6 Ways Agile Results is Better than GTD

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Agile Results vs GTD

Here’s a short, fun article about why I prefer JD Meier’s Agile Results as a foundational productivity system more than Getting Things Done (GTD).

Not that GTD isn’t awesome, it just misses a lot of things given the complexity of our lives nowadays. If you’ve been on the edge about switching to Agile Results, here are 6 great reasons why.

1. Agile Results incorporates goals and outcomes

Cruising Altitude View

The one thing GTD really lacks is that 30,000ft cruising-altitude view of your life. With list-upon-list of tasks and more contexts that you can count, there is no real way to zoom out and get a good look at everything going in your life.

When you use GTD, it’s all about the tasks – and all tasks are pretty much equal. You just pick a context and go, regardless of your mood, energy level or deep priorities. This can be great in some situations… and disastrous in others. Simply putting things into a system and then processing things out may be efficient, but you have to put the right things in, otherwise you get garbage-in-garbage-out:

Garbage In Garbage Out

Agile Results lets you create tasks lists based on what is important to you – today, this week, this month and this year. It also has the flexibility to recognize that you may not want to do a particular type of tasks today, and to neatly move those tasks to a better time and place.

2. Agile Results incorporates GTD… sorta

About 95% of Agile Results is about structure, setup and psychology. 5% is processing tasks – that 5% is where you take what you know about GTD and plug it in to crunch action items.

3. Agile Results also teaches the psychology of productivity

GTD is a very mechanical system – which is why it works brilliantly for some, but explodes spectacularly for others.

Agile Results tries to teach you the mindsets, habits and principles behind real productivity as well as the mechanical structures you need to help you work productively. For example, concepts like “death by a thousand papercuts” or “have a compelling why” are important parts of making any productivity system work.

4. GTD was designed for pen and paper

That’s right – GTD was written in the early 2000s for pen and paper applications. True, there are applications like OmniFocus which have made GTD digital, but the system itself is really a classic no-computer-on-desk one.

A great example of this is contexts – when was the last time you thought about contexts as tools or distinct environments? Most knowledge workers today have one tool (a computer) and the environment really doesn’t matter that much – office, coffee shop, study, park – you can work productively from any and all of them.

Agile Results comes with the recommendation to implement it in one of the greatest tools of the modern day – Evernote.

5. Speed, cycles and iterations

Four Seasons Cycle

One downside of Agile Results is that it is hard to set up. That’s why we wrote a guide about how to do it.

Once established though, Agile Results incorporates ideas about iterations and cycles very, very well. If you mess up today, you can easily do a reset and have a better tomorrow. It recognizes that life is not linear and that it has its ups and downs. It follows the natural cycle of planting, reaping, resting and renewing, and recognizes that we can get better with every cycle.

6. GTD is crisis management. Agile Results is systems creation.

GTD is really about the day-to-day grind and crunching of tasks and inbox items. Agile Results is about setting clear outcomes that you want and then systematically working towards them.

If you are a systems thinker (or just enjoy systems that work), Agile Results is fantastic – you can set up your ideal system or vision, then break it into smaller outcomes at different discrete timeframes, and then into tasks beneath that. This helps you to really focus in on what is important, rather than handling the crisis-of-the-day.

Where to Go Next

Interested in Agile Results? Check out:

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About

I'm originally from Australia, but have lived all over the world for the past 5 years. I love taking things apart and putting them back together, and one of those things is the idea of human performance and how far we can push the limits of what is possible. Most seemingly "impossible" problems are solved by a solution at a higher logical level, or by borrowing a framework from a different discipline. What I write about comes from hearing about something and then trying it out in my own life, often with surprising results. I hope you get a lot out of it and feel free to get in touch with me anytime!

11 Comments

Posted by Ben Neale  | September 9, 2013 at 2:18AM | Reply

Thanks for this timely post. I’ve been an Omnifocus/GTD man for sme years now, but I’ve still found very challenging to get the *right* things done. I read your Agile guide whilst on holiday last month and I’ve no doubt it’s better suited to my mindset and the challenges I’m currently facing. I haven’t implemented it yet, partly because the complexity you mention is a little daunting, and partly because I’m so “busy” – I know I’d be less “busy” if I took some time out to set up and implement Agile, but there’s a financial imperative – I have to get certain tasks done before I can pay myself and my bills, and I’ m having difficulty justifying to myself taking a day out to set up Agile and understand it properly. Catch 22!

Posted by Thanh Pham  | September 9, 2013 at 10:07PM

Yes that’s a tricky situation, but if you invest an afternoon setting it up you’ll get more done :)

Posted by Siva Senthuran  | September 9, 2013 at 6:49AM | Reply

Surely, GTD is just a set of ‘tools’ to help with mind management. It doesn’t prescribe being mechanical at all – in fact David Allen keeps saying that the only way you can be truly relaxed is by being fully aware of what one isn’t doing in the moment i.e having the ability to actively choose from a complete inventory of tasks what one wants to do or not.

Having been a fan of Stephen Covey , I am only too aware of how being too cerebral about higher level things can result in obsessing about the methodology at the expense of being effective.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | September 9, 2013 at 10:09PM

Yes that’s a good point. The challenge for most people is choosing the task and if you don’t know your 30k horizons and up, you can end up wasting time. That’s why outcomes and goals are crucial which makes Agile Results more fluid in what you do.

Posted by Robert Rodriguez Jr  | September 9, 2013 at 1:50PM | Reply

I recently decided to switch to Agile from GTD for many of the same reasons, and have found once I understood the concepts, I feel more in control of the overall picture. I definitely wanted to simplify things, and thinking about 3 things for the week, 3 things for the day, etc, has definitely improved my productivity. Plus since I’m using Evernote for everything now, it makes my workflow much simpler and easier to manage.

I’d love to see more posts on Agile and specifically how to implement with EN – there’s always something to learn. thanks for the great post.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | September 9, 2013 at 10:10PM

More posts are coming up! :)

Posted by David Wyndham  | September 9, 2013 at 2:37PM | Reply

GTD flow is basically 1. Collect, 2. Process, 3. Organize, 4. Review and 5. Do. I like Agile Results for the Review and Do. GTD allows for the “stuff” to be collected but seems limited in guidance for the high-level reviews and planning. I use Agile as the top layer on GTD. OmniFocus, Evernote and some simple text files are the tools. Read Meier’s book and then use the Asian Efficiency guides to get started on this.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | September 9, 2013 at 10:11PM

Thanks David!

For everyone else reading, what David does here is what most people do. They combine the methodologies, take the best parts of each and make it their own. I suggest for everyone to do this.

Posted by Tomas Lehuta  | October 17, 2013 at 9:43AM | Reply

Hello guys,

thanks for this post comparing GTD with Agile Results.

I’ve been trying to simplify my GTD workflow for a few years now but I somehow always failed to manage my tasks and projects from the higher perspective. I felt like there’s something missing, some guidance and/or insight how to do that right in order to achieve results. And it seems I found AR to be a perfect fit for this!

More than that, I’m one of the main developers in our startup called Goalscape (http://www.goalscape.com) working several years on a visual tool for managing goals and tracking their progress. We aimed to adapt it to GTD at the beginning but found it quite impossible as the main concept in Goalscape tool was more outcomes-oriented than tasks-oriented.

And now I see that our concept could perfectly match with Agile Results methodology! So I’d love to hear what you guys think about Goalscape and if you see a fit for it in AR workflow!

Best regards,

Tomas

Posted by preston  | November 3, 2013 at 3:43AM | Reply

I really enjoyed this post, thank you. I started AR through the author’s Getting results in 30 days and have found it exciting and painless, almost organic-growing a new system of doing things.
Another quote similar to B. Lee’s (love all of lee’s and franklin’s works)- “Does’t thou love life? Then  do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”

Posted by Bob Butterworth  | May 6, 2014 at 3:52PM | Reply

Respectfully, it doesn’t sound like you’ve read the GTD book thoroughly. He talks specifically about looking at your life from 300000 feet, 400000 feet and 500000 feet view so you are tying in all the important things you need to tackle in your life. All tasks aren’t equal. You live priority decisions minute to minute and base what you do off the physical and mental energy you have as well as available time. You aren’t just mindlessly completing tasks just to complete them.

There was some great points I learned from The Agile Way, and there is lots of similarities to GTD. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, just a different way to skin the cat.

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