Productivity isn’t about Getting Things Done anymore

David Kadavy
2 min readJan 4, 2018

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The current productivity wisdom is all about getting things done. Now,productivity is about making creative breakthroughs happen.

Getting Things Done brought us beyond todo lists and priorities, and made us think about breaking projects into actions, and giving those actions contexts.

By considering the context of our todos, and by giving ourselves a place for the “someday maybes,” we freed up our minds from the overwhelming wave of clutter delivered by our newly-digital world.

GTD was the killer tool of the knowledge worker. But, in an increasingly distracted world, where even knowledge work is threatened by technology, productivity needs to evolve once again.

It’s not that GTD isn’t still a powerful tool for figuring out how to, well, get things done. It’s that the criteria for what should be done is more stringent than ever.

Yes, books like The 4-Hour Work Week and Essentialism have helped us recognize the power of cutting through the noise to focus on the things that will bring us the most impact with the least effort.

And it’s true that the ability to prioritize Deep Work will give you an edge over peers who are playing Candy Crush and checking their email every 5.45 minutes.

But there’s a realm beyond all of this. As jobs become automated, what remains of “work” will move up Maslow’s hierarchy.

The success of the elite worker will depend upon that person’s ability not to get things done, but to have breakthroughs — to use access to knowledge and automation to deliver explosive ideas. To do that which only a human can do.

Think Zero to One — the idea that incrementalism holds us back from paradigm-shifting innovation — but for your own career.

While technology will help us get to this level, it will also hold us back. If a chimp uses a stick to catch ants, that chimp’s hand can’t be used for another purpose at that moment. Likewise, a mind occupied by a news feed loses a portion of its function — a portion that is unique, essential, and full of untapped potential.

So the killer tool for this new paradigm of productivity will not be an app or a smart device. It will be deep within the confines of your own mind — in your ability to take seemingly disparate elements: untapped desires, cultural trends, and unrecognized problems — and combine them for explosive ideas.

The killer tool of the new paradigm of productivity will be a sort of “mind literacy.” The ability to reject the seemingly obvious, to listen to your inner voice, and to understand your fellow human. By arranging your work to create the conditions for insight, you can consistently create the breakthroughs this new world demands.



David Kadavy

Author, ‘Mind Management, Not Time Management’ Former design & productivity advisor to Timeful (Google acq’d).