It’s been 30 years since the publication of one of my favourite books, The Meaning of Liff. In it Douglas Adams, who also wrote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and John Lloyd created a dictionary parody that sought to give names to “common experiences, feelings, situations, and….objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no word exists.”
One example is “Lowestoft”, defined as “the balls of wool that collect on nice new sweaters.” Or an “Ozark”, which is someone who “offers to help just after all the work has been done.”
I was re-reading it the other day and came across a definition that particularly made me smile.
The book defines a Worksop as “a person who never actually gets round to doing anything because he spends all his time writing out lists headed ‘Things to Do (Urgent)'”.
You might know a Worksop; you might be one, if only from time to time.
The joke works because we know there are Worksops in the world. But if people behave that way, what’s in it for them? Why would anyone choose to be a Worksop?
Sometimes just “getting organized” can be rewarding. Getting things out of our heads and down on paper enhances our feeling of control over what we need or want to do.
But if all we do is create to-do lists, we’re organizing for its own sake. That’s just the procrastination wolf in productive sheep’s clothing.
Sometimes in our work people will ask, “why do you want me to get good at list making? Is this work only for neat-freaks?” In essence, they’re asking whether we are in the business of turning them into Worksops.
That’s emphatically not our aim in anything we do. Organization is only helpful if it enables stress-free productivity for you.
Our goal is not the lists themselves, but what they enable. Our key questions are: how can we eliminate stress and internal distraction, maximize focus on the task at hand, and set you up so that when you want to do something productive with your time, your lists support you as much as possible?
Ultimately though, the amount of this that anyone applies is personal. The only real non-negotiable in GTD is that you shouldn’t keep things in your head. Beyond that there’s huge scope to design and use systems and thinking that that help you. Every GTD implementation is unique to the individual, and is used in individual ways.
To what extent are you letting your “inner Worksop” get in the way of productive thinking about the things you need to do in your life? Only you can tell.