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Some of you will have no idea what that title means, so that’s as good a reason as any to READ THIS BLOG, is it not? 😊

The title refers to what may, on first glance, be conflicting time management methodologies. GTD is ‘Getting Things Done’, explained in the excellent book of the same name by David Allen. (Make sure you buy the 21st Century update.)

GTD is a list-based system. (Now it gets complicated.) The idea is to collect all your unfinished business, including ‘projects’ which Allen defines as anything that requires more than one step to complete. Having done that, you go through the list and complete all 2-minute jobs. Then you are left with a list of things which you can (usually) only do in a certain place, at a certain time, with a certain person, etc. For example, some of the things may be tasks you can only do ‘At Computer’ so they would then be listed on a list entitled ‘At Computer’. Or ‘At Shops’ for shopping, or ‘In London’, and so on. Time- and day-specific tasks – and ONLY those – go on a calendar (diary page). The lists should have on them only ‘next actions’, the things you have to do next to get the projects done.

That really is an idiot’s guide, and Allen’s system has a lot of thought/psychology and method behind it which this little blog can’t cover.

The Covey/Hobbs system is values/mission-based, and further sub-categorised into Roles. Your mission dictates your activities, which are carried out through the roles you perform in life. For example, I am a trainer, investigator, driving coach, speakers club president, company director unconnected to those other roles, and family bod. You create your goals in role-context, then plan execution of bits of your goals into your planner as priorities. (I’ve explained this before and it’s explained fully in my FREE BOOK.)

Zealots in either case would argue for their preferred option. GTD-philes would argue that lists equate to freedom while Covey/Hobbs is restrictive. Covey/Hobbs would argue their way supports a sense of meaning and peace, while GTD is ‘just’ about productivity, and productivity is not as important as meaning. Deeper analysis would identify further objections to the opposing philosophy, and more supporting evidence for the preferred way. Who has time?

I have a different outlook. I think the GTD Way of collecting all your incompletes, doing the resulting 2-minute jobs and planning the others is an excellent way to get control, while the Covey/Hobbs method is an excellent way of keeping control once you have got it.

My evidence?

People have asked me how I manage so many responsibilities (job, home, family, IAM, IPI, Cardiff Speakers Club,) and my answer is that I can do this because of my mastery of the Covey/Hobbs method, but if I was to take on those responsibilities all at once I would start with GTD until I got things compartmentalised.

I feel this way because both GTD and Covey/Hobbs promote

  • planning at the start of a week,
  • scheduling the things that can or could be done at a particular time (your priorities, which can include your personal priorities),
  • then making lists of the things that need to be done but which have no appointed time.

Both require knowing the end result in advance and deciding what to do about it next. Overthinking it may identify one as requiring ‘task-to-objective’ thinking while the other would be seen as having an ‘objective-to-task’ perspective but in all practicality, they end up being the same process, which is asking “What I gotta do to get what I wanna get?” and then planning to do that action, somewhere.

GTD would have you put them on separate lists, whereas Covey/Hobbs would have you actually plan them into a day. Both philosophies advocate carrying the system with you. GTD would say separate lists obviate re-writing that which is not done, while the alternative is to rewrite unfinished tasks in the next day’s list. (Which takes seconds, or even less if you’re a digi-planner. Oh, the time saved……)

And that, lorries and gelatines, is the only difference. Which is hardly a difference over which one should declare war.

As always, my advice would be to master your preferred method and leave the other well alone, because there is a tendency to try and do both at the same time and when you do that your head gets cluttered – which defeats the objective of either style.

Pick one. Master it. And reap the rewards.


Oh, and unlike all those GTD examples of people who get an e-mail a minute (and I have never, ever met one), I get about 10 a day. Makes life a tad easier.