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Does the GTD methodology work for Product Management?

The Dude here.  I have at many times in the past tried to apply the teachings of David Allen, and his remarkable system called "Getting Things Done".  For those who are not familiar, it is a system of assigning incoming items into a few categories, relating them to when/where you will accomplish them (i.e. at your desk, or at the shopping store), and some rules for disposition of incoming items.  Yes, there is more to it, and yes, it is a good healthy dollop of common sense, and practical application.  I am certain that for most people it works well.

However, from where I sit, as a Product Manager, it fails for a variety of reasons.  First, one the the tenets is if an incoming action can be handled immediately, just do it.  Respond to the email.  Delegate it to a subordinate. And be done with it (delete it or move it to the done category).  You also create storage areas for tasks to be accomplished today, and this week, and finally the “sometime” area.  The goal is to clear out your inbox, and move items to the “today”, “this week”, and “sometime” folders.  At the end of each day, you clear out the items in the “today” folder.  Likewise for the end of the week, and “this week” folder.  Sounds simple, and great, but, there is a wrinkle.  When the “today” folder has more actions than you can possibly accomplish in a normal day, you are in trouble.  Thus your “today" folder incrementally grows.

Perhaps you should have originally put some of the “today” items into the “this week” folder.  But, if you are like me, even if you spent ALL DAY FRIDAY working on the detritus in the “this week” folder, it would still have items in it.  Reducto absurdium.

Where this breaks mostly is in the fact that as a product manager, I get an inordinate amount of inputs coming in from too many directions.  Email, phone calls, meeting action items, you name it, they hit me full on.  My life is a constant state of triage, and only about every 2 months, do I elect to burn a weekend day to sort through my email (usually, by the end of 2 months, my inbox will have 2000+ un processed emails in it).  Optimal?  Hell no.  But it is how it is.

I suspect that once again, I will try to implement GTD, and that will work for 2 weeks, then the backlogs will grow exponentially, and I will again fall back to my chaotic, and unpredictable mechanisms.

Do not pity me, for I am a product manager.  I am trained from birth to handle such adversity!

(Oh, and for the testimonials by business execs on the efficacy of GTD, they typically have an administrative assistant to acts as a front line filter.  The Signal to Noise ratio that gets to the executive is much higher than the firehose that is directed at a lowly Product Manager.)


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Does the GTD methodology work for Product Management?
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