I bumped into a former GTD participant earlier this week, and I could see from her body language that she wasn’t keen to see me. Initial pleasantries past, I found out why.
“I’m off the wagon”, she said, sheepishly.
“That’s great!” I countered. This did not seem to improve her body language much, so I moved swiftly on to explain my enthusiasm: “Well, it’s not where you want to be, but at least you know where you are.”
What she didn’t seem to realise was that although she was likely correct in her judgement of her off-ness with regard to the GTD wagon, her assessment indicated that things were actually nowhere near as bad as she thought.
Why? Well, her statement indicated that she knew that a) there was a wagon, somewhere, and b) that she had been on it, at some point, for long enough to know that she no longer was. Not perfect, but not as bad as it could be either.
As with any navigation, some distinctions about where one is on a journey can be helpful, so here are the stages of wagon-less-ness to wagon-hood I’ve been able to identify so far:
- There is no wagon. The universe is wagon-less. I move in a parched landscape of overwhelm, devoid of hope. My life will always be a crappy mess of stress.
- I’ve heard there is a wagon, and that some fortunate souls are on it.
- I know there is a wagon, and with the help of the Hubble telescope and a few weeks of free time, I could get on it.
- The wagon is just over there – I’m not on it, but I know how to get there. I’ll do that soon but not now as other things are more important right now.
- I’m on a wagon, but its wheels are wobbling mightily and one of my horses appears to be dead.
- I’m on my wagon, sitting comfortably. Amazing what you can see from up here.
- Hey, have I shown you my turbo-wunderwagon? Now, get out of my way. I’m movin’ fast because I know where I’m going.
The good news is that once you have learned enough about GTD to understand what its benefits are, at least you know there is a wagon, somewhere. There is hope.
The bad news is that this not a one-way system. I’ve found myself at many stages of the above list on a bad morning. That said, unless you get a very sharp blow to the head and forget everything you ever knew, you can’t actually go back to the despair of step one. There are other flavours of despair you might get to savour, but you can’t have that one back.
If you have fallen off the wagon (but are still aware that there is a wagon out there somewhere) I’d start with a thorough Weekly Review. Even if all you have left of your wagon is a busted axle, you can get back up and running in a few hours with a systematic approach and some focused attention.
If you have lost the universe in which the wagon once was found, but are still reading these blogs, then you might want to come back and do some work with us, either coaching, or the Level 2 seminar we developed a couple of years back. We don’t put it on our business cards, but we are – in GTD terms at least – the best wagon mechanics east of the Pecos.
What I said to my client was this: “No one is ever always on. It might look like it, but that is because they notice that they are off extremely quickly and get themselves back on again before others notice.
“The only question is whether you notice in the morning that you are off and can get back on before lunch, or whether it takes three weeks to notice that you are off, and six months to get back on.
“A Weekly Review is the way from off to on, and with practice you can move between them pretty quickly.”
As she moved off to her next appointment I couldn’t help but notice a pronounced wobble in her gait, but it did seem she was setting out in the right direction.