Gardener said:

So, in another thread, the distinction between theory and practice/practical advice came up. At least, that's how I interpreted it, and if anyone wants to tell me I've got it wrong, they can do it in this thread without sidetracking that other thread.

Me, I like to talk about theory. I can't imagine using a set of practices to guide my work and my life without discussing the theory behind those practices, the pros and cons, the little details, everything. There is essentially no point where I say, "OK, theorizing over. Now let's just do." I just don't work that way.

So, a thread. About theory. Or about how I've got the complaints wrong. Either way, a thread. Anybody wanna theorize?

I also love to talk about theory! Here's why...

Behind every single specific productivity recommendation there lies an assumed problem, hypotheses about different solutions and the data that is used to actually solve the problem (the assumption-hypothesis-data link.)

I struggle mightily when one of those three elements is missing... but in the popular time management literature, that's exactly what happens too often. For example, back in the early 1990's it was accepted that if you were serious about managing your time [problem] you had to have a DayTimer, Filofax, etc [possible solution] and the fact that every serious professional was using one [the data] was all the proof needed to go and buy one.

However, times changed and most of don't use paper, BUT the underlying problem didn't go away. Now we have other solutions (iPhones etc) and fresh data, so that the books written at the time now look outdated.

Unfortunately, it's hard to make the jump when we don't understand the underlying assumption-hypothesis-data link.

This light-bulb when I off for me last year when I had to go dig up hundreds of peer reviewed time management articles from academic literature. I had no idea there were so many... but the one thing they had in common was that the assumption-hypothesis-data link was transparent. Also, they made full references to prior articles and books, allowing me to go back in time and (dis) qualify their reasoning as I quoted their findings. This took me down deeper and deeper levels until eventually the trail ran out.

So... I love theory, and when there's a transparent assumption-hypothesis-data link, I love it even more.

IMHO, some of the discussions on this forum get repeated because (in part) this 3 part link is missing, obscure or inconsistent. Unfortunately, as some have pointed out, they wish that GTD was clearer, and I think the assumption-hypothesis-data link is what they are asking for. In many cases we are left with "the book says this" and "this video say that" and "this podcast says the others."

It's hard to discern theory (and therefore trust it entirely) based on this foundation.

Francis