Getting Things Done With Game Theory

Several months ago I bought the book Getting Things Done. I was utterly disappointed. It has the smell of hokiness and psuedo-science. How is that? No matter how you organize your life, your time and energy are ultimately limited. And if you do too many things at once, you fall into the “jack of all trades, master of none” trap—where you “do” a million things but do none of them well.

In fact, at my job, that’s what I see—coworkers who use Getting Things Done (GTD) or a variant of this system often lull themselves into a false sense of productivity. “Yeah, we can do a million things at once.” When in reality, they do them all really badly, or as what often happens, they end up doing only the projects they care about.

Still, I kept seeing “GTD” in the Internet, so it must be doing something right. And then I read Reality is Broken—a book that takes everything that makes games so successful and tries to apply it to hacking life (improving reality). It became apparent that GTD has elements of a good game—that’s why it’s so popular! But we can use game theory to make it much better:

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