ADHD to GTD

Note: Despite the liberal use of the term, this is not another GTD post, it just talks about a long-standing desire I’ve had and the path I’m taking to arrive at my destination.

This site exists out of my own desire and need to get my crap together. Throughout the life of this site, I’ve attempted to discuss every aspect of that pursuit, from how I’ve been cleaning up my digital crap, to the tools I use to get my work done, as well as how I’ve needed to cut things down and cut things out in order to let what really matters to me flourish. All of these are smaller parts of a much bigger project, an attempt to apply an overarching structure to my everyday life and productivity. It is my desire to go from the ADHD mess I was (and mostly still am) to the GTD version of myself that I’d like to be. Even though I may never reach my desired goal of being the ultimate GTD warrior, there has been progress. Over the past years, I’ve begun to tackle the clutter and disorganization that has plagued me throughout my life. Rather than simply avoiding it (something I’ve always excelled at), I made it my focus to tackle things head on.

Where did I start? Well, to be honest, about two and a half years ago I took the first step taken by many a person with organizational challenges (understatement of the century in my case.): buying a copy of David Allen’s seminal Getting Things Done. This was immediately followed by what I believe to be a second, equally common step: starting to read it, feeling more overwhelmed before finishing and putting the book down.

The idea of GTD appealed, but the reality of it freaked me out beyond belief. The seeming rigidity (note the word seeming) was something my body fought with every passing page. It was overwhelming as I had no experience or comfort implementing any of it. You see, I’m that breed of ADHD that naturally tends toward disorganization and chaos. It’s why the idea of GTD appealed. It’s also why the reality of it freaked me out. I lacked any frame of reference for organizing my world, so an entire framework was just too much for me.

I left the experience still wanting a lifestyle more akin to GTD, but knew that I would have to get there via a different route. It set me off on the journey of identifying and implementing the tactics, apps and workflows that I’ve been using to create my own trusted system. Once I had a decent amount of that framework in place, I went back to David Allen’s Getting Things Done and found it far easier to digest. In addition to several refinements, I also found that it pointed out several holes in my new process that needed plugging.

While the initial temptation was to find an existing system and run with it, that was never going to work for me. No matter how good systems like GTD are, it’s rare that they will be the perfect fit and will prove to be the ultimate answer to our problems. Let’s face it: no matter the fabric, if you want the best possible suit, you’re going to have to get it tailored to fit. I’m far from fluent in Getting Things Done and my own process is far from the canonical version, but the ideals and ideas that are laid out in that book have gone a long way towards helping me get better. I owe much of my recent forward motion to David Allen, but starting elsewhere has helped me from becoming stifled by it.

The answer to your problems may very well be GTD, it may be your own fork of the methodology or it may be something different entirely. But there is an answer and if you continue to struggle, you have to find it. I may never manage to make my way to from the ADHD person I am to the GTD-idealized version of myself that I’d like to be, but even I’m surprised by just how far I’ve come (while continuing to be terrified by just how far I still have to go).

How are you making the move from disorganized mess to something a bit more orderly? Need help? Subscribe for free by RSS or email as I’ll be sharing a way that you can begin to find your own way forward in my next post.

  • StephenPSmith
    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I actually started this draft right around that time. It clearly took me a while to get it right :)

  • LittleBittyGrittyOne

    Hi I also am highly ADHD and yet ensnared by the concept of GTD. I’ve made endless Attempts to implement this system into my life. I think we, as creative chaotically wound individuals, just have to find our own modified version of GTD. I haven’t yet figured that out. I have completely adapted the concept of using an inbox to write everything down. (where would I be without my moleskine?!)

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I’ve found the capturing of ideas to be essential (although I do this in nvALT on my Mac or Notesy on my iPhone), but what made it useful to me was the next step of figuring out how to turn those ideas into actions (in my case, it was OmniFocus). I’ll also tell you that going back to something like GTD once you’re a bit further down your own road is invaluable.

      Once I laid my own groundwork, David Allen’s GTD smoothed off so many of the rough edges.

  • David Allen

    Michael,

    I applaud your post, and the thinking and vulnerability it reflects. I also understand and empathize with your initial “resistance” to the GTD model. It took me years to gel it, and will take many more years for me to grok how to best inspire, educate, and support people’s implementation of it. What’s cool is that you can’t hurt anything by implementing any little piece of it…and anything will help. It’s like chess or GO or learning the tango or a martial art – it’s easy to start to work the basics, and you have a whole lifetime ahead to explore the subtleties and master them.

    All the best,

    David Allen

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Thanks David! And thanks for the gift you gave us with the methodolgy. I hope it is clear just how helpful and important it was to me once I had developed some of the muscles needed to better implement it in my life. It’s also interesting in hindsight to realize just how many of the things I ended up gravitating toward ended up being rooted in GTD.

      Looking forward to the lifetime of subtlties!

  • Pingback: 8 Steps To Start Getting Your Crap Together

  • http://www.thinkinprojects.com Rafal

    Really enjoyed reading this. I’m always wary of methodologies and concepts that claim to provide ultimate answers. I don’t think there is any. Everybody is different so no one size fits all. This is what really appealed to me when I got into GTD still far from perfect but I definitely like where it brought me to date. So I continue to capture, process organise, review and do.

  • Pingback: Weekly Links: Importance of goals, setting up Evernote, GTD journey and to productivity tips.

  • Pingback: My Workflow Toolbox