Most of my friends know that I’ve been studying the enneagram for a few years, and that I’ve been trying to implement David Allen’s “Getting Things Done (GTD)” system for my personal organizational needs for a year or so now. GTD is really similar, to Constructive Living/Morita therapy which is really good for Fours. The basic idea behind CL/Morita being “Feel your feelings, but do what needs doing.” and that when you don’t sit around thinking about your collective neuroses, you’re not suffering from them. Productivity as a path to mental health for those whose natural bent is to spend too much time on neurotic inner reflection. It actually helps a lot, when I remember to DO it.
But here’s the deal: productivity can also be a path to mental health for those whose natural bent is to spend no time on inner reflection. And here, I’m specifically talking about a personality type that also spends little time actually getting things done, either. (Prescribing CL or GTD for a Three would be a bit redundant). I’m talking about Nines.
Nines have two specific issues that GTD can help with. First, there’s that niggling tendency to not ever get anything done. Most Nines have raised procrastination to a high art form. (Fours can be guilty of this too, but that’s not the subject of this post.) Secondly, Nines tend to have a problem with too much “stuff.” And GTD addresses “stuff” both physical and mental, admirably.
I was going to include a little clip from Clarence Thomson about Nines and Stuff, but his site seems to be down. So here’s my paraphrase: Nines tend to carry around a lot of stuff for two reasons: first, because Nines love comfort, and they need all their stuff with them at all times to ensure their constant comfort. Secondly, Nines hate making decisions and prioritizing; it’s extremely draining to them–so if you’re a Nine, it actually seems like less effort to haul ALL your 500 cds with you everywhere you go than to go through them and make a decision and prioritize the ten you might actually be able to listen to on a half hour drive.
Hereâ€™s how I define â€œstuff:â€ anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesnâ€™t belong where it is, but for which you havenâ€™t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step. [pg. 17]
That’s a quote from David Allen, in relation to how he defines “stuff” in GTD.
This is a really summarized version, but here it is, PowerPoint-style:
- identify all the stuff in your life that isnâ€™t in the right place (close all open loops)
- get rid of the stuff that isnâ€™t yours or you donâ€™t need right now
- create a right place that you trust and that supports your working style and values
- put your stuff in the right place, consistently
- do your stuff in a way that honors your time, your energy, and the context of any given moment
- iterate and refactor mercilessly
So, basically, you make your stuff into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of. Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given momentâ€”both now and well into the future. This gives you an amazing kind of confidence that a) nothing gets lost and b) you always understand whatâ€™s on or off your plate.
And that is a quick summary of GTD from Merlin Mann of 43 folders.
GTD is both appealing and healthy for Nines. First, a big part of GTD is establishing routines for checking your lists of what needs to be done. Routines are like GOLD to Nines, because there’s no decision-making involved in running on a routine. However, they don’t skate out on decision-making completely and get to go on auto-pilot.
Decisions still have to be made about what to do at any given time and situation. Which is really stretching for Nines. So GTD gives a Nine basically no excuses for not dealing with their “stuff.” As long as they follow their routines for keeping their lists up to date, and keep their lists with them, then they just have to pick something to do from an existing menu of choices, organized by context. Organizing their stuff into shorter context lists, only one or two of which will be appropriate at any given time, limits the number of choices and makes decision-making much easier for them. Unlimited choices paralyze a Nine. And they tend to view requests and/or demands from others to do stuff negatively. GTD gives Nines a tool to manage and direct themselves.
So if you are or know a Nine who needs help getting his or her “stuff” together, GTD is an excellent tool.