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Do you distinguish between the technology and methodology of productivity?

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  • Do you distinguish between the technology and methodology of productivity?

    David's recent blog entry, about creeping demons, ( caused me to revisit the key elements of technology & methodology of getting things done and the need for balance between them.

    I've posted some thoughts about this today on my blog.

    As a technologist, I enjoy working with new software, productivity applications, and gadgets. I also enjoy creating and deploying these technologies for my clients. There's a danger in doing this that I must constantly remind myself of: if you get too close to the technology, you just might forget about the need for the methodology. This forum is probably full of people who know what I'm talking about.

    I have to remind myself and my clients that ownership of the aforementioned productivity software or gadgets does not in anyway guarantee productivity. David's certainly been good about keeping a clear perspective on this.

    I thought I would start this discussion: Do you find it hard to make a distinction between the technology and the methodology that you use to get your work done?
    I'm clear about the difference. I use each where appropriate in a balanced way
    I understand the difference, but I tend to focus more on the technology
    I understand the difference, but I tend to focus more on the methodology
    I routinely confuse the two, alternately focusing on one or the other to an extreme

    The poll is expired.

  • #2
    An interesting problem...

    Dave and Eric raise a valid and interesting issue here for those of us who use the GTD methodology with significant amounts of technology in support of the methodology.

    It's clear to me that, to quote the old addage - "form should follow function". The technology should flow from, and support, the methodology.

    Of course, it's always tempting to adopt new technologies and figure out how to work them into the methodology. This problem probably occurs with GTD users more frequently - as many GTD users are also likely aggressive early adopters of technology.

    Many of us also have to be honest with ourselves about when we're in "early adopter" mode, when we're playing with tuning the GTD system for the fun of it, and when we're sitting down to adapt the system to our specific, changing circumstances.

    I think many of us have also made a bit of a hobby of tuning the methodology and checking out new gear. So be it, call it a hobby and schedule it as part of that critical personal recreation time.



    • #3
      methodology at work v.s. in work

      (Great to see you here, Peter; Apple Math, Sci. '96/7)

      Before GTD, I was primarily an adopter of new technology, trying to find something that worked for me, without really understanding what it was I was trying to get to work.

      After GTD, I have found myself becoming much more of an adapter of all technology, new and old. Most of my attention is focused on the "glue" that binds all the tools and infrastructure at hand. Some of it I have control over (i.e. choosing to use the GTD Add-in for Outlook), while other parts I have to figure out how to make work in spite of the implementation (i.e. the bug and enhancement tracking system which has evolved over the past decade+).

      ...In a sense, the GTD methodology is self-moderating. By knowing what work, what actions need to get done, I'm better equiped to look at a new tool and figure out what (if anything) makes it more than just another paper-pusher. Yes, I am also more tempted to look at and try more tools to help me get things done, but the looking and trying doesn't get nearly as far out of control for me as it used to pre-GTD.

      I wish I knew even half of this back in my University days. Let's just say I was a little more gadget focused than methodology focused when it came to getting anything done.



      • #4
        The problem with technology.

        I identify the problem with technology in the following way:
        1) Analog technology (paper, voice recorder):
        -- easy and fast data input;
        -- difficult data modification;
        -- low security;
        -- totally inadequate categorization and searching (slow output);
        -- high quality output (if your handwriting is readable).
        2) Digital technology (computers, PDAs):
        -- cumbersome data input;
        -- easy data modification;
        -- high security possible;
        -- powerful categorization and searching (fast output) - but requires exact data input;
        -- low quality output.
        We would not need this poll or paper vs. PDA debate if we had the technology that:
        -- could perfectly interface with our analog output (voice, handwriting, or thoughts);
        -- could convert data to searchable digital format without any misspellings;
        -- had the form factor of cell phone or pen;
        -- had the ability to display data in the A4 or letter-size paper quality format.


        • #5
          Star Trek, anyone?

          I do believe we're heading in the direction discussed in the previous entry, but we're still stuck in pre-Internet and pre-computer thinking, as most of us (Baby Boomers and myself in Generation X) grew up in a world devoid of these two technologies. It seems highly likely that today's Generation Y (Net Generation), that has been with computers and the Internet since a very young age, will be the generation to finally solve the convergence of old systems while at the same time making the next giant leap forward...perhaps to something or a means we have not considered or cannot even fathom beyond the confines of science fiction. It is, in part, simply a matter of paradigm.


