Information Management and the Shit Cascade

In a previous article we talked about the distinction between Task Management and Time Management, and their relationship with getting shit done. Here’s the conceptual workflow again, for reference:

Time Management vs. Task Management
Time Management vs. Task Management

Recall that this was a discussion about requirements for a Machine to get shit done. An incomplete discussion, as it turns out, because there’s a giant question mark baked into the very first step of this workflow: where does the pile of shit come from to begin with? This is the function of Information Management.

If you’ve read your David Allen, you’ve probably already recognized Information Management for what it is, at least in this context: it’s where your trusted repository lives. So good Information Management…

  • … ingests whatever you throw at it. Meeting notes, week-old receipts, meaningful bits of string. Anything. When something goes into Info Management, it might get shitcanned, but it will not get lost. That’s the contract.
  • … triages the mountain of shit, to identify tasks and shit worth keeping, and shitcan the rest.
  • … is searchable. Seriously. What’s the point of keeping shit if you can’t find it when you need it?

Suddenly we have a picture of modern life: the world hands you a mountain of shit, and you have to figure out which of that shit is important enough to remember, which of that shit needs doing, and how to get today’s list of that shit done.

It’s a shit cascade.

The GTD Shit Cascade
The GTD Shit Cascade

I’m not going to work through this diagram in detail. Anybody with some experience of GTD will recognize the whole thing encapsulated there, and might even be asking why I bothered. Does the world really need another picture of GTD?

Here’s what is different about this one: we have approached GTD like engineers. We’ve broken it down into decoupled subsystems. In the subsystems we’ve differentiated data and application layers and indicated how they relate.

There is no killer app for GTD. And if there were, it would be a horrible single point of failure. But if I can find a set of tools that can be configured to match this picture, then I have encapsulated the GTD process in a robust way, which isn’t dependent on just one vendor delivering every feature I could possibly want. If the tools all happen to run on platforms I like, so much the better. And if I’m in charge of integration, well, maybe I can perform a little automation as well.

Next time let’s talk about how to do that.

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