if I think about a problem, ignore it for a while, and then come back, the problem will have been solved by my subconscious in the meantime. But while this is quite appropriate for math problems, there's a huge category of logistical, administrative, and coordinative tasks for which it doesn't make sense, and nevertheless I have some impulse to try it.

Get It Done Now

by Zvi Don't Worry About the Vase1 min read22nd May 20205 comments


Epistemic Status: Reference

A while ago, I read the book Getting Things Done. Like most productivity books and systems, it includes detailed advice that approximately no one will follow. Unlike most productivity books and systems, it has two highly valuable key concepts. The second alone justified the time cost of reading the book. That principles are these:

Keep a record of tasks you’ve decided to do.

If you decide to eventually do a task that requires less than two minutes to do, that can efficiently be done right now, do it right now. 

This wording is a refinement of the original concept of applying the two-minute rule during ‘processing time’ only. I think it’s much better to use it any time doing the new task can be done efficiently – it’s not waiting on anything, you have the necessary tools, it wouldn’t interfere too much with your state, with a key short-term deadline, or the need to protect a large or important block of time, etc etc.

Having this simple concept in your head – it’s better, once you notice something that you need to do, to just do it now rather than add it to your stack of things to do – has saved me far more trouble than one might expect.

Two minutes is a placeholder. Some people should use a lower or more often higher time threshold. The threshold should be adjusted based on the situation.

The book also contains a detailed method of how to create and maintain the list of tasks. It seemed annoying and overly complex and not suited to the way I think, and I never gave it a real try. The basic principle of ‘have a system that ensures such tasks are not forgotten’ still seems very strong.

The principle remains, and can be usefully extended further, which I plan to do in additional posts. But better to, by its own principles, write and get this posted now, so I can refer back to it.