          • #6
            Tools vs. techniques

            It is thanks to GTD that I think I have a pretty clear sense of the distinction between technology and methodology.

            I think it's very significant -- and good evidence in favor of GTD -- that for all of the changes it has made in the way I work and live, it has led me to purchase only three new things: David Allen's book, a labeler, and a bigger in-basket. All the other tools I use -- file cabinets and folders, my PDA, a Levenger pocket briefcase and index cards, the voice recorder in my cell phone, etc -- are things I've had for years; all I was missing was a clear, consistent and effective plan for using them.



            • #7
              "It's the habits, not the tools."

              That quote, from Gretchen at GTD-Palm on Yahoo! <> sums up beautifully the truth that I need to keep in mind. David himself said, "I found that people didn't need more self-discipline, they needed a more disciplined approach." The disciplined approach is the development of the 5 habits (Collect, Process etc.), then the tools don't matter. I found that playing with the tools got in the way of building the habits. I think in this regard, the idea is "If you want to get there faster, slow down."

              Last edited by BigStory; 05-04-2005, 04:28 PM.


              • #8
                Since GTD has some tech geek followers, I thought I'd give my two cents.

                As a software engineer, I'm pretty clear about how technology can create a jumble in the attempts at getting something done. Just try to heavily format a word document and see how many times you say "auuugh! Not that way!". We routinely apply theory, engineering practices, and heuristics to getting technology to "work". On the other hand, "user friendliness" is something wonderful and magical (with lots of sweat and hair pulling in its creation) when "it just works".

                So, while a part of me will at least look at the demo for high-tech "solutions" practitioners are talking about because it might actually solve one of my problems, as another person recently said to me "I thought you said you had a palm. I noticed you write on these little white cards a lot, though." to which I replied "Yeah. This works better for me (for jotting down tasks)." and thought - just a difference in implementation. I think using specific technology is an implementation and it is continually changing, so get the theory and use what you need to implement it. Paper is good for some cases, electronics work for others. I just read this
                blog post today where the author muses how "i was particularly struck by how utterly impossible it would have been for my friend to do this kind of obsessive analysis on an electronic text ... But there is no way a computer could have emulated what he had done with just a pencil, a set of highlighters, and his erudite, obsessive brain."

                It seems like a lot of high-tech GTD practitioners have implemented the Hipster PDA, going low-tech because it makes our already high-tech filled lives easier. However, going high-tech can also make our lives easier (e-mail filtering and I'm going to try out activewords) so, one thing I've learned while following GTD's internet trail is that if someone's GTD implementational tool works for them, more power to them. Hey, I've been trying to figure out how to write water insoluable messages on the shower doors. I get good thoughts in there. Maybe grease pencils.

                I love technology but sometimes I have to remind myself that they can build dams in China by hand drawing the architecture (instead of CAD and civil engineering software) and they're not above drawing pictures in the dirt to convey a concept. Sometimes I get too uptight looking for a specific color of pen or expecting to be able to tune software to how I do things instead of how it does things. Then it is time to take a step back, note your issues (my "I don't like this about this software/process" list), and let technological foibles go.
                Last edited by freecia; 05-04-2005, 09:48 PM.


                • #9
                  Capturing ideas in the Shower

                  If you still looking for good capture tool for the shower, try looking here:


                  I found the link in the thread titled "Capturing ideas in the shower" from this forum.

                  Best Wishes,


                  • #10
                    I would give a pound of...

                    I would give a pound of either technology or methodology for one ounce of willingness to act. I don't know what the right "-ology" word would be, but it has something to do with "proactivity", "discipline", or "motivation". I think that many of us obsess over technology or methodology as a way to either procrastinate or to try and trick ourselves into doing something that we simply don't want to do--something that challenges our psyche. I find that to be very unfortunate. I'm confident that the vast majority of what we would call the "highly successful" people around us waste very few brainwaves trying to discover and refine the perfect processes or tools to boost their productivity. Instead, they devote their energy to the actual tasks and goals before them.



                    • #11
                      More boring than interesting tasks.

                      Only few of us have the passion and abilities to successfuly do what we like to do. There are much more boring than interesting tasks. Even those highly successful require support of people who will do the boring part.


                      • #12

                        This is a great poll. I must admit that I am a techie at heart. Unfortunately, this means that I am a gadget freak. Nothing wrong with gadgets. However, sometimes I tend to lean on the latest and greatest gadgets to, perhaps, make up for my lack of discipline with the methods.