Becoming a GTD Black Belt

Black Belt - Credit Greta Gabor on FlickrIn our recent review of the GTD Implementation Guide, I made mention of a category of GTDer that is “on their way to black belt,” and I’ve been asked to elaborate on what that means.  My goal in this update is to shed some light on black belt from my perspective, but more importantly share with you some resources that have helped paint the picture of what a GTD black belt looks like.

Black belt in most anything is the highest level of achievement, most commonly recognized in martial-arts.  This is the level at which adapting the styles and techniques of that art has become natural for the individual, and includes an understanding as well.  While the GTD methodology is very different from martial-arts on the surface, the similarities of thought process are astounding.

David Allen describes in the video below just how similar the two are in a visit to the Google campus.

 While I strongly recommend watching this entire video, you can skip ahead to 10:52-13:42 (2min 50sec of viewing) for info relevant to this post.

To elaborate on that in a way that made it more easy for me to understand: GTD is not meant to add extra steps.  In fact whether you realize it or not (and most don’t), all of the steps within GTD are steps that you already do, you just naturally do them dramatically less efficiently than your GTD system can do.  I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve thought it too:  “Implementing GTD is unnatural and even a bit uncomfortable, because I have to make a conscious effort to put thoughts into my system, and then take extra time to process and organize and review and do each individual action.”

Exactly.

Now let’s jump back over to martial-arts, taking a look specifically at karate.  Imagine signing up for a class in karate.  In your first few classes, they’ll discuss the thought process and mindset of karate.  Then they move into the implementation of certain basic moves.  At first, as you attempt the moves, they’re completely unnatural, and typically very uncomfortable.  It takes time, practice, and patience for those moves to become more natural and effective in their intended effect, right?

Then you start to get the hang of it.  Your body adjusts, becomes more flexible, stronger, and faster.  The moves become more natural, and you become a force to be reckoned with.  You no longer have to think about each individual move, but instead it’s just a swift flow of movement.  You can automatically react in the most powerful and effective way with these ingrained moves, and you’re now fully in control.

So you can see the picture I’m painting here.

When first implementing GTD, and even for some time, there are several steps that are unnatural and uncomfortable.  It’s also not nearly as effective as most people would like it to be at first.  Why?  Because they know they want to be a black-belt, but their body hasn’t even adjusted yet to be able to do an simple kick effectively.

So what does this mean for you?

Whether you’re brand new to GTD or have been working on your own implementation for a few months to several years, understand that it takes time, practice, and patience to become a black belt.  Just like with karate, if you stick with it through the belts, the end result can be magnificent.  GTD will no longer be an extra thought, but a natural part of  your work-flow that frees up your mind to think creatively about and focus on whatever is important to you.

Resources

To wrap things up on this topic for now, here is a 2-minute audio clip on the DavidCo.com website where David Allen describes what a GTD black-belt looks like.

Here is a post (#2) over on the DavidCo public forums quoting a DavidCo newsletter, detailing out textually the various belts and what each means.  This is a great way to see where you’re at now, and assess goals for reaching the next belt.

Lastly, if you have a GTDConnect membership, you have access to a three-part, four-hour webinar series that they just released called “The Road to Black Belt Webinar Series.”  I’ve listened to the whole thing twice now, and have tightened up ship considerably.  If you’re not a member, they offer a 14-day free trial.

So, GTDers, what belt are you currently?  What are your goals for the future?  Share in the comments below!

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