David Allen defines three different types of “work” that we do when doing our work:
- Doing predefined work
- Doing work as it shows up
- Defining your work
Many people get caught up in number 2, and let 1 and 3 slide.
He then notes:
Your ability to deal with surprise is your competitive edge. But at a certain point, if you’re not catching up and getting things under control, staying busy with only the work at hand will undermine your effectiveness. In order to know whether you should stop doing something and start dong something else, you need to have a good sense of what your job requires and how that fits into the other contexts of your life.
Many productivity bloggers, including Merlin Mann at the very helpful 43 Folders, have noted that many people seem to waste a lot of time fiddling with their GTD categories.
Sometimes the words against this can get pretty harsh. And I grant, it can be a waste of time.
But what we really need to do is step back and ask: why does this happen? Why do so many people feel a need to rework their GTD categories?
I think this is a symptom that the GTD process is not completely ironed out. There are snags in it. People intuitively feel this, and hence are motivated to get them ironed out. But they can’t really figure out how to get this kink out, so they are stuck endlessly changing their categories — and even software — in the quest for the solution.
If the GTD context categories were fully in sync with the way our minds want to work, people wouldn’t be wasting time fiddling with their contexts or changing software. The fact that they are shows that more progress needs to be made.