GTD Notes: Chapter 14 – Cognitive Science

This is a series of posts with reading notes of the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.

Chapter 14 – GTD and Cognitive Science

In this chapter, the focus is on the intersection of cognitive science and the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology.

This chapter cites a Belgium academic study that analyzed the GTD methodology using working theories from cognitive science. Essentially, our minds are designed to have ideas based on pattern recognition, but not to remember everything.

The book “The Organized Mind” by Daniel Levitin is also mentioned to illustrate why we need an “external brain” to help store and maintain huge amounts of data. When we use our memory as our organization system, our minds will become overwhelmed.

The Belgium academic paper describes the science behind the act of externalizing our thoughts so that our minds are more effective. Externalizing information, such as using lists and reminders, can offload cognitive demands on memory, allowing the mind to focus on higher-level thinking.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” — David Allen

Another point that has been studied is the relieving cognitive load of incompletions. Uncompleted tasks take up room in the mind, which then limits clarity and focus (scientific paper here). The paper also proves that the completion of the tasks are not required to relieve that burden on our minds: what is needed is a trusted system that guarantees the tasks will be triggered when appropriate.

GTD helps in managing cognitive load by providing a systematic approach to externalize and organize thoughts, reducing mental clutter and enhancing cognitive performance.

David Allen also discusses that the Flow state (or “being in the zone”) is facilitated when we use the GTD approach: having clarity, clear goals, and single-tasking. Other psychological benefits of the methodology involve goal-striving (desired outcomes) and psychological capital (PsyCap). Using the GTD methodology sets us up for more optimism, a sense of self-efficacy, hope and resilience.

Wrapping up, the chapter shows how GTD is like our personal brain manager, helping us sort out our thoughts, clear up mental mess, and boost how well our brain works.

” ... when all of our potentially meaningful things are captured, clarified, organized, and reflected upon, the more mature, elegant, and intelligent part of who we really are can show up at the table. That produces experiences and results that can't be beat.” — David Allen

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.