Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Category sprawl and GTD

I’m in the process of doing a “reset” on my GTD system.  Basically, I ripped out all of my categories, printed out all my list and deleted them, and am starting from scratch.

Why? I found that I let my lists turn into “junk drawers” which meant that I was a) afraid to open some of them, and b) couldn’t find anything useful when I did force myself to open them.

One of the culprits was what I call “category sprawl,” which meant that I created so many granular categories for my tasks, and so many goofy ‘contexts’ that my lists really weren’t all that useful any more.

Basically, I acted like I was “special” and made a bunch of changes to the recommended GTD method.  It was fun for a while but turned out to be not such a great idea.  And now I’m paying the price.

Preventing the sprawl – my strategy

outlookcategories I’ve taken a number of steps to try to get back into a clean place with GTD:

  1. I have reverted to the recommended, default contexts as recommended by David Allen (those shown in the screen grab at right). [Note:  I am about to add one additional category called @ONLINE but will try not to add any more].
  2. I turned of automatic categorization in ClearContext so that I have to manually assign categories to tasks.  (This wasn’t an issue for the GTD Outlook Add-In)
  3. I am “forcing” all of my next actions to fit into one of these categories.

There are (obviously) a lot of other tweaks I’m doing to my process, like getting back into the discipline of truly identifying physical next actions, moving all projects I’m not actively working on to SOMEDAY/MAYBE, and more.

If you’re a GTD person and you find yourself with category sprawl, this kind of a clean-slate approach might help.  Let me know if this resonates with you, or if you’ve got any best practices for a GTD reset.