Going Back to GTD

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

The Bullet Journal vs. Covid

I got off to a bumpy start with my bullet journal. Not only did I have some really productive weeks, I crashed hard and fell completely off the Bullet Journal train a few times too. I know this is completely normal and that when trying to start a new habit there are bound to be ups and downs. But since the new year it’s just been downs. I’m going back to GTD today.

Before the new year (2022) there had been no covid in my city for over a year. No lock downs, no restrictions, we didn’t even need to use face masks. A new discovery has changed all that though, in the last 3 weeks over 200 cases have been discovered. This has meant intermittent lock-downs, and numerous spontaneous covid tests, day and night.

Deliveries have stopped coming through and there have been days when we couldn’t even buy groceries due to stock issues and closures. Other days we weren’t allowed out to buy them. Thankfully I stocked up with essentials before all of this started.

Productivity during Lock-down

Needless to say this has affected the way I work. I have remained productive as I mostly work remotely anyway but the constant threat of a spontaneous covid test and potentially being taken away to some facility should I test positive (7 negatives so far) has been stress inducing to say the least.

The Constant Stress of Migrating

During these weeks the idea of keeping my bullet journal organized and migrated each day has been an added stress I just didn’t need. This has made me reevaluate the process of migrating compared with processing in GTD.

In The Bullet Journal Method, if you don’t migrate your unfinished tasks they will get lost in the pages of your notebook very quickly. In GTD if you don’t process your inbox, nothing gets lost, captures just sit in your inbox until you process them.

If you skip a few days migrating, you will have to go back through each of those days journal entries (avoiding any collection on the way) to find all the tasks that still need to be done.

If you skip a few days of processing in GTD, you just need to process to get back up-to-date.

Realistically looking back through a few pages of your bullet journal isn’t a huge deal, you could easily find all of those tasks. But the way you will feel about it is completely different. Until you go back and bring yourself back up-to-date you will be stressed that all of those tasks and ideas are going to be lost.

In GTD you can be secure that even if you don’t process for two weeks, everything will be where it should be, waiting for you when you finally get back to it.

Two weeks of added anxiety compared with 2 weeks of assured confidence make for a completely different experience.

The Problem with The Bullet Journal

In fact this is a problem even if you are constantly engaged with your bullet journal, there is ongoing pressure to migrate and ‘tidy up’ the bullet journal to keep it current. It’s high maintainence.

Like a high maintianence friend, it’s fine when you have the time and energy (and are in a good mood) for them. But when the pressures on, the world goes south or you just having a bad day, you want that easy going friend who’s not going to judge you and is going to make everything OK again. You want GTD.

Going back to GTD

Here’s the plan to get back on GTD

  1. Mind-sweep
  2. Clarify and Organize
  3. Re-balance my Areas of Focus
  4. Project Plan for things that have fallen by the wayside
  5. Come back with more confidence and vigor to Get Things Done
  6. Be a Temple of tranquility within the turmoil

This doesn’t mean there is nothing I like about the Bullet Journal or that there’s nothing I’ve learned over my time with it.

What I want to Keep from BUJO

There is a lot I like about the bullet journal and I’m sure that in a less stress-inducing enviroment I would have kept with it longer. Here are some things I am going to keep from the Bullet Journal and intergrate with my new GTD system.

Collections I have liked the idea of using collections to plan my projects. I will keep planning my projects this way using a notebook which I can refer to during my weekly review.

Daily log/daily list I liked the idea of having a daily list so much I even wrote a post about it. This is something I have been doing previously but the bullet journal reminded me how powerful this can be.

Week View – I created a weekly plan in my bullet journal which was very ‘unGTD’. But it really worked for me and gave me some of the most productive writing weeks I’d had for a long time. This I will keep too.

Long Term

Once the excitement and uncertainty is over I will go back to the Bullet Journal proper and give it the time it deserves. For now though I need the comfort of a system I know inside out and can work without it feeling like work.

That’s GTD for now.