The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done

Terrific article by Cal Newport, at The New Yorker, putting GTD into context of more than a century of American productivity movements.

GTD is an evolution from Peter Drucker’s dictum in the 1950s that American business leadership requires individual autonomy for office workers. We don’t even question this anymore – management sets quantifiable goals and workers decide for themselves how to meet those goals.

Newport argues that individual action to maximize productivity has hit its limit. We’re STILL swamped by email, interruptions – and COVID-19 driving office workers home has only made matters worse, by adding childcare and housework to everything else.

The corporation needs to exert control over how people work.

Sounds great when Newport suggests it, but we’re already seeing businesses installing spyware on workers’ computers, and cameras in their homes.

Interestingly, just this week I was getting into a discussion about how individual action won’t stop big businesses from doing evil. Boycotting products isn’t enough to stop manufacturers of those products from doing evil; we have to think as citizens, not just consumers, and take political action.

The common thread here being individual action is not enough.

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner