Friday, March 20, 2009

The Feminine Getting of Things Done

The GTD Times, a blog I've recently only started reading due to the fact I "found" it by accident on Twitter, raises an interesting point about the massive GTD craze sweeping the corporate world. Namely, the dearth of women at the top of the GTD "game".

Now, granted, The David Allen Company does have women, good women too, who regularly spruik the GTD mantra but there are very few of them outside of the DAC in this field of productivity development.

I have read Getting Things Done and I even followed it very closely for a couple of years. I still want and aspire to follow the basic principles of GTD but I've yet to develop the external capturing system I will trust enough to rely on. My PDA lost its impetus around the time of my personal surgery, back in 2006, and so now my use of its various list and calendar functions is sporadic to say the least! It was a case of I didn't need to use it for three months so it left my field of vision so to speak and now my brain won't trust it enough to pick it up again - at least not as many times a day as I USED to use it anyway according to "good" GTD practise!

In principle, I adore the GTD system! It's all about list-making, something I have done practically all my life. It's good for doing the myriad of daily tasks I do in my life. I'll probably always find 'The List' my tool of choice for keeping track of my tasks. I do tend to forget to make my list "next actions" though - I often put project headings on my to-do list rather than the discrete actionable items as is espoused by David Allen for the GTD practice of context list-making (GTD proposes using contexts rather than the usual to-do list suspects. So actions near or on the computer would go into that list and actions requiring you go somewhere on the errands list etc.).

So? Why aren't there more women in positions of corporate power and change telling the world about why and how they use GTD? Why is this such a male dominated craze? Does GTD tap into a genetic predisposition in men predominately more than women? Is it a chemical brain enhancement thing or is it simply that women don't so much talk about their GTD as simply go into the flow of it and "get things done" just because they have to and talking about it won't change the fact it has to be done anyway!

Is that last impression a standard stereotypical one of females? Why do we assume so easily that women are such fabulous multi-taskers capable of juggling more duties than Shiva has arms? There is some evidence that women's abilities to snap from one task to another quickly, are indeed built into our physiology and brain structure. The two hemispheres of the female brain have more connective tissue between them and hence more synapses firing across the left and right halves of the brain. This means we can switch from the use of different parts of our brains more efficiently and quickly. Logic and creativity can be lightening quick and so intuitively woven into the fabric of female thinking and consequent actions as to seem like they're capable of doing multiple things at the same time - and for some - incapable of being nothing but emotional about it too!

The interesting observation about females and GTD is that GTD is so linear in its approach to doing stuff. I like linear! Linear is goal orientated. Linear is objective. Linear gets you from point A to point B by the most efficient route and you don't have to stop to ask anyone directions along the way! The logical, clean, objective, goal-focused, zen-like objectivity of GTD is like nectar to hoardes of men. They eat this stuff by the spoonful!

Actually, I reckon GTD is something like a car. Forgive me if this sounds very "Blind men and the elephant" but... have you ever noticed how men and women IN GENERAL approach the subject of motor vehicles? Men can be singularly dotty about their cars! They want to know the working parts, they want to know how fast it goes, they want to feel the sublime pleasure of sitting in a vehicle with power roaring under their bums, speeding them in a blissful cohesion of power, torque, thrust, design, art, colour and sound to "somewhere" way over the distance. Men tinker with cars, they get to know the inner workings of their cars intimately and can discuss with other men for HOURS the technical details of this love affair. The right car for a man is like a Holy Grail of sorts - a synergy of quest and the attainment of Perfection!

Women - in general remember - treat cars like tools in a box of other tools. It's a necessary tool mind you but it's got to be pretty and functional and we don't care all that much about what's under the hood so long as it gets the kids to school on time - every time - and can assist in the art of whipping up dinner for 10 at the drop of a hat! Pragmatic, useful, necessary, and it "just works" etc. We like our cars to just "go" and don't usually care that much if there's a number of working parts under the hood that need any kind of TLC on our part...that's the mechanics job!

Women are just as disorganised or as organised as men. As ironic as it is, that there are few females in the echelons of GTD power mongering in recent years... it's also just as head-scratching that there are so few male Professional Organisers. Those who help others get sorted of their clutter and the arrangements of their closets and pantries! The two skills are not dissimilar in objective but the process by which they're done is very different indeed. Both are about stuff but one is about mental clutter and the other is about physical clutter. One helps ones self get sorted, the other helps others get sorted - interesting huh?

It's not that women or men can't do what the other can etc. We're not very, very different as such... women can do and are extremely good at putting the data collection of GTD into place - loving their "car" - and getting a tonne of things done as a result; it's just that there seems to be a slightly different set of priorities in place for the practical application of these tools between men and women. Men seem to get excited about the process of discovery and the ideas at play within the GTD game plan. Women seem to enjoy the end game aspect of getting things done - aka. better relationships, both with stuff and with people! Certainly, both are not wrong! Quite frankly, women don't NEED a game plan so much as they just need a method to achieve an end - any method will do so long as it's simple and doesn't require too much time. GTD has a baaaaadd habit of being time-consuming if you get into the game-plan aspect of it too much! I know a few men in my life who would rather spend a freezing winters night tucked away in their shed tinkering on their cars than actually driving them around with the heater on!!!

But I've been sucked into the time-consuming tinker side of GTD too - and I'm a girl! Go figure! :) It's possible for girls to be grease-monkeys' too you know, it's just a bit "unusual" due to genetics and social conditioning of the genders! Girls treat things as extensions of relationships for the most part. Boys treat things as they do because they like the wholistic sensual appeal of those things. Girls talk to other girls, and sometimes patient boys, about their ideas on relationships. Boys like talking to other boys and sometimes knowledgeable girls, about their ideas on things.

That's why I reckon it's so rare to see women talking GTD!

But then again... maybe I'm wrong...

So I tend to believe that women are into getting things done but men are into Getting Things Done(Tm). The difference isn't in the philosophies so much as in the practice. It's more about what we're each looking for under the GTD hood


hdbbstephen said...

Nicely done. I was just partway through and I thought, "It's like men vs women and their cars"!

dannielo said...

For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:

You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A mobile version is available too